Exactly one week ago, the DP published an article titled Fresh Grocer apologizes for misplaced text on ad. Apologizing — what for?
During the month of February, The Fresh Grocer printed the words “February is Black History Month” across the top of the first page of their weekly ads. Each ad displayed a picture of that week’s major deal underneath the message. Two of these deals were advertisements for family chicken packs.
These ads caught the attention of some students who thought it drew upon the stereotype of blacks’ consumption of chicken. The Fresh Grocer’s corporate office has since apologized for the placement of the text.
I’m not really interested in why placing stereotypical African-American food alongside the words “February is Black History Month” is offensive. Words matter. Pictures matter. And so it follows that combinations of the two can carry subtle layers of meaning. Wonderful.
I’m more interested in how this sort of thing comes about. Helpfully, Fresh Grocer didn’t just apologize — it also offered an explanation:
Director of Marketing Carly Spross for the Fresh Grocer’s corporate office offered an apology.
“[We] are sincerely apologetic if our celebratory Black History Month message was offensive to anyone. That was certainly not our intention. The month of February, the front page of our weekly circulars featured a graphic celebrating Black History Month,” she said in an email.
Spross said that “the advertised sale items near the graphic were not related and also varied each week when sales changed … Next February, our team will definitely take a more in depth look at the placement of the celebratory message so we can ensure that our good intentions are clear to all audiences.”
I don’t need to run through the article blow-by-blow, but you get the idea: “Black History Month” was juxtaposed with chicken, certain students took offense, and you can read all about the extent to which they did so inside the article itself. The main point is, Fresh Grocer maintains, that this was all just an innocent mistake.
Here’s why I’m bringing this to your attention: later that very same day, the DP posted this on Facebook:
Are those students in the picture the ones who were offended? If not, was this picture of African-American people chosen because the article is about Black History Month? And what does the activity in which they are engaged add to my understanding of what occurred?
Now, I’m no expert on Black History Month, but based on my limited research, I believe it’s meant to be celebrated with images that look like this:
And if you aren’t sure whether it’s appropriate to draw on “the stereotype of black people playing basketball” I would urge you to get in touch with the Democratic New York State Assemblyman from Brooklyn’s Assembly district 48.
Granted, the DP’s picture placement probably wasn’t deliberate. Later that day, it also posted the following:
The lesson I take from all this is how easy it is to juxtapose words and images in unexpected ways without intending to mean anything more. Sometimes a mistake really is a mistake.
That said, it would make me very happy to learn that this Pope illustration wasn’t actually an accident.