Amid another week of police shootings, another week of protests in the streets, another week of debate over race and violence and our seemingly infinite capacity to misunderstand each other, a magazine bearing this cover slipped into mailboxes across the country.
It is both a simple, obvious slice of life and a profound statement. For us news and magazine types, it is a lesson in inclusion.
The image is the work of artist Kadir Nelson. It features a father and his children at a sun-drenched summer beach – a scene playing out along our coastlines from Wilmington, N.C. to Half Moon Bay, Calif. That the family is black is no accident.
“As a young kid I didn’t really see a lot of representations of African-Americans,” Nelson told CBS News recently. “I felt like I had a self-appointed responsibility to tell that story. That children who would go to museums, or art galleries, or open their books and see images that look like them and be proud of those images.”
Nelson has portrayed Nelson Mandela and produced children’s books full of images of Duke Ellington and Harriet Tubman. He gives extraordinary Americans their due, but he also wants to portray ordinary Americans … like that family on the beach. …
We all tend to picture people who look like ourselves iwhen we think of “ordinary Americans.” It’s human nature. But, as you have heard, the color of America is changing. It’s important that our photography and the images we project reflect our entire community. Why? Because doing so makes it easier to see ourselves in that family on the beach. I can count the ways I am like that father with his son riding his shoulders in order to avoid the hot sand underfoot. It is important that we communicate our similarities as well as our differences. Otherwise we are doing a disservice to many people in our readership area, and more importantly, a disservice to the democratic ideals that promise liberty and justice for all — not just those who look like us.
Where am I going with this? As journalists, we have a responsibility to build community. Images like this accomplish that in a really simple way. Let the images we project reflect us all.
Oh, and make time for your family this summer. That is important, too.