July 24, 2012

The Toronto Star | Michael de Adder | Sabrina Scott
The Toronto Star apologized for a Michael de Adder cartoon, saying many readers thought it “fed into racial stereotypes at a time when emotions were running particularly high.” (Don’t just take their word for it; read some letters.)

The cartoon was published last Wednesday and followed a local July 16 shooting in which two people were killed and 23 more, including a toddler, were injured. De Adder’s cartoon portrayed a black toddler with the legend “Injuries to expect before they are two” and “Head laceration from a medium-caliber bullet” among less sinister harms.

On his blog, de Adder describes how he constructed the cartoon and shows his drafts. His intentions, he writes, weren’t racist:

Many things affected me about this tragedy, but the bullet injury to the 22-month old girl struck a cord. I have kids. The worst thing they ever suffered was a scrape to the knee.

Originally the cartoon said “Injuries to expect before children are two,” he writes. After making some other revisions, he says:

Then I made my big mistake, one that I’ll regret the rest of my life. I changed the word “children” to “they” because it looked better visually.

Canadian illustrator Sabrina Scott says de Adder’s mistake was that the cartoon had “no signifier of universality”:

Furthermore, many comments on the cartoon (on Facebook) have pointed out the incredible racial diversity of the area in which the shooting occurred. It’s not a predominantly black neighbourhood – so why was a black child depicted? We need to be careful to not reinforce systemic racism with our illustrations, and to carefully consider our responsibility as image makers to both our audience and to our ethical code(s) as thoughtful human beings.

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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