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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

“Schola Nigga”

Posted by on February 1 at 14:28 PM

I’ve received a few letters and calls about “Schola Nigga,” a comic that ran in last week’s issue. You can see the comic by clicking here.Oddly enough, the letters and calls are coming from the East Coast, not from Seattle. Here’s a letter just arrived in my inbox about the comic—and with my response, below.


You’ve revealed yourself as being very strange indeed to the Black community of Seattle. What possessed you to publish a blatantly racist, minstrel inspired, self hating comic like the “Schola Nigga’??? You’ve truly lost your minds! Do you really think the Black community is so invisible that this would fly in a city of self defined liberals?

This is not 1906 its 2006! Wake up.

I understand Mr Mudede is on your staff and that makes this all the more peculiar. How would the Stranger’s editorial group respond to other comics inspired by stereotypes and caricature titled, “The Masculine Faggot” or “The Logical Cunt”? I’d hope they’d reject it outright as offering no value to the social dialog but apparently someone on your staff had been inspired by the MLK holiday and decided to insult as many African Americans as possible.

Awaiting your public apology.

Educated Black Man

Here’s my response to EBM:

Dear EBM,

No apology, public or otherwise, will be forthcoming.

Here’s the background on the comic you object to: Every year The Stranger auctions off various sections of the paper to the highest bidder. The auction is a benefit for Northwest Harvest, a charity in King County that feeds the hungry. In addition to arts reviews, features, columns, and the cover, we auction off the comic space at the back of the paper. The person who purchased the comic submitted the piece you object to. I have no idea if the person who created the comic is black or white. No one on The Stranger’s staff had a hand in creating the comic.

As for the timing of the comic’s appearance in our paper, the Strangercrombie issue of The Stranger, in which we publish the pieces purchased in the auction, was set six months before we saw the comic. The comic was not, therefore, “inspired” by Martin Luther King Day. What’s more, the comic had nothing whatsoever to do with Martin Luther King Jr.. It was about Charles Mudede. Mr. Mudede, while black, is an entirely different human being.

As for the comic itself, unless you were familiar with The Stranger, which you clearly are not, it probably wouldn't make any sense. The comic satirizes a staff member, Charles Mudede, in a way that Mudede and the rest of the editorial staff felt was humorous and legitimate. Mudede has a habit of name-checking prominent dead German philosophers in his book, movie, and music reviews. Mudede is, indeed, a scholar. We felt the use of "nigga" was appropriate and legitimate, considering the wide use of "nigga" as a term of affection, not derision, in hip-hop and rap music, art forms that Mr. Mudede writes about extensively in our pages. If its the word "nigga" you object to, EBM, i would direct your attention—and your ire—to popular music, popular culture, and the insanely popular Chappelle Show.

What's more, the author of the comic was not the first person to refer to Charles Mudede as "schola nigga." Sam Spears, an African American columnist for Tablet Magazine (now defunct), was the first person to refer to Mr. Mudede as "schola nigga." Mr. Mudede, in our pages, has used the term in reference to himself.

Also, I would direct your attention to the word "cocksucker," which is used in the comic. It is used in reference to me: I am the editor of the Stranger and I am a gay man. There is no alternate spelling that transforms "cocksucker" into a term of affection—there is no "cocksucka." So, yes, we would publish a slur directed at homosexuals. We have also published the term "cunt" in our pages on many occasions, in pieces by both male and female writers. I see what you're driving at, though: You believe that we wouldn't publish "The Masculine Faggot" or "The Logical Cunt" because the construction of those phrases implies that there's something notable or rare about a manly homosexual or a rational woman. Without any context for the comic that satirized Mr. Mudede, you interpret it as implying that there's something unlikely about a scholar also being black man. You're making the mistake of universalizing the comic. It is not about all black men, scholars or otherwise. It is about one black man, Charles Mudede, and it's rather reductive and, indeed, racist of you to view it as somehow applicable to all African Americans.

It is, as you say, 2006, not 1906. Our audience is well aware—hell, we help make them aware—that gay men can be masculine, that women are rational, and that many African Americans are scholars.

All the best,

Dan Savage
Editor & Cocksucker
The Stranger

CommentsRSS icon

Ah, Dan, you do have a twist for the language. Good job. That response made another wise dreary day a bit more tolerable.

I believe, sir, that you have just pwned that correspondent.

Pwned. Isn't that what the kids say these days?

bravo!!! my eyes are welling up.

Well said, Dan.

I'm black and I've met Mr. Mudede and have enjoyed his writings for years now. I thought the comic was HILARIOUS!

Follow your dreams, you can reach your goals.

Follow your dreams, you can reach your goals.

Hi there! Your site is cool!

It looks like you really had a nice time.

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