The impact of ‘the race card’ on visual communication

In a communication process, the most important thing is how the receiver decodes and understands the message, and not what the sender is trying to communicate.

I always say that it is the responsibility of the speaker as to how the spoken to, understands the spoken.

People see things differently and that affects what they make of what they see.

The best attempt to leave no room for a misunderstanding, is for the sender to make their message as simple as possible. But at times even the simplest straightforward message communicates different things to different people.

Let’s take the ad for a newspaper below as an example:

 What you and I make of this ad is likely to differ with how the next person interpret the ad and the overall message that they get from the it.

It’s almost safe to assume that the man’s race doesn’t really come up in your interpretation of the ad. In fact, you are likely to even overlook his gender in your attempt to make sense of the ad.

All that you see is a gorilla, a razor and a person.

I’ve edited the original ad to illustrate the effect race has:

robert mugabe gorilla race racism ad advertI know it’s hard to look at it as though you’ve never seen the original ad, but would you have interpreted this ad (edited) the same way that you did with the original, if the person used in the ad was black?

Would it have been fair to shout “racists!” should the creatives have decided to use a black person instead?

Looking at the edited ad: is the message that you now get reduced, increased, distorted or changed completely?

If you think that racism would have been the first thing to come to your mind, would you still get the same message of racism if you were told that the ad was actually done by a black person?

In such communication that is prone to racial uproars, is the message that the intended receiver gets dependent on the receiver’s awareness of the sender’s skin colour?

Usually when one sees a white person in an ad, we see, well, a person. Race doesn’t really come to mind. But when one sees a black person in an ad, race is usually brought to mind, even in instances where it’s not necessary or intended by the visual communicator.

When we as a people see a black person in a communication vehicle, do we see a black (then) person or do we see a person that happens to be black?

Is the misunderstand of what you get excusable? Would this have been another uproar of racism?

Has the widespread of racism shaped the way we interpret messages we consume?

Is such a risk of unintentional political incorrectness a privilege reserved for black visual communicators?

Is the pursuit of political correctness a hidden part of a white visual communicator’s brief?

That is the end, but I have two questions regarding this writing:

Would this writing come across as an excuse for racism should it have been authored by a white colleague? Does the fact that I’m black make it easier to digest?