This week’s Time magazine cover story posits that the Latino vote could be the deciding factor in this year’s presidential election. To support the story, Time sent photographer Marco Grob to Phoenix to photograph the different faces of Latino voters for the issue’s cover.
“There were many unique challenges involved in this shoot,” Grob says in the deep caption of an online slideshow of his photographs. “The terms ‘Latino’ and ‘Latina’ have a vast identity of their own, so for the duration of this project we strove to break some of those stereotypes.”
Apparently, Grob’s definition of the changing Latino identity includes Asian people. Because at least one of the faces depicted on the cover isn’t Latino. OC Weekly‘s Michelle Woo noticed the screwup.
A friend of mine, Michael Schennum, is the short-haired gentleman in the top row, center, behind the letter “M.” He is half Chinese and half white. Not Latino. Not even a little bit. Not even one of those Chinese-Mexicans from Mexicali…At least as far as Schennum knows.
Schennum, who is a staff photographer for The Arizona Republic, wrote on his Facebook page, “They never told me what it was for or [asked] if I was Latino.”
A Time spokesperson sent OC Weekly this response.
Over the course of three days TIME photographed 151 people for the current cover. We took steps to ensure that everyone self-identified as Latino, that they are registered voters and that they would be willing to answer our questions. If there was a misunderstanding with one of our subjects, we apologize.
Overall we’d have to call this one a minor, but embarrassing screw-up. However, in the context of the recent media circus surrounding Jeremy Lin–which became so bad it led the Asian American Journalists Association to publish a series of guidelines on how the media can cover the Asian-American ballplayer without being racist–we’d say this issue takes on added significance.
Race and ethnicity don’t need to be consciously addressed in every story. But if you’re going to do a story trumpeting “Latino” voters, or an “Asian-American” ballplayer–in which race and ethnicity artificially become the thrust of the article–than friggin’ be careful to do it right. Covering diversity involves more than just presenting images of the Benetton rainbow. At its best it involves actually speaking to people about their ethic and racial identities and delving beyond shallow stereotypes. But at the very least it involves figuring out if the people you’re calling “Latino” are actually, in any-way-shape-or-form, Latino.