Bulging eyes. Swollen lips. Bare feet. Clownish facial expressions.
Many of us assumed that such hurtful racial images died in the 1960s with Jim Crow. But this week Bloomberg’s Businessweek magazine revived some of that racist iconography when it published a cover featuring Blacks as greedy, bug-eyed opportunists. Now, many politicians, pundits and Black leaders are crying foul.
Created by Minneapolis-based artist Andres Guzman, the cartoon cover art shows Blacks and Latinas gleefully clutching fistfuls of cash. An accompanying caption reads: “The Great American Housing Rebound: Flips. No-look bids. 300 percent returns. What could possibly go wrong?” The cover and caption imply that minorities are the crafty masterminds behind a new and disastrous housing bubble.
The cover and the magazine’s response are troubling on several fronts. Minorities rarely make the cover of mainstream business publications like Businessweek, so it’s disturbing that this rare occasion when minorities are featured, they are represented as money-grubbing doofuses.
As anyone with newsroom experience will attest, just about everything that goes into a news publication—and this is especially true of cover art—is carefully reviewed by the chief editors. Businessweek editor-in-chief Josh Tyrangiel all but admits that upper management signed off on the artwork. “Our cover illustration got strong reactions, which we regret,” Tyrangiel said in a press statement. “If we had to do it over again, we’d do it differently.”
Note how Tyrangiel takes pains to avoid the phrases “we apologize” or “we’re sorry.” He only states that he regrets the strong negative reactions the offensive cover received, which makes his statement an apology that isn’t.