On June 6, when two convicted murderers escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., they left a note with a racially offensive caricature on a pipe they used to flee. The image on yellow paper was of a face with slit eyes, coolie hat and buck teeth. Underneath this cartoon were the words, “Have A Nice Day!”
Although a few news organizations, thankfully, identified this cartoon as offensive and blurred the image, others showed the stereotypical cartoon and completely ignored the racial nature of the caricature.
Just as we oppose repeating and promulgating racially offensive language; we similarly oppose promulgating racially offensive images. It is offensive to reproduce an obviously anti-Asian cartoon especially without mentioning the racial nature of the image as one major broadcast network and one national newspaper did.
The use of anti-Asian cartoons has an unfortunate history in the United States. Anti-Chinese caricatures (often drawn with buck teeth and slits for eyes) were an integral part of the campaign that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) urges all news organizations to review their policies and processes for addressing stereotypical images that could offend a community. AAJA’s “Handbook to Covering Asian America” is one resource to ensure fair and sensitive portrayals of Asian Americans.
Paul Cheung, AAJA President
Zain Shauk, AAJA MediaWatch Committee Chair