Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela dissed in week honoring civil rights gains

01/23/2014 10:47 AM

01/25/2014 5:45 PM

Race relations in the United States and South Africa haven’t advanced so far that members of an Arizona State University fraternity can mock black students on Martin Luther King Jr. Day or a sculptor in South Africa can sneak sculpted rabbit into the ear of a 29-foot statue of Nelson Mandela.

Neither is cute nor funny. Yet people continue to do such stupid and offensive things.

At the university white students dressed in basketball jerseys, flashed gang signs and drank from hollowed-out watermelons on the holiday this week honoring the slain civil rights leader. They then posted pictures of themselves on social media websites, which magnified the outrage.

University officials responded, suspending the operations of the fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, The Associated Press reports.

Many Kansas City area King holiday celebrations linked King with Mandela so news of the sculpted rabbit inside one of the ears of the revolutionary leader’s statue also was unsettling. The artists told a South African newspaper that they added the rabbit after authorities said they could not engrave their signatures on the statue’s trousers.

They said the rabbit represented the pressure of finishing the sculpture on time: “Haas” — the word for rabbit in Afrikaans — also means “haste,” the AP reports. Such things aren’t added to the statues of other world leaders.

Officials said the sculptors apologized for any offense to those who felt the rabbit was disrespectful.

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