To the editor:
I was stunned by this week’s Equinox front page. The headline, ‘Graffiti Stains KSC,’ juxtaposed with a photo illustration of a black man behind bars, creates an impression that there¹s been a rash of vandalism perpetrated by black men (that black man?) on this campus. I know that’s not true, and read the articles, which covered the rash of bias-related incidents on campus. But nothing in the headlines or the photo illustrations suggests that minorities and women are actually the targets of this vandalism. The casual passerby is getting a very strange impression of KSC from that front page. And students of color on this campus and their allies get quite an impression of The Equinox, too.
I’ve had a little time to sit with and digest it, and I assume the illustrator was trying to find images that suggest racism. But no one I have shown that page to has come to that conclusion quickly. Responses have ranged from puzzled to horrified. Most people will not try to discern the intentions of the photo illustrator, they’ll get their first impression and move on.
The best advice I ever got as a copy editor was that every copy editor needs the mind of a 13-year-old boy; in that case, the idea was that we needed to be grown-up enough to see what less mature others might perceive as dirty. Similarly, the photo illustrator and others who checked the page before it went to print owe it to their readership to take a step back and see how things might be perceived by people who were less intimately acquainted with the story than they were.
To address the Letter to the Editor,
The graphic on the front page of the Jan. 2 issue of The Equinox was connected to the story of the influx of bias-related graffiti on campus. It featured a black man behind bars. The image itself was a photo of a wrongful imprisonment in the ‘60s during the Civil Rights movement. It connects with the superimposed image of a white police officer attempting to arrest a black man during the Civil Rights movement. In no way was it intended to insinuate that a black man had perpetrated the crimes.
Instead, it was meant to show that certain minorities on campus had been wrongfully targeted by the bias-related graffiti, just like the man in the image had been wrongfully targeted by the police. The purpose of these graphics was to create discussion and create a line connecting the past and the present, and everyone will be able to create their own meanings of what this image means based on their own experiences and perceptions. Where blatant racism was running rampant in the ‘60s, a strain of perhaps unconscious racism still runs through our society, as well as ignorance as to the damage these words can truly cause.
What we need to question here is how and why this image can be misconstrued as a racist stereotype in the first place? If anyone had seen the graphic and had picked up the paper to read the story, one would presumably pick up on the fact that minority groups on campus are not the perpetrators of this bias-related graffiti, but the victims. The fact that this image can be recognized as a stereotype shows that these stereotypes still lie within our consciousness, even if we do not recognize it at first. If we delve into this issue first, then the graphic alongside our story has no weight or further consequence. We look at that photo and see a person behind bars. But other people with different perceptions would recognize that it is a black man behind bars
While the graphic was placed above the fold, passersby who see our paper and choose not to pick it up and who are aware of these unspoken stereotypes will get the wrong impression. But if someone has issue with it, we need to question why we look at these images and assume it is a black man who has perpetrated these crimes in the first place. It’s an opportunity to read the story and educate yourself on what is happening around campus, but also an opportunity to learn how or why these racist stereotypes still exist.
Managing Editor Whitney Cyr and The Equinox Editorial Board