‘A Race About Race’ Illustration Meaning Explained

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Above is the original illustration called ‘A Race About Race’ by Paige Michel. You may have seen the edited version of this on the front cover of the Wessex Scene Race and Racism magazine edition. It is important the original version is also published because it highlights racism, in a way the edited version cannot.

The edited version simply shows three girls having a race, and that’s about it.  The edited version completely ignores and deletes a vital message the artist was trying to portray. The message being that racism still exists in our society today. Racism exists all over the world. In response to this harsh reality, all people should unite to promote an egalitarian society in which people are not discriminated against on the basis of race.

The title of the illustration ‘A Race About Race’ is a double entendre or a pun. The first definition of race is divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics. The illustration depicts three girls which are a representation of the three main races or ethnicities in Britain – White, Asian and Black.

The second definition of race is a competition between individuals or groups who compete to be first to achieve a particular objective. Trophies are given to winners of a race. Here, the trophies highlight that racism does exist today. In the illustration the White race is seen as superior and the other races like Black or Asian are seen as inferior. Thus, making them more prone to racism, due to their physical characteristics.

The illustration also shows the girls wearing traffic light-coloured tops. Red meaning it is highly likely you’ll experience racism, yellow meaning it is likely and green meaning it is unlikely. Reverse racism or racism towards Whites can exist, but it is rare and usually less harmful in comparison to examples of racism against historically marginalised groups like Blacks and Asians.

Credit: Paige Michel.
Credit: Paige Michel.

In the illustration you can also see the stance of the girls. The White girl appears more confident than the rest because she does not need to deal with racism like the other two girls do. Additionally, the traffic light barriers in the illustration demonstrate that experiencing racism can be detrimental to an individual’s self-confidence and mental-health.

Scientific racism was particularly common during the nineteenth century encouraging that Whites are racially superior and Blacks are racially inferior. It was used as a justification to propose, project and enact racist social policies. After World War Two and the Holocaust racist ideologies were discredited on ethical, political and scientific grounds. However, racism and racial discrimination have remained widespread around the world. The UN convention concludes that superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and there is no justification for racial discrimination, anywhere, in theory or in practice.

Moreover, in the illustration you will see all three girls wearing a globe medal. This is very significant as it symbolises unity and togetherness between all ethnicities or races all over the world. The girls are raising awareness that racism exists all around the world, on the platform they have. They choose to stand together, in unification against racist beliefs, actions, movements, and policies. The girls actively choose to stand up to racism, even though it may be seen as an uncomfortable subject to speak about. The illustration shows them working together to promote an egalitarian society in which people are not discriminated against on the basis of race, but appreciated for their differences. So, all races are treated fairly and equally – eradicating racism.

Editor’s Note: To clarify, the illustration unfortunately had to be amended in order to fit the magazine cover page. 

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