Editor’s note: Retraction and apology for racist op-ed illustration choice

Update 3/9/2020: this article has been updated after further input from staff and with explanation as to what led to this connection.

An op-ed illustration that ran in our opinion section March 6 failed to meet our editorial standards and has been retracted.

The illustration depicted a harmful stereotype of the Asian ethnic group in light of the COVID-19, or the new coronavirus, outbreak. It should not have been published in relation to this particular op-ed, and we sincerely apologize to the author of the story, the illustrator and our readers that this occurred.

In particular, the illustration portrayed an individual of Asian descent wearing a mask, isolated in a crowd while several bystanders pass by with visible concern. We condemn both physical and verbal attacks on people of Asian descent due to racist assumptions about the coronavirus. We recognize that businesses have suffered as customers have increasingly begun to avoid large crowds and corporations associated with the Asian community, and we have published an editorial on the topic.

The illustration originally attached to the op-ed is the same illustration that ran attached to that editorial, which is why it recognizably depicts the aforementioned assumptions. As is clear in the criticism we’ve received from members of our community that attaching this illustration to this op-ed was unacceptable and we take responsibility for the harm that we have caused.

The op-ed in question discusses, among other facets, the process of diagnosing COVID-19 and the critical approach of public health interventions, and is not associated with our condemnation of the visual choice.

It was never the illustrator’s intent to discriminate against people of Asian descent, and our error stems from attaching the illustration with this story, which does not correlate with the illustration’s original purpose for the editorial. 

We as a news organization recognize the gravity of perpetuating negative stereotypes, especially in the context of COVID-19’s impact on communities all over the world. The illustration was attached to this op-ed due to miscommunications between the editors of the various involved departments. We apologize for these miscommunications and strive to be more clear and concise while picking visual depictions that best represent the matter at hand, especially from pre-existing visuals. 

We believe that the coronavirus does not justify racism, negative stereotyping or xenophobia in any way, shape or form, and we will make significant efforts to ensure that our policies and actions reflect that. We accept your criticism and will learn from our errors.

Josh Yuen is the editor in chief and president. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joshcal2020.