Last week the Spectator ran a feature piece about Seattle University’s decision to become a tobacco-free campus. We teased the story on the front cover with what seemed to the editorial and design team to be a provocative and engaging photograph: A black leather boot crushing a pack of American Spirit cigarettes, a popular brand on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood, which one of our designers happened to have on hand.
This cover, we now understand, was ill-conceived. We regret our carelessness.
The image is problematic on several fronts. The pack of cigarettes itself shows an appropriated image of an American Indian. The image is oppressive, reductive and perpetuates harmful stereotypes. A white leg crushing the box only made the image more violent, and more reflective of a heavy history of injustices against indigenous people—injustices that continue to this day.
We wish we had noticed the problematic implications of the cover before going to press, and it’s indicative of our privilege that we didn’t.
These are big concepts with big consequences, and it is our responsibility as young journalists to constantly educate ourselves. Our staff makes a concerted effort to be conscientious about writing, designing, and photographing with critical and sensitive eyes, but this incident served as a reminder that the learning never stops.
We thank those who expressed their concerns over the cover for reflecting Seattle U’s mission and values. We hope to do the same as we renew our commitment to thoughtful and just representation.