Newspaper defends 'fry Rice' slogan on posters to cheer on basketball team after play on words sparks outrage
- The Caledonian Record in St Johnsbury published a poster using an oriental-looking typeface for the words 'Fry Rice'
- The poster was designed to cheer on St Johnsbury Academy against Rice Memorial High School in a state championship basketball game
- The Asian American Journalists Association labelled the poster 'offensive'
- But editorial today claims the words did not constitute racism
A Vermont newspaper accused of being racist after it published a poster with the words 'fry Rice' written in an oriental-style typeface claims the slogan was just a play on words and wasn't meant to offend.
The Caledonian Record in St Johnsbury sparked outrage after it printed the back-page poster on Thursday to support local high school St Johnsbury Academy against Rice Memorial High School in a state championship basketball game.
But the newspaper published an editorial today defending the decision, claiming the words did not constitute racism.
Offensive: The Caledonian Record in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, has been criticized for the poster, pictured
'We sought a simple play on words in support of an extraordinary group of local student athletes. Indulging our critics for a moment, the outcry reminds us that racial and ethnic stereotypes can offend - regardless of intent,' the editorial, presumably written by publisher Todd Smith, said.
It acknowledged that the chosen font, 'evoked a particular ethnic cuisine' but did not constitute a racist slur.
'We don't concede, however, that the use of imagery with any racial, ethnic or religious inference is to inherently debase that race/ethnicity/religion,' the newspaper said.
'A fair accusation of racism would at least pre-require the reference to actually be demeaning or degrading,' the editorial said. 'Simply invoking ethnic customs (food, dress, design) doesn't do that, nor does it suggest any kind of characteristic about the culture, its people or a history of oppression by the majority.'
But the editorial missed the point, said the president of the Asian American Journalists Association, who had criticized the poster after it was published.
Support: The poster used a print type associated with Chinese calligraphy for the words 'fry Rice' to urge a local school to beat its opponent Rice Memorial High School, pictured, in a state basketball game
'I'm not criticizing the Caledonian Record for rooting for their home team,' said Paul Cheung, the association's president. While Cheung does not believe the newspaper's intention was to be racist, it showed 'a lapse of judgment and poor taste.'
'It evoked a racial undertone and a negative stereotype,' said Cheung, who is also interactive and graphics editor for The Associated Press.
Cheung's original letter to the publisher of the Caledonian Record on Friday said that the slogan by itself might be considered clever, but was offensive when written in that particular typeface.
'It became offensive when published in a typeface mimicking Chinese calligraphy,' wrote Cheung.
'We'll assume that your use of that typeface was not meant to offend. But we'll also assume that if that is the case, the Caledonian Record will publicly acknowledge its lapses in taste and judgment,' he said in the letter.
St. Johnsbury Academy's high school basketball team played Rice Memorial, of South Burlington, for the championship Thursday. Rice Memorial won 48-40 in overtime.
School: The top of the page read: 'Go "Toppers,"' referring to the nickname of St Johnsbury Academy's high school, pictured
The newspaper ran the poster on the
back page of Thursday front section. The top of the page read: 'Go
"Toppers,"' referring to the school's Hilltoppers nickname.
Across the bottom of the page were the words 'fry Rice' in the style meant to resemble Chinese calligraphy.
Johnsbury Academy, a private school, serves local students and also has
boarding students from across the world, including Asia. Academy
Headmaster Tom Lovett said Friday the school had nothing to do with the
poster, its design or its publication.
'We appreciate the Caledonian-Record's support of our teams, and we know for a fact that its intention was to support our boys in their championship run by using a clever play on the name of our opponent,' Lovett said.
He said none of the school's Asian students were offended by the poster.
'Overall, our students often see such things as a way to celebrate their culture, not demean it. And in this case, we chose to follow our students' lead and look at the Caledonian's intent, not taking offense where none was intended,' Lovett said.
Once Academy officials saw the posters at the game, they did their best to remove them from the cheering section, he said.
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