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Bloomberg Businessweek’s Unintentionally Racist Cover Art

So, whoever approves cover art at Bloomberg BusinessWeek thought this was a good idea:

bloomberg-businessweek-racist-housing-cover

As Columbia Journalism Review‘s Ryan Chittum points out, they have a history of “edgy” design and “walk-up-to-the-line philosophy in its covers, which over the last year or so have pushed the line on what’s okay for a respected mass market magazine.” But they’ve clearly miscalculated with this one. I don’t think it needs to be spelled out but, just for the sake of clarity:

The cover stands out for its cast of black and Hispanic caricatures with exaggerated features reminiscent of early 20th century race cartoons. Also, because there are only people of color in it, grabbing greedily for cash. It’s hard to imagine how this one made it through the editorial process.

In a separate column, he notes,

The cover artist was Andres Guzman, a native of Peru who says, in an email passed along by BusinessWeek that, “The assignment was an illustration about housing. I simply drew the family like that because those are the kind of families I know. I am Latino and grew up around plenty of mixed families.”

[...]

It surely wasn’t Guzman’s intent to draw a racially insensitive picture, and his own racial background is mostly irrelevant. The real problem is, as I wrote, that the picture made it through a BW editorial structure that is well familiar with American racial history and imagery, and onto the cover of the magazine. Part of the point of having an institution is to keep things like this from happening. This passed through too many editorial gatekeepers who missed the problem with the cover. It’s the whole machine that’s responsible for what it spits out.

The machine failed horribly in this case.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Cocoons are not merely for caterpillars.

    That aside, the Aunt Jemima wins the lottery cover is a distraction from an article in which Bloomberg’s people unintentionally and blithely reported something that some of us for a year or two already knew: In various parts of the country — Phoenix, Vegas, Florida — we’ve already gone back into a mode of a residential real estate lending and flipping bubble. The article’s author and editor(s) of course didn’t connect the obvious dots, but cheap and loose money do have consequences. And it won’t end well, again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. rudderpedals says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: This is true. I’m seeing investor trusts coming into this area (SW Fla) picking up distressed properties, cleaning them up and putting them back on the market quickly. Other investors are buying up possessory rights to residences in foreclosure from bankruptcy estates and renting them out to the owners or 3rd parties until the banks get their act together and foreclose.

    Thing is, the cover doesn’t reflect who’s pocketing the money. It’s not the young, minorities, or the distressed homeowner. It’s your typical moneybags.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. Ben Wolf says:

    Wall Street, through companies like Blackstone, are snapping up foreclosed homes in the tens of thousands, handing them to rental management companies and then securitizing the rental incomes (derivatives).

    The housing “recovery” is due to the same old financial shenanigans, not an improvement in consumer spending.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  4. MattT says:

    Here is the tumblr of Andres Guzman. Warning: besides reminding me of Robert Crumb, in a bad way, he occasionally draws boobies. More to the point, when drawing for himself his art often features blonde white people.

    JJ’s post also skips Chittum’s excellent linkfest documenting the Right’s systematic Blame-the-Bubble-on-Minorities campaign. Click through and scroll down the short article for the links, then tell me if you stand by that “unintentional” in the headline.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. Boyd says:

    But at least BusinessWeek, unlike lowly bloggers, has layers upon layers of editorial oversight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  6. Franklin says:

    I guess I don’t mind the caricatures, it seems like a pretty standard style. The completely inaccurate representation of where the money is going is the main problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Franklin: This.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. PD Shaw says:

    I have to disagree. First, I don’t think the artist’s background is irrelevant. It gives us a window into what is actually happening here; he is not to be allowed to draw families or people like him unless he upholds a certain p.c. narrative. Its a way of making people of color invisible. People need to chill.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  9. MattT says:

