Cartoonist Keith Knight has social media Black Mugshot Project

The AK Chronicles comic created by Keith Knight has sparked a social media selfie campaign to raise awareness of how public booking photos particularly affect people of color.

The AK Chronicles comic created by Keith Knight has sparked a social media selfie campaign to raise awareness of how public booking photos particularly affect people of color.

Copyright Keith Knight

Keith Knight has a routine conversation with his two young sons, and he doesn’t mince words: he tells them that images of black people are negatively skewed in visual media.

“From comic books to websites to movies and TV, we spend a lot of time on media literacy and racial education. It affects children at a very young age, so it’s important to tackle this issue early on,” says Knight, the cartoonist (“The Knight Life”) and television writer and co-creator (“Woke”). from Hulu) who for decades has used humor to shine a light on controversy and absurdity through his black creative lens.

Knight’s eldest son is 13, and the father remembers once reading how when users Googled “three black teenagers,” the top search results were either police photos or “photos of ‘identification”.

“People started posting pictures of black teenagers having fun — to help change the algorithm,” Knight says. “I was inspired by that.”

Now, the Triangle-based artist is taking a whimsical approach to the serious issue of how public booking photos can affect people, especially within communities of color.

In a recent cartoon, he told readers how they could help influence top search results for the words “Black rants“: “Black people: post and send a photo of you drinking from your favorite cup. Non-Black People: Post and send a photo of yourself with a black mug. In creative circles, effort is gaining momentum.

“If you’ve ever browsed an online news site, most of the black people you see will be mug shots,” Knight wrote in the “K Chronicles” cartoon, which he released last month. As he notes in the comic, he complained to a news site where he saw many mugshots of people of color, he says, but few other stories featuring people of color. racial minorities.

Keith Knight Washington Post.jpg
Cartoonist Keith Knight, pictured in 2020, is a cartoonist (“The Knight Life”) and television writer and co-creator (“Woke” from Hulu) who for decades has used humor to highlight controversies and the absurdities through his lens as a black creator. Cornell Watson For the Washington Post

People started responding to his call on social media. Now, his BlackMugShots.com website includes images of more than 200 people who posed and posted, mug in hand. Many are cartoonists and performers, including “Woke” star Lamorne Morris.

Along with tweaking the algorithm, Knight, 55, says he hopes the project will help “media and law enforcement agencies reconsider the use of photo IDs.”

“Reaffirms existing prejudices”

In recent years, some law enforcement jurisdictions, states and newsrooms in the United States have decided to limit or cease their publication and the publication of reservation photos, citing the potential lasting harm in a culture digital.

In 2020, the Marshall and Poynter Project quoted the Director of U.S. Corrections Programs for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture: “The publication of mug shots can have a disproportionate impact on people of color by fueling negative stereotypes and undermining the presumption of innocence.

Director, Johnny Perez, added: “It reaffirms existing prejudices and creates prejudices where none exist. People of color are already more likely to be convicted than their white counterparts.

Knight says he’s encountered a proliferation of mug shots on media sites, “despite news organizations saying they’ll stop using them as much after George Floyd.”

The “Black Mug Shots” project is among Knight’s many social satire campaigns that have raised cultural awareness and sparked conversations about race in America. He received an NAACP History Maker Award for his police brutality cartoons, which were included in his solo slideshow presentations such as “They Shoot Blacks, Don’t They?” »

Knight’s goal now is to grow the Black Mug Shots site so “it becomes a gateway to let people know about how we demonize people in this country.”

“I want him to educate people about the school-to-prison pipeline,” he says. “I want to highlight the efforts to end cash bail, [to] end for-profit prisons and reform the system as a whole.

For now, one cup of coffee drawn at a time.

This story was originally published January 28, 2022 12:03 p.m.

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