College Paper Apologizes for Anti-Reparations Ad


UC Berkeley, a bastion of liberalism and cradle of the Free Speech Movement, found those twinned traditions clashing this week as the student-run newspaper apologized Thursday for running a controversial advertisement.

The full-page ad, which ran inside the Daily Californian on Wednesday, the last day of Black History Month, was titled “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea--and Racist, Too.”

The newspaper, which is independent of the university, ran both a short, front-page “formal apology” and a longer explanation by editor-in-chief Daniel Hernandez about how the ad had been published.


The ad, which sparked protest on campus, “was not condoned by the Senior Editorial Board, but we realize that the ad allowed the Daily Cal to become an inadvertent vehicle for bigotry,” the Page 1 piece said.

In print and in an interview, Hernandez said the Daily Cal has a policy that prohibits publication of ads with “incorrect or blatantly inflammatory content.” Controversial ads are supposed to be brought to the attention of the editorial board to decide whether they should be published.

However, the definition of “controversial” is not clear, and there is “no real process for red-flagging” ads that should be reviewed, Hernandez said. As a result of protests over the ad, the paper’s policy manual is now under review.

The ad, which also ran on the Web site of conservative commentator David Horowitz under the heading “David Horowitz’s Notepad,” said that “only a tiny minority of white Americans ever owned slaves” and charged that “there is no single group clearly responsible for the crime of slavery.”

“Black Africans and Arabs were responsible for enslaving the ancestors of African Americans,” according to the ad. “There were 3,000 black slave-owners in the antebellum United States. Are reparations to be paid by their descendants, too?”

Horowitz could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

The ad prompted immediate anger on the Berkeley campus, where more than a score of students marched on the paper’s offices Wednesday, tearing up copies of the periodical, crying and demanding an apology, Hernandez said.


Jacquelyn Lindsey, a freshman who graduated from Los Angeles’ Crenshaw High School, called the ad “disrespectful to the minority population of this university. . . . It was completely opposed to what I’ve been taught by my family and at school. It was very saddening.”

When she joined the protesters, Lindsey said in an interview Thursday, she said she was told that there is a process for evaluating advertising. “I want to know how something like this slipped past all those people.”

Lindsey and other critics of the paper have called the apologies inadequate. They have circulated fliers charging that the Daily Cal supports racism and demanding an apology that takes up the entire front page or runs repeatedly, Hernandez said.

“There’s definitely a climate of complete disdain,” said Hernandez, who is struggling with the anger that the paper has raised and what the strife means for 1st Amendment rights.

On the one hand, the unabashedly liberal city is where the Free Speech Movement was born in 1964, when student Mario Savio and an ex-student, Jack Weinberg, put up a table at the university’s Sproul Plaza to recruit for a civil rights group.

On the other, the municipality watches its words so carefully that it officially refers to manholes as “sewer openings” to avoid sexism.


“Times have changed,” mused Hernandez. “I have mixed feelings about this personally. To what extent should free speech that is inflammatory and hurtful be allowed?”

The same ad also ran in the UC Davis newspaper Wednesday, prompting a similar apology, in which California Aggie Editor-in-Chief Eleeza V. Agopian called the ad’s publication “an embarrassment, not only for the newspaper, but for the university community at large.”