Dr. Dawg

When you're in a hole, Mark Carney...

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Hundred dollar.jpg

stop digging.

The Governor of the Bank of Canada has apologized for the controversy over the new Canadian $100 bill. How does one frame such an apology?

Not very well, in this case. Pay close attention to Carney’s words: here’s the original press release.

OTTAWA, Aug. 20, 2012 - The $100 bank note celebrates Canadian medical innovation. In the early stages of developing the themes of all the bank notes in the polymer series, focus groups were used to test what types of images best evoke the themes. One of these was a photoshopped image based on an original photograph of a South Asian woman looking through a microscope.

As is always the case, in the subsequent design of the actual $100 note the designers created an original set of images from the ground up. On the actual bank note the researcher was drawn so as to not to resemble an actual person. Therefore, the final image did not look the same as the photoshopped image shown to the focus groups.

All of this occurred in the early design stages before the final design was presented to, and approved by, myself and the Senior Deputy Governor.

In the development of our $100 bank note, efforts by the bank note designers to avoid depicting a specific individual resulted in an image that appears to represent only one ethnic group.

That was not the Bank’s intention and I apologize to those who were offended - the Bank’s handling of this issue did not meet the standards Canadians justifiably expect of us. We will be reviewing our design process in light of these events. Our bank notes belong to all Canadians, and the work we do at the Bank is for all Canadians. [emphases added]

Out of the frying pan into the fire. The current image looks a lot less Asian than the photoshopped original. It was “designed away” from the original so as not to look like an “actual person,” but just happened to acquire Caucasian features along the way. Now, Carney apologizes, the image appears “to represent only one ethnic group”—but the original, of course, also depicted a person from “only one ethnic group.”

Setting aside the conflation here of ethnicity and that invidious social construct “race,” which is what everybody is actually talking about at the moment, how do we make an image of one person that represents every “ethnic group?”

More importantly, why on earth should we even try? The evidence that we are living in a profoundly racialized society is here laid before us. In the interests of inclusivity, Carney moves, in self-defence, from Caucasian as the unmarked marker to conceding that category as yet another “ethnic group” comme les autres.

But now what? The next banknote design may be anxiously filled up with human figures, but no doubt some “ethnic groups” will be missed and more apologies offered.

Time to escape from the frame, isn’t it? If we’re “all Canadians,” as Carney insists, then facial features and complexion shouldn’t matter. A couple of hundred years from now, or maybe sooner, most folks will be shaking their heads. Who cares what ethnicity or “race” appears in a figure on a banknote (unless, of course, only one of many ever does)? But in 2012, merely illustrating a non-Caucasian in an initial design managed to provoke bizarre gyrations and now Carney’s counter-gyrations to the point of almost surrealistic absurdity.

My advice? Stick to beavers, birds and mountains. Maybe throw in an oil well and a schooner. Get back to basics, Mr. Carney. Anthropology is tough.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on August 20, 2012 12:52 PM.

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