On Tuesday, New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang argued that a New York Daily News cartoon presenting him as a tourist in his own city was racist — portraying him as somehow a foreigner in a place where he works and lives. As part of its justification for the decision to run the cartoon, the News pointed out that Yang left the city for much of the pandemic and “recently named the Times Square subway station his favorite among all underground New York City stops.” Yang’s campaign condemned the cartoon as “racist.”
But this hyper-local caricature is strikingly at odds with the city’s global identity as a mecca for people of different cultures, ethnicities, lifestyles and beliefs — as well as its reputation for tolerance and cosmopolitanism. Where else can you find dim sum almost as good as you’d get in Hong Kong or tzatziki that rivals that of an authentic Athenian restaurant — and people from other cultures who spend their weekends hunting these foods down?
In the case of the cartoon, the argument that Yang doesn’t belong is especially cringeworthy because he is Asian American. Asian Americans are, of course, facing a spate of hate crimes. And the way the paper originally drew Yang’s eyes before later editing them played right into racist tropes. But it’s also wrong to imply that anyone doesn’t belong in a city of over 8 million people from every conceivable nation and walk of life simply because they left during a once-in-a-generation global pandemic (newsflash: over 330,000 others had left by the end of 2020 too). (more)