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Minority Groups Call Illustrations Of Mayor Johnson Racist

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Stephen T. Webb of the NAACP holds the Sacramento News and Review and a book called The Black Book with cartoons from the early part of the last century. Webb says the SNR illustrations are racist because they resemble the others.

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says recent illustrations in the Sacramento News and Review are racist.

The organization held a news conference Thursday morning with a dozen members of local minority organizations to call for an apology for computer-generated likenesses of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The illustrations accompany stories about his use of private emails to conduct city business.

Last week's edition features eight computer-generated caricatures of the mayor's face, sweating or in a computer desktop trash bin. One was on the cover showing him reading the paper.

Stephen T. Webb is president of the NAACP Sacramento Chapter. He says the illustrations are similar to those created in the 1930's and 40's that are now considered inappropriate or racist for their content.

"If you look at the pictures of our mayor, he is a more, lighter-complected African-American male. They actually darkened the papers, as you can see here. You've seen the pictures. You know him well. They've accentuated the lips. They've also made the eyes larger."

Gary Simon is director of the group Sacramento Juneteenth. He says the style of cartoon is similar to racist work done decades ago, but he says the only way to tell for sure if it's truly racist is to talk to the artist who created it, "There's more to it than just the caricature of the mayor. What are they really saying?" He says, "Let's have them answer this question, 'What was your intent. What are you really saying here? Was there a message or was there not a message? So explain it.'"

The Sacramento News and Review released a statement that says in part:

"The illustrations of Mayor Kevin Johnson in SN&R’s July 9 issue depict him as sweaty and nervous while reading about his lawsuit against this paper and allegations of email misuse.

These illustrations are based on an actual photo of the mayor.

We refute the NAACP's assertion that the illustrations are in any way racist, violent, or perpetuating negative stereotypes, or that our coverage of the mayor is racially biased. Such accusations are unfounded and without merit."

This week's edition has a similar illustration of the mayor holding an email envelope with a computer desktop trash bin lid on his head.

The NAACP says it may boycott the paper if no apology is forthcoming.

The paper is free.

Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob reports on all things northern California and Nevada. His coverage of police technology, local athletes, and the environment has won a regional Associated Press and several Edward R. Murrow awards.   Read Full Bio 

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