The New York Post’s Masahiro Tanaka Gag Bombs
GET a load of the New York Post’s front page, created in tribute (not fear) to new New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. He’s Japanese. And he’s riding on a divine wind of change in the cockpit of a Japanese warplane. He is the “$155m Bronx Bomber”. He is the new “Japanese ace”.
The Asian American Journalists Association is displeased:
The New York Post
Dear Mr. Zini:
Your front page last Thursday showed recently signed Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in the cockpit of a Japanese warplane, labeling him the “$155M Bronx Bomber” and a new “Japanese ace.”
The depiction was of poor taste, and the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is relieved to learn that editors at The Post also found the graphic offensive and pulled it – but not before some editions containing the objectionable cover hit the street.
We appreciate your candor in explaining, in an email responding to AAJA’s query, that the image and accompanying headline were meant to “amuse and play off the Yankee nickname ‘Bronx Bombers.’ ” We take you at your word that it was not the paper’s intent to offend.
Matter over. Move on. No. Not yet:
However, when something that egregious is published, we believe it warrants a more direct apology.
We’re sure you understand how hurtful and damaging stereotypes are. Seeing Tanaka, a Japanese national, depicted in such a way conjured up hateful imagery.
To this day, the “kamikaze” imagery remains a powerful reminder of past racism. We all know about Pearl Harbor, but many people in our communities also remember how strong anti-Japanese sentiment sent 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans to internment camps.
Racism? That was war.
Bobby Caina Calvan, AAJA MediaWatch Chair
Paul Cheung, AAJA President
New York Post managing editor Frank Zini responds:
“We recognized early on that an image intended to amuse and play off the Yankee nickname ‘Bronx Bombers’ might be considered offensive by some people, even though that was not our intention. Therefore, it was removed after a very small number of papers had been printed.”
Back in 2013, the AAJA was upset over a Vermont’s newspaper insert supporting Johnsbury Academy against Rice Memorial High School.
Dear Mr. Todd Smith, Publisher, The Caledonian Record
No one can criticize the Caledonian Record for rooting for the home team. But we at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) were appalled by the insert included in your newspaper to cheer on the St. Johnsbury Academy. “Fry Rice” caught the wrong kind of attention because of its racist undertones.
By itself, the slogan might be considered clever. But it became offensive when published in a typeface mimicking Chinese calligraphy.
A Wall Street Journal columnist summed up how seemingly inconsequential things like fonts perpetuate stereotypes. The column (found at http://on.wsj.com/LCaQYn) noted the “psychological toll from regular exposure to ching-chong babble, slant-eyed caricature, cheesy font choices and face-painted minstrelsy.”
We’ll assume that your use of that typeface was not meant to offend. But we’ll also assume that if that is the case, the Caledonian Record will publicly acknowledge its lapses in taste and judgment.
The paper responded:
A fair accusation of racism would at least pre-require the reference to actually be demeaning or degrading. Simply invoking ethnic customs (food, dress, design) doesn’t do that, nor does it suggest any kind of characteristic about the culture, its people or a history of oppression by the majority.
It’s all very sensitive, isn’t it. Is race still the significant disadvantage it is often portrayed as? Of course it is if you’re the victim of it. But are Japanese and Chinese Americans really upset at what we’ve just seen? Isn;t the shock in this that racism in the mainstream is now so rare that we seek it out?