    @PD Shaw: After weighing the right of a commercial artist, commissioned to illustrate an editorial position, to draw whatever he likes against the documented, recent, widespread discrimination in lending against minorities, I disagree on who needs to chill.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  10. bill says:

    hispanic artists can’t be racists….it’s a factoid of liberalism. plus, bloomberg isn’t a republican anymore, he’s indy. the cover art is funny not because of the ethnicity of the people but the actual ’60’s era underground style. of course if a white artist drew it…..you now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  11. inhumans99 says:

    @PD Shaw:

    He is free to draw what he wants in his own free time, but when it comes to work for hire, he can indeed be told what to draw. So it is quite interesting that this cover made it to print, because someone could have said I paid you to draw X, and you drew Y, change it or you will not get paid.

    I suspect you already know this, and are just rallying against a PC culture run amok. Not trying to get into a debate, etc., just saying…BusinessWeek had the right to censor his cover.

    Google Frank Cho / Marvel…Marvel censors his covers for showing too much flesh all the time, and he is okay with it (or maybe not, but he likes to get paid for his art, so I suspect he picks his battles carefully). He does sometimes get the okay to throw the uncensored image in his art books that are not distributed by Marvel.

    I am not a fan of all PC all the time, however, someone should have said, whoa…let’s take another look at this cover before going to print, because it is in bad form.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. MM says:

    @bill: Except people actually are saying that the drawing is racist! And drawn by a Peruvian artist! Not only are you arguing a strawman point, but you’re angry that people aren’t making the very point that they are making.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. Groty says:

    Never mind the potential actual harm that may come to people by re-inflating the housing bubble.

    The really important thing is that a hispanic artist created caricatures of hispanics. Thankfully, the hispanic artist has a bunch of hyper-sensitive, politically correct white guys wagging their finger at him and letting him know in no uncertain terms that they are offended by his artwork because somebody may get their feelings hurt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  14. PD Shaw says:

    @inhumans99: My comments aren’t made within the context of any rights. Bloomberg hired an artists whose style is very colorful and excessively caricatured who drew a piece that he enjoyed and met Bloomberg’s expectations and they published it. The art is not intentionally racist, but given the sensitivities of a certain class of people, the outrage machine not only wants nobody to see it because of the message they bring to the art, they want the magazine to be very careful about how they depict people of color in the future. They want to see more white people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  15. PD Shaw says:

    @inhumans99: The comic book companies have their own internal contradictions. They make a lot of money licensing super heroes for kid’s toys and other product tie-ins. But they sell their comic books to middle-aged men for whom a classic pin-up style is popular. Does the outrage machine claim Cho’s covers are demeaning to women?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  16. matt bernius says:

    Ok… a discussion of Cho covers and someone named inhumans99… we’re getting our geek on today!

    @PD Shaw:
    Does the outrage machine claim Cho’s covers are demeaning to women?

    Some do. Some don’t. Outrage is always a pretty complex thing. Generally speaking, Cho doesn’t get as much heat as others because, while curvy, his women are typically anatomically possible and not twisted into action/porn/spine-breaking-T&A positions.

    Sexism and comics is a pretty complex issue.

    That get’s to the broader point — Outrage machine or not, once things are drawn or said and released, they no longer belong to the artist. And contradictions are entirely possible.

    While I agree with your broader point — that this can have the effect of stifling true diversity — the fact is that the context of this cover (especially given the broader issues surrounding race and the bubble) are such that while the artist might have not intended any offense, the editorial team should have intervened (unless the entire goal was to generate controversy).

    And in that case, they’ve made the outrage machine work for them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Tyrell says:

    What is demeaning about it? Looks accurate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    Oh good. Superdes

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:
    Oh good. Superdestroyer has a friend.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Andre Kenji says:

    Just a point: there are DOZENS of discussions about sexism in the comics industry. Besides that, the problem is not about racism, it´s also about illustration, art direction and taste. One can argue that the cover is lacking in all these three, and that it´s a confusing cover. It may not be a racist cover, but I think that there is something of a bad taste here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0