Guest Column Sydne Didier: ‘A lazy cartoon relying upon offensive imagery’

  • Top view thirties retro writers desk with typewriter on old wooden background table top. mactrunk

Published: 7/6/2021 8:05:52 AM

Just over a year ago, I wrote a Letter to the editor regarding a troublesome headline for the photo of a young child and their mother, both of whom happened to be ethnically Asian.

The editor at the time, Brooke Hauser, agreed that the headline relied upon caricature and stereotype and that work needed to be done to ensure that nothing like this would happen again. I left our conversation feeling hopeful and optimistic, confident that I had been heard and that change was coming.

Less than six months later, Hauser was dismissed from her position and I fear that the necessary work on issues of diversity went with her.

On June 23, I opened my Gazette and was horrified at the inclusion of an editorial cartoon once again relying upon racist stereotypes and caricatures.

Depicting a series of what I believe are meant to be COVID virus topiaries, it shows an individual in a stereotypical conical hat, dressed in what I assume is meant to be “Asian” garb, and labels them a “Japanese gardener,” cultivating the virus for the upcoming Olympic Games.

The goal of the cartoon was, I think, to showcase a perceived lack of preparedness on the part of the Japanese government with regard to COVID as we approach the Tokyo Olympics. Not only did it fail in that regard, but a lazy cartoon relying upon offensive imagery does nothing to address the larger issues at hand, and does far worse than that. For those unwilling to think more critically, it reduces the situation to the same kind of Asian blaming we have seen result in rising hate crimes across this nation and others and perpetuates a false narrative of AAPI culpability for the spread of Covid 19.

Since the onset of the COVID pandemic, AAPI individuals have faced a growing number of hate crimes. The organization Stop AAPI Hate has documented more than 7000 incidents of anti-AAPI hate crimes, some in our own communities here in the Pioneer Valley. From verbal harassment to physical assault, AAPI individuals have been targeted, and many are living in fear of simply walking down the street while Asian.

Racist caricature of AAPI and BIPOC people is not new. This particular cartoon evokes the images used when Japanese Americans were targeted on the basis of their race and ethnicity, their property and lives stolen from them as they were interned in camps that we, as a nation, can never make amends for. It is unacceptable that the use of these images continues.

I am disappointed with the Gazette staff’s apparent inability to recognize and avoid use of such imagery. Last year, I believed that real change was possible at the Gazette. Now, I feel disillusioned. I hope that you can improve the Gazette’s editorial policies and diversify your editorial team so things like this do not slip through the cracks.

Please show your readers, in a substantive way, that you understand this issue and are willing to do the truly important work of making a change. Anything less does a disservice to the community you serve.

Sydne Didier lives in Amherst.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy