Is this election poster racist?

A Quebec election campaign poster Solidarity Highlighting the party’s promise to provide free public dental insurance for everyone is getting a lot of attention, which is not always positive.

Some people say the poster is inclusive. Others say it is blatantly racist.

The poster is one of many that Quebec Solidarity commissioned from local artists.

This is a close-up comic book style illustration of the face of a young black man.

Gender is unclear. The figurine has long, curly hair topped with a pink bandana, shark tooth necklace, and a pierced septum.

The dark-skinned figure has a wide-toothed smile, exposing large, white teeth.

The caption says, in French: “Dental insurance for all.

‘Bad joke’

Video game developer Aneesah Crawley said the poster was in bad taste, reminding her of a “smile in the dark, I can’t see you” joke. (submitted by Aneesah Crawley)

When a Montreal video game developer Aneesah Crawley saw the poster for the first time, it reminded her of what she described as an “old flat joke”.

“I hate that joke. It’s the idea of ​​black people and white teeth – it’s the contrast,” Crawley said. “Kind of a ‘smile in the dark, I can’t see you’ joke.”

Crawley said she was also offended by the use of a black person to represent someone in a lower income bracket who might not be able to afford a dentist.

“It’s the correlation between a black person and the message of free dental care for everyone,” Crawley told CBC.

“They really missed the mark,” she said. “I think they wanted inclusiveness, and what they did was not that. “

Montrealers David Clarke was also confused by the poster when he first saw it. He describes it as a caricature.

“I have yet to see a young black woman, immigrant or not, in Montreal who looks like this,” Clarke said.

“The rag on your head, the ring on your nose, it’s that racist stereotype with a racial orientation.”

Clarke said that if Quebec Solidarity wanted to include a depiction of a black person in his campaign ad, he should have used a photograph of a real person.

“It’s the same old attitude: you really don’t have to be careful what you do to represent the black community,” Clarke said.

“They wouldn’t dare take a photo trying to include the Jewish community or the Chinese community with a caricature of a Jew or a caricature of a Chinese.”

The artist enjoys “total freedom”

Quebec solidaire candidate in Taschereau, Catherine Dorion, said the party had given artists carte blanche. (Solidarity Quebec)

Catherine Dorion, candidate for Québec solidaire in the riding of Taschereau in Québec, is surprised by the controversy.

Dorion said Radio-Canada News the idea was never to designate black people as needing help paying a dentist.

“Everyone needs dental care. I never go to the dentist because I don’t have enough money,” said Dorion, who works as an actress.

Dorion said the party left the design of its posters to the artists who created them.

“We just didn’t think about it. We gave the artists complete freedom.”

“It is the result of the freedom given to artists from all regions of Quebec.

Displays a self-portrait, says the artist

The artist commissioned by Québec solidaire to create the dental care poster, along with a few others, is Dimani Mathieu Cassendo – a graphic novelist from Montréal-Nord, who is black.

“It’s a self-portrait,” Cassendo said with a laugh.

“I based it on my own face. Is my face problematic?”

The poster’s creator, graphic novelist Dimani Mathieu Cassendo, says it is a self-portrait. (submitted by Dimani Mathieu Cassendo)

Cassendo says the reaction speaks of a bigger problem.

“It’s a lack of representation. At a time when we don’t see a lot of black faces in the public sphere, when we see one we expect him to represent them all,” the artist said. .

“If we had better representation, we would understand the multitude and complexity of the black community in Quebec.

When the posters were first displayed, Cassendo was reluctant to give interviews about them, anticipating reactions from the far right – but not from other blacks.

“When it’s people from the black community talking about their unease, I find it really disturbing,” Cassendo said.

The graphic novelist supports the poster and plans to continue drawing and producing art that represents diversity in all its forms.

With art, Cassendo said: “It is normal for the reactions to be intense and passionate.”

With files from CBC’s Nantali Indongo

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