The instructional site WikiHow faced backlash after getting called out for “whitewashing” an illustration adapted from a photo of Barack Obama with Jay-Z and Beyonce.
The original picture was taken during a 2012 fundraising event in New York. WikiHow used the image as a visual aid in an article titled, “How to Become a Congressman.”
The site transformed the picture into a cartoon, but in doing so, also gave the three African-American public figures white skin and European-esque hair.
Wikihow turned Obama, Beyoncé, and Jay Z white to explain "How to become a congressman." pic.twitter.com/QNTGz5wjaq— FORMATION (@beyupdates_) January 22, 2017
After being called out on Twitter, WikiHow promptly removed the image and issued an apology. However, the damage was already done and the Beyhive (a collective of Beyonce’s most dangerously loyal fans) was already on the attack.
In a series of tweets, WikiHow expressed to its followers, and the world, how “disgusted and ashamed” they are for this blunder, but ultimately attributed it to a lack of communication between the employee who sketches and the person who colors.
1/ When we saw the whitewashed image of Obama, Jay Z & Beyoncé, we were disgusted & ashamed. It never should have been on wikiHow. https://t.co/tCIgpPpD2R— wikiHow (@wikiHow) January 24, 2017
@wikiHow 2/ Within minutes of the 1st tweet, a volunteer removed the image. We then started investigating how it got on wikiHow at all.— wikiHow (@wikiHow) January 24, 2017
@wikiHow 3/ We learned it was made 3 years ago by a team of illustrators who work as one. One person sketches, the other person colors.— wikiHow (@wikiHow) January 24, 2017
@wikiHow 4/ The sketcher sent the colorist a black and white sketch. The colorist did not know the race of the models.— wikiHow (@wikiHow) January 24, 2017
@wikiHow 5/ The colorist wasn’t aware it was Obama and Beyoncé. We don’t think the illustrator intentionally whitewashed here.— wikiHow (@wikiHow) January 24, 2017
@wikiHow 6/ This doesn’t excuse the fact that we hosted a terrible image on wikiHow and we needed more diversity on that article period.— wikiHow (@wikiHow) January 24, 2017
@wikiHow 7/ We’re talking with our illustrators to prevent recurrence and encourage diversity. Especially in positions of power.— wikiHow (@wikiHow) January 24, 2017
This egregious mistake just illustrates (pun intended) how desperately diversity education and training needs to be made mandatory in the workforce. However, at least WikiHow saw and acknowledged the error in their ways and vowed to work toward preventing situations like this from happening again.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Reuters