I got into a heated argument on one of my favorite photography forums a couple of days ago. Someone posted a picture of Air Force One with ‘NI66ER’ written on the tail as if it were the plane’s number. The poster said “Air Force One” Tail Number for US President’s plane
I bet they change it!” This alerted me to the fact that the poster knew what the word meant. Later, after some heated exchange, the poster wrote:
“ OK I guess I set off a few people. I did not even realize that there was a hidden meaning to the letters and numbers until I ran it through google search just a few minutes ago.
I look and see numbers as just digits and do not translate them in to letters. Did anyone see me use the letters no, However I did see someone else spell them out and in all caps to make a point that everyone can see it.
Also I do not live in a racist country but then how many of the 300million USA people even realize that, considering that most know nothing about Canada.”
So now I’m ticked. I’m not ticked that he posted the word. I’m annoyed that he posted it, and then attempted to feign ignorance as if he didn’t know what he was doing.
Where do we draw the line as photographers? I look back over the years that photography chronicled the Civil Rights Movement and I am proud and sad at the same time. I’m proud that we have endured as a people. I am sad, well…because it was a very trying time. A few of the posters on the other forum wrote that they “Don’t see color” and I truly believe them. The sad truth is that they have never been in the position of having their color seen. They’ve never been in a position where they couldn’t get a job to support their family because of their color, or been prohibited from going to a school or store. They have no idea what it’s like to fear their own skin.
Is it really ok to make pictures that are hurtful to others? Where do we draw the line? Come walk a mile in my shoes and then make your decision.