Racist Bloomberg Businessweek Cover of Blacks, Latinos Rolling in Money Angers Many

What were the mostly white senior leaders of Bloomberg Businessweek thinking when they published a cover with gross caricatures of Blacks, Latinos for a story on the housing market?

Bloomberg Businessweek coverThe Editor of Bloomberg Businessweek has offered a half-hearted apology for an offensive, racist cover showing a caricature of Black and Latino people literally rolling in cash because of the improved housing market.

It’s titled “The Great American Housing Rebound” and the cover line reads: “Flips. No-look bids. 300 percent returns. What could possibly go wrong?”

The image and the cover lines are particularly offensive because Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately impacted by the subprime crisis from 2007–2009, which has been demonstrated by the billions of dollars of fines levied against the likes of Bank of America and Citigroup.

Pew Research Center noted that the bursting of the housing bubble caused far greater damage to these two communities, mostly because of the subprime loans given to people who didn’t have enough money or credit to qualify.

According to Pew, from 2005–2009, Latino wealth fell by 66 percent and Black wealth fell by 53 percent, compared with 16 percent for whites.

One study found that during the subprime years, banks were twice as likely to approve whites for prime mortgages with the best interest rates, while Blacks and Latinos received two to four times more subprime loans, most of which had such high rates they put the borrowers “under water” quickly. Another study found that the major banks made 70 percent of their high-cost loans in neighborhoods that were predominantly Black and/or Latino.

Scathing Criticism

Reaction to the cover has not been pretty.

“The cover stands out for its cast of black and Hispanic caricatures with exaggerated features reminiscent of early 20th century race cartoons. Also, because there are only people of color in it, grabbing greedily for cash. It’s hard to imagine how this one made it through the editorial process,” Ryan Chittum wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review. “Compounding the first-glance problem with the image is the fact that race has been a key backdrop to the subprime crisis.”

“The claim that minorities are creating a housing bubble through flipping, no-look bids, and 300% returns is simply not reality,” Jacob Gaffney wrote on HousingWire.com. “Flipping is a form of fraud and not a typical transaction. No-look bids are not exclusive to Hispanic and African-American investors. No one is making a 300% return.”

Businessweek Warns That Minorities May Be Buying Houses Again,” was the headline on Slate.com.

Editor Josh Tyrangiel issued this “apology”: “Our cover illustration last week got strong reactions, which we regret. Our intention was not to incite or offend. If we had to do it over again we’d do it differently.”

Who’s Behind This?

The cover was designed by Andres Guzman, a freelancer who was born in Peru and now lives in Minneapolis. But the more important question is who at Bloomberg is running the show and allowed this to be published.

Bloomberg staffers














A look at the top management of both the magazine and its parent company, Bloomberg LP (which bought the magazine in 2009), shows its senior management is mostly white and male. That includes Tyrangiel, Creative Director Richard Turley and Publisher Hugh Wiley at the magazine, and President Daniel Doctoroff, Chairman Peter Grauer, Chief Content Officer Norm Pearlstine and Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief Matthew Winkler at Bloomberg LP.

Bloomberg does not participate in the DiversityInc Top 50, so we do not have actual management demographics. By comparison, 18 percent of the senior level (CEOs and direct reports) of the DiversityInc Top 50 are Black, Latino or Asian, 80 percent more than the average of the Fortune 500. And 24 percent of the senior level of the DiversityInc Top 50 are women, 20 percent more than the Fortune 500 average.

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  • Crystal Davenport

    This is an important reason every firm should have a diverse/sensitive Creative Director. A Creative Director should manage the imagery from an illustrator/creative department in a culturally sensitive way. A good Art Director would have never commissioned this cover or directed the imagery to tell the story. Wrong thinking on so many ways.

  • "Orange Mike" Lowrey

    This reflects the biggest fear of certain people in American society: that “unworthy” people (i.e., non-whites who do not come from their culture’s elites, working-class whites and poor whites) might be making money without deserving it. That privilege is after all reserved for the kind of people who already have wealth, preferably inherited.

    I detect a similarity to the national obsession (in some circles) about “voting fraud”, which seems to translate to “voting while black”, “voting while poor”, “voting while Hispanic”, “voting while Native American”, etc.

  • I find it sad that incidents like this continue happening.
    This is not a mistake. A publication this large goes through many checks and balances before going to press. Your telling me no one considered the reaction this cover would cause and threw up a red flag?? I don’t believe it. What I believe is no one cared. Someone thought it would be funny and let it go through. It’s easier to issue an apology after an incident has taken place than to do the right thing in the first place.

  • There seems to be a growing backlash on the part of many white men who may be feeling threatened by the changing demographics that promised to impact the power they have enjoyed for generations. I expect more of this. White men are still the ones running companies regardless to the new face of the workforce.

