The Huffington Post reported this morning an incident in Sunrise, Florida where a boy appearing in a 2nd grade class photo had a smiley face overlaying his head at the behest of the PTA. The boy was of African descent and the smiley face reflected his skin coloring.

The whole uproar came about because he was the only child in the photo who did not present a signed consent form. To work around this situation, the PTA – who was apparently sponsoring the class pictures – told the photographer to use a smiley face instead of a star since the boy was in the front row. The photographer created the smiley face using Photoshop or some other graphics application and while it wasn’t quite the traditional kind that most of us are used to, it served the purpose. Because the boy’s skin was brown, he made the smiley face brown.

Thus beginneth the uproar. Gayle King, on the CBS This Morning show, said that the brown color made it a caricature and that made it racist. Erica Hill chimed in with her agreement. Ladies, I love you both but this was definitely not racist! There were no exaggerated racial characteristics like those that appeared in advertisements during the first half of the last century. Instead, the face had a big smile and brown skin. If the face had been created using white instead of brown, the photographer et al. would have been accused of depriving the boy of his racial identity. If the face had been created using the traditional yellowish colour, there would have been accusations that they were trying to imply that the boy was Chinese or a character on The Simpsons. There would have been no pleasing anyone no matter what the photographer tried to do.

The boy’s parents were shocked. The school principal was shocked. And I am shocked – not because of the brown smiley face but because a signed consent form was required for something a simple and basic a a class picture. It is, no doubt, a result of our litigious society where people go to extraordinary lengths to cover their butt just in case some wanker decides to sue them for one reason or another but that is a topic for another day.

There is enough racial injustice – like the Travon Martin shooting – to go around without us having to fabricate even more. Come on people! Get over it!

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