Satir­i­cal mag­a­zine to alter ‘racist’ car­toon amid call for boy­cott

The News (New Glasgow) - - ATLANTIC -

A car­toon in a satir­i­cal mag­a­zine that de­picts a black poet and ac­tivist with a jut­ting chin and slop­ing fore­head is be­ing mod­i­fied after crit­ics who call it racist launched cam­paigns to re­move the mag­a­zine from stores.

An­drew Dou­glas, the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the At­lantic re­gion ver­sion of Frank mag­a­zine, apol­o­gized to read­ers on Tues­day, say­ing he’s fear­ful that the de­pic­tion of El Jones among a group of pro­test­ers in the car­toon could at­tract racists to the pub­li­ca­tion.

Sarah Dunsworth, an ac­tor on the “Trailer Park Boys” se­ries, said on Twit­ter the “racist ha­rass­ment ... is dis­gust­ing and shame­ful,” and is among those call­ing for a boy­cott.

Jones said in an in­ter­view that she views the car­toon as a throw­back to racist im­ages in mag­a­zines in the 1800s that de­picted African men and women as hav­ing fea­tures closer to pri­mates than Cau­casians.

“It’s an an­i­mal­is­tic way of rep­re­sent­ing Africans as mon­keys ... Any­one fa­mil­iar with the his­tory of racism and the his­tory of racist de­pic­tions can see this im­me­di­ately,” said Jones, who holds a women’s stud­ies chair at Mount Saint Vin­cent Univer­sity and is a for­mer Hal­i­fax poet lau­re­ate.

She said such de­pic­tions were part of a wider racist move­ment once prom­i­nent in main­stream mag­a­zines that aimed to de­pict Africans as hav­ing lower in­tel­li­gence.

Dunsworth has called for stores, in­clud­ing the Sobeys chain, to pull the lat­est is­sue off their shelves.

A spokes­woman for Sobeys was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment, but the chain said on Twit­ter it de­nounces dis­crim­i­na­tory com­men­tary and has shared con­cerns with the mag­a­zine.

“This is a dis­cus­sion we’re hav­ing with the mag­a­zine and our in­ter­nal team, and it’s all the in­for­ma­tion we have to share,” it tweeted Wed­nes­day.

Dou­glas said his apol­ogy wasn’t to Jones but to read­ers.

“It’s not an apol­ogy to El Jones. In our mind we didn’t use (a) racist char­ac­ter, but hav­ing said that we also un­der­stand that can be to­tally sub­jec­tive,” he said in an in­ter­view.

“We’d hate to think we’re go­ing to at­tract the wrong el­e­ments by them be­liev­ing we are racist.”

He said he has asked car­toon­ist Don Pin­sent to draw the car­toon again with a de­pic­tion of Jones al­tered.

Pin­sent said Wed­nes­day he orig­i­nally in­tended to ex­ag­ger­ate the poet’s fea­tures, but this is his prac­tice with most sub­jects he draws.

“I ex­ag­ger­ate fea­tures on peo­ple, that’s what I do, and ev­ery­body else de­picted in the car­toon was ex­ag­ger­ated to the same ex­tent she was,” he said.

“What I’ve been asked to do is draw as ac­cu­rate a de­pic­tion of her face as I can.”

Dou­glas said the car­toon has been pub­lished mul­ti­ple times and is a reg­u­lar fea­ture that has been run­ning since Au­gust and is called “the safe space cadets.”

He said it is aimed at mock­ing the pro­test­ers on is­sues such as the push to re­move a statue of city founder Ed­ward Corn­wal­lis from a Hal­i­fax park.

Corn­wal­lis, as gover­nor of Nova Sco­tia, founded Hal­i­fax in 1749 and soon after is­sued a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps in re­sponse to an at­tack on colonists. Some mem­bers of the Mi’kmaq com­mu­nity have called for the re­moval of tributes to Corn­wal­lis, call­ing his ac­tions a form of geno­cide.

Jones said that she doesn’t ac­cept that chang­ing her fea­tures elim­i­nates the racist na­ture of the car­toon.

She said that the con­text of Abo­rig­i­nal and black women speak­ing out against the Corn­wal­lis statue, and hav­ing an unat­tended black child crawl­ing on hands and knees near the pro­test­ers, are among the el­e­ments that make the draw­ing racist. She said hav­ing the child unat­tended sug­gest the black par­ents are inat­ten­tive.

“To sug­gest that the racist de­pic­tion in this con­text is just some kind of er­ror in draw­ing I think is ig­nor­ing the racist con­text of this draw­ing,” she said.

Dou­glas wrote in a let­ter to read­ers that the in­ten­tion wasn’t to pub­lish a racist draw­ing. He also said he is aware that draw­ings that liken black peo­ple to pri­mates — such as car­toons that de­pict for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Barack Obama as a go­rilla — can be viewed in this way.

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