Black people swimming in cash, drawn with big lips, sitting around a fixer-upper house looking like they’re high on “milking the system.” This is the cover of the current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. (Yes, as in Mayor.) I don’t even know what to say. I can’t believe this is real. Especially coming from Bloomberg Businessweek, which as Slate notes “is a genuinely great magazine that does an amazing job of making business and economics news accessible and interesting.” It’s true – I consider myself a financial and business dummy, but I’ve learned a lot over the years reading Businessweek articles. Slate calls this cover a “warning that minorities may be buying houses again,” and says, “this way of illustrating a cover story about the return of aggressive mortgage lending products is really something else.” They add, “The idea is that we can know things are really getting out of hand since even non-white people can get loans these days! They ought to be ashamed.”
This cover illustration is much more shocking to me than the controversial New Yorker cover that ran in 2008 depicting the Obamas as Muslim terrorists. As high-profile figures, they (and our national anti-Muslim) climate are ripe for satire, even if that satire missed the mark. But let’s not keep crying satire as a means of protecting humor that – inadvertently or no – is racially insensitive in a way that goes way beyond the pale. Seeing this cover on the heels of the controversy surrounding jokes made during the Oscars invoking 9-year-old African-American actress Quvenzhané Wallis may help give some people a much needed reminder that the legacy of slavery is still very much alive in this country, and that it’s worth being considerate about.
While Mayor Bloomberg no longer runs the day-to-day operations at his eponymous Bloomberg financial empire, he still owns the company. I’m sure he wasn’t involved in the editorial process that approved this magazine cover, but nonetheless, this cover is a reflection of him and his values. Mayor Bloomberg just this week made it a point to speak out against the way Brooklyn assemblyman Dov Hikind donned blackface during a Purim party at his home, so I can’t imagine the mayor would be too happy about this. I’d love to hear his thoughts. Soon.