San Diego Magazine Publishes Racially Offensive Cover

by Stacia L. Brown

Rarely do magazine and website writers have much control over the art that accompanies their articles. But usually, the relationship between writer and editor or art director is such that an inherent trust of the latter’s final decision is warranted. A good editor ensures that the image and headline serve the copy.

If Elizabeth Salaam, writer for the San Diego Reader, had such trust when she penned the most recent issue’s cover story, it was misplaced. The editorial staff for the local periodical took her article about finding social and educational spaces near her community, where her children would be able to see people of color, and inexplicably titled it, “Afro Puffs.” They chose to run a photograph of a toddler pulling her natural hair. But most jarringly, they chose to run the following copy along with that image and headline:

The white girls like

the black guys,

and the Mexican girls

like the black guys,

and the Filipino girls

like the black guys,

and the black guys

like them, too.

But no one likes the black girls.

Huh? Though the article does open with the author referencing her daughter’s natural hair and her worry that someday soon her daughter may begin to wish her hair looked more like the straight, blonde hair of other women in her community, the article isn’t about hair at all. It’s about cultural identity, assimilation, and reinforcing positive self-image. Titling the essay “Afro Puffs” deliberately obscures those themes.

But the weak article title isn’t the real head scratcher here. The pull quote that accompanies the picture of a cherubic little black girl on the cover is the stranger choice. The quote is presented without context: It’s an observation the writer’s son makes about what he perceives to be the social dynamics at the middle school he attends. On the deceptive cover, it appears that the article will be about why “no one” (In San Diego? In America? In the world?!) likes black girls — and how their disdain is linked to their hair.

The image and article were posted online on July 11, and commenters have been similarly confused and offended by the cover copy. Others have taken issue with the content of the article itself; though it is quite long, it’s more diaristic than journalistic, and for the issues the author wants to engage, she’d need more than her children’s and friends’ opinions and experiences to speak to issues of cultural or racial stratification in San Diego. Though the editor absolutely chose the wrong quote to publish on the cover, Salaam did offer it, as one of a few anecdotes about her son’s experiences with finding a barber, fitting in at school, and worrying about becoming “bourgie.”

If she’d known it would be used next to a picture of a little black girl tugging her hair straighter, it’s a safe bet she would’ve edited it out.

Did you read Salaam’s article? Does it relate to the cover art, the title, or the pull quote?

  • K

    I actually find nothing wrong with the quote only with its placement because it DOES make it seem as if that is what hte article is about. The accompanying picture if it was related to that quote i dont see anything wrong with it. To me I didnt see little girl etc etc. When I first saw the picture and read the quote, I thought they were trying to convey frustration and confusion which i felt the picture accurately described. However seeing as how neither picture nor quote relate to article they were bad choices

  • Stanley

    Let the comments begin…

  • rosie

    Small potatoes.

  • Aundrea Parsons

    This is interesting. I agree with the author that the picture and quote are a misrepresentation of what the article is actually about. Kind of shows me that the editor didn’t even read or understand the article before slapping a picture and random quote on the cover. On another note: The quote does touch home b/c I felt this EXACT same way throughout middle and high school. I grew up in the burbs and was either the only or one of the few black girls in school. And for girls that age, self esteem is an issue, especially when every dude you have a crush on “likes” every other girl that looks nothing like you. lol When you’re that age, it’s that simple and that elementary to think that “well guess the only black girls that are pretty are the ones you see on TV.” And we all know that’s not the best representation. Sorry for the soapbox moment, just took me back there for a minute.

  • Amber

    This is just a bad cover in a journalistic sense than racial. The quote is misplaced and out of context and the cover shot and title definitely suck, but I’d be more upset as a journalist than upset as a black person. The story is valid but the editor definitely loses some cool points for overlooking these poor journalistic choices.

  • garry

    I find nothing wrong with it only the last part of not liking black girls I’m mixed latino and black but I just love a dark skin sister I think that last part should have been left out

  • my_reply

    The cover had nothing to do with the article. Out of all the quotes in the article, they chose that one. In the article, the quote makes sense, but not stand alone. It’s so obvious why it was chosen.

  • S.

    As a BF who grew up in SD, there is some truth in that quote :(

  • S.

    ^That being said, this cover is a ‘race-baiting’ ploy.

    Just another piece of the media trying to reinforce the lower value of Black women

  • omfg

    i’ve worked in newsrooms. that cover is inappropriate. i doubt there are black people working in that newsroom. if there are, they kept their mouths closed.

    people who say this is okay are just plain clueless. sorry, but you are.

    you think it’s okay to call out little black girls in this way as being unwanted? and to refer to them as “afro puffs”? on a magazine cover? really?

    not okay folks.

  • Laugh

    Ok, I actually READ the article and honestly it was by far one of the dumbest articles I’ve read online period. I mean you can barely follow whatever the hell she’s talking about. The magazine probably had no clue either so they put a lil girl with an Afro on the cover. I could be wrong because this was really a poorly written piece but what I got from it was that she’s black with a mixed daughter and she’s worried the daughter doesn’t see hair like her own on a daily basis. So in that sense the picture did match. I feel the real issue here is how does a magazine choose such a poor piece for the cover. They had to spice it up and get tongues wagging by putting that quote on the cover. Certainly not a magazine I would ever support. I guess they got their cheap 15min of fame.

  • Kam

    Nothing should be small potatoes when it comes to how we are portrayed.

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    I am so tired of this. Black women, whether we have daughters or not, we have a lot of work to do. White people are determined to make us hate ourselves and self-destruct. We only have to love ourselves.

  • my_reply

    Exactly. The article was not well written. People are always race baiting. Why have there been so many articles about black people lately? Actually not black people, black women in particular. Prior to 2008, no one even cared about us. Now there seems to be some article about us every month. It’s so pathetic. But the black people writing these articles are so annoying. Somebody finally gave them a chance to shine and they took it even if it made black people look bad. So many black people are willing to sellout and make us look bad just to make a buck and be seen.

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