  • Not surprised! White America is so defensive now with the reality of diversity. Obama is president, many U.S citizens are of mixed race, but what is so ironic is that white males still rule the business and political arenas. It literally frightened me to see the pictures of the “top management!” Reminiscent of photos of the SS! Racism and mysogyny are alive and well!

  • Doubting Thomas

    I suspect that the rate of sub-prime loans made to minorities has a lot more to do with credit score than racism, which is implied in this column. I agree the Bloomberg cover is regrettable, but I suspect it was not some manufactured stab at minorities cooked up by the all-white management team. We need to get a lot better at becoming “color blind” as a nation, and not always blaming color or race, but also considering objective measures to explain disparities that may occur due differing levels of socio-enonomic background and education.

    • Luke Visconti

      You “suspect” because you’re ignorant. Use your web search and read up on it before you spout off on this website. Blacks, Latinos and/or women were far more likely to be sold inappropriate subprime loans than white people. Hundreds of millions of dollars in fines were levied by the federal government against many banks for just this reason! It was overt racism—and grand theft. Your Pollyanna comments about being “color blind” and not blaming color or race are total hogwash. And before any ignoramuses email me about being nice, remember this: There ARE such things as stupid questions. You have the right to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. The more plainspoken we are, the more clarity our society will attain. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

    • Although you may PERSONALLY be “color blind”–and may simply see people as just “people”–the problem lies in the fact that racism and discrimination is SYSTEMIC and PERVASIVE in many aspects of American life. “Color” and “race” are the AMERICAN CASTE SYSTEM,
      and those who tend to craft policies in employment,
      education, business & commerce, etc. tend to ENFORCE THE CASTE SYSTEM through a myriad of ways, including
      MEDIA STEREOTYPING that portrays people of color as
      something OTHER than responsible, upright, hard-working, frugal, etc.

      Most (if not ALL!) of the socio-economic disparities
      that you identified are rooted in the continuing
      SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION against poor whites, people of color and women for over 200 years in this country.
      You can observe the same phenomena in LATIN AMERICA
      and the CARIBBEAN–for the most part, a small, “blanco
      elite” in these countries controls government, commerce and education for MILLIONS of people of Indigenous, African and mixed descent.

      The “all-white management team” decided to create
      a magazine cover and they just didn’t CARE what
      anyone else thought.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Wow, not the type of response I would suspect from a publication touting “diversity”. Isn’t there room for a divergent opinion in your publication? Or is diversity only defined by people who share your point of view?

    • Luke Visconti

      Really? Then you made a bad choice. There’s no room here for foolish opinions. Your choice of article to comment on was foolish as well.

      There’s NO defense for this cover. It’s an amazing, astonishing, bewildering choice of a cover for a publication—especially one that’s headquartered in New York City. The fact that you chose to use THIS article to spout your completely incorrect “opinion” tells me that our CAPTCHA may not be difficult enough. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • I saw this story in another media outlet and promptly tossed my Bloomberg renewal notice in the trash!

    • Mind Your Manners

      Luke, I agree that Bloomberg’s cover is completely and unapologectically offensive, no matter how you look at it. However, I think you are putting too much emotion into your response to Doubting Thomas. While I also think his comment displays some ignorance on the subject, I do not think he posted it to be mean-spirited or with the intent of offending more people. If you think about it, racism is born in ignorance and it flourishes in an environment of mean-spiritness. Calling someone names like ignoramus, Pollyanna, stupid and foolish does not help educate people on the history behind why this magazine cover is hurtful, nor does it illustrate the value of not being being judgemental when your reply is judgemental and seemingly filled with venom. I realize that you are emotional regarding this totally inappropriate magazine cover, but you could have pointed out in a plainspoken manner to Doubting Thomas that he should get the facts first without resorting to name-calling. Your message loses its effectiveness in your overly-emotional response.

      • Luke Visconti

        I think you’re wrong. “Doubting Thomas” isn’t innocent. The idea that the subprime crisis was perpetrated by Black and Latino families’ “taking” mortgages they “knew they couldn’t afford” is a line pushed by white supremacist groups (check out SPLC.org). I’ve gotten hundreds of emails on this theme and spare my readers most of the comments we receive—which are overtly bigoted and not as clever as Doubting Thomas’ tries to be.

        People interested in equity and fairness owe nothing to bigots; “common courtesy” only emboldens haters who take kindness as a sign of weakness. You should educate yourself so you aren’t manipulated by people like this; again, check out SPLC.org.

        I do not believe that racism is born of ignorance. It’s purposeful and intentional, and when you trace the racist writings and speeches back to their origins, you’ll find that it’s always tied to power and money. I refuse to be a tool of bigots and people who cultivate bigotry for their gain. People can and do change—in my opinion, THAT’S when you should express kindness, empathy and love. Before that epiphany, however, I think it’s exceptionally important to call them as you see them. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

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