The how-to website WikiHow has apologised for a “disgraceful” cartoon showing Barack Obama, Beyoncé and Jay-Z as white people on an article about how to become a congressman. Billed as “the world’s leading how-to website”, wikiHow publishes crowdsourced instructional articles on a wide variety of subjects. Illustrating its seven-point tutorial on “How to become a congressman” was a cartoon rendition of a photograph of Barack Obama with Beyoncé and Jay-Z that depicted all three individuals as white.
Wikihow turned Obama, Beyoncé, and Jay Z white to explain "How to become a congressman." pic.twitter.com/QNTGz5wjaq
— FORMATION (@beyupdates_) January 22, 2017
Screenshots comparing the cartoon with the original image, taken after a fundraising event in New York in 2012, was circulated by a Beyoncