The Context for Businessweek’s Housing Cover

People walk past the entrance of Bloomberg Media Company on August 4, 2011 in Paris.

Photo by PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images

A further update to the saga of that now-infamous Businessweek housing cover.

The actual story it illustrates is about the housing recovery in the Phoenix area and says nothing in particular about minority homeowners (though obviously Phoenix has a large Latino population). Instead it’s about how housing recovery is on the one hand good for the American economy, but on the other hand we seem to already be in a new speculative phase with people talking about getting rich flipping houses, housing as a can’t-lose investment, and all the rest of the mid-aughts madness. To go with the story they commissioned an illustration from a Peruvian illustrator who, in a missive that Businessweek shared with me, explains “I simply drew the family like that because those are the kind of families I know. I am Latino and grew up around plenty of mixed families.”

That’s understandable enough as far as it goes. Obviously, though, as Businessweek well knows someone else on the staff should have been able to see how this was going to look in the U.S. context. It’s pretty clear if you read the story that there’s genuinely no effort here to impugn minority homebuyers, but that’s certainly how I read the image, and I think it’s a very natural reading of it.