Open Letter to the ABQ Journal Concerning Their Racist Cartoon

Feb 9, 2018
11:35 AM

The following open letter was published on Thursday by the New Mexico chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists:

I’m May Ortega, president of the New Mexico chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. I’m writing on behalf of our members to express our disappointment in an editorial cartoon published in the February 7, 2018 issue of your newspaper, as well as our dismay at your response.

Statements given by Editor-in-Chief Karen Moses and Editorial Page Editor D’val Westphal in a story the Journal ran Thursday morning shows your highest-ranked staffers are aware of the issue, the damage it has caused, and that the image did not accomplish what was intended. Yet there is no sign that the cartoon will be retracted or that an apology specifically for publishing racist images will be issued. Frankly, the statement came across as “We’re sorry you were offended,” instead of “We’re sorry we published racist content.”

Moses issued an expanded statement a few hours later, in which she glazes over an apology on behalf of the Journal. Moses wrote, “In hindsight, instead of generating debate, this cartoon only inflamed emotions. This was not the intent, and for that, the Journal apologizes.”

This “apology” doubled down on the initial statement: “We’re sorry this upset you.” Moses takes no responsibility for what’s at the root of this issue, which is spreading racist and bigoted ideology.

More concerns arise when considering the artist behind the cartoon. If the Journal’s editorial board had truly done its research, they would have found that the cartoonist, Sean Delonas, has a history of creating racist images. Vanity Fair wrote a story about him and his ignorant work in 2009. Given this context, Delonas almost definitely created Wednesday’s image with racism in mind, and the editors who OK’ed it look naive for thinking otherwise.

Through publishing this image, you have failed your community and your staff—some of whom we represent. We demand a proper apology for publishing this racist image and a retraction of it. And we ask that you implement a better internal system to avoid these kinds of regrettable actions.

May Ortega
NAHJ New Mexico President