Racism is still everywhere even in places you wouldn’t expect

As a graphic designer for a large newspaper group, I’ve been asked to do some crazy things over the years. But I never thought I’d find a bit of racism in the mix.

There was the time a sales rep asked if I could take a dentist’s picture and close the gap between his two front teeth – ironic, huh? Another was adamant about placing party hats on the heads of lobsters in a tank – though I suspect they had no reason to celebrate. But my favorite had to be this past Thanksgiving – when I was asked to put everything from dumb bells to a bottle of beer in the hands of a smiling turkey. That was just weird.

While I’d never consider the above creations worthy of a page in my portfolio, they were easy enough to accomplish and certainly pleased the advertiser – which is the ultimate goal, right? Well, sometimes pleasing the advertiser means going against what you believe to be fair in life.

The other day I was assigned a new client – a local business specializing in life insurance policies for families. They supplied me with the desired text, but left the creative end entirely up to me. They did have one request however, that I include an image of a family exuding happiness. Could this ad be any easier?

Up until now, there was nothing out of the ordinary – certainly better than putting party hats on lobsters. And so I pulled together the necessary elements and was quite pleased with the results. There’s nothing I love more than finding the perfect image, and on this particular ad I thought I nailed it. I never would’ve thought, however, that the advertiser would have a problem with the color of their skin.

When searching for the image, the only idea in my head was to find a happy looking family, NOT what color is their skin. I was angered by the request, refusing to change the picture based on the race of the family. But they were insistent, regardless of my attempts to defend my choice, that the family I chose be replaced with a Caucasian one.

I can assure you I won’t be recommending this particular insurance company to anyone I know.

Racism continues to propagate from one generation to the next – oftentimes because that is what we’re taught at home. But life is about evolving and growing – casting off the indifferences we’ve learned growing up. Anyone who continues to support the prejudices of the past simply because that’s what they’re used to, doesn’t possess the courage or knowledge to understand just how much alike we truly are.

I think comedian Dennis Leary said it best. “Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught.  I have a two-year-old son.  You know what he hates?  Naps! End of list.”