Toronto Star Apologizes for Cartoon Accused of Racism

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Michael de Adder outlined on his website the stages of his cartoon. In this step of the cartoon, he noted he "changed the word 'children' to 'they' because it looked better visually." That decision was his "big mistake," he wrote. (Credit: Michael de Adder, screenshot)

The Toronto Star apologized July 23 for a cartoon accused of racism, the Toronto Star public editor Kathy English recently reported.

As English explained, the cartoon, by Michael de Adder, pictured “a young black girl with the caption ‘Injuries to expect before they are two’,” with a ‘boo boo’ from a high chair as well as an “injury from a bullet.”  The cartoon was weighing in on a recent shooting at a barbeque party.

The Toronto shootings left “two dead” and “twenty-three others with gunshot wounds” and marked “the worst mass shooting in the history of Toronto.”

For her own part, English commented that:

“To give readers any cause to believe the Toronto Star is a racist institution is appalling to me.”

The apology for the cartoon noted that the cartoon and newspaper didn’t mean for readers to take the cartoon as a racial statement but acknowledged that “we should have been more aware that the cartoon could be read in a way that would reinforce stereotypes.”

The apology went on:

“The intended point of the cartoon was to say how unacceptable it is for a child – any child – to face such an injury along with the routine bruises that come with growing up. The word “they” was intended to refer to children, but it could easily be taken as a reference to black people in general. Certainly, a considerable number of thoughtful readers interpreted it that way.”

de Adder also issued a statement about the cartoon, writing on his website that in response to the shooting he “wanted to make a strong point…that was sensitive.” He included a few images of his cartoon’s progress from start to finish.

He added that he didn’t intend to offend and that he “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.”  de Adder said that he originally captioned the cartoon  “injuries to expect when children are two.”

Via email, de Adder added to iMediaEthics:

“I would just like to underline that the whole story was based upon a mistake, replacing “children” with “they. ” And if you look at the step by step I did on my blog, you’ll see how it was done. If I had just not done that, there would be no misinterpretation.

“The way the cartoon read after this edit, could very easily be interpreted in two ways. But that was an editing.”

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Toronto Star Apologizes for Cartoon Accused of Racism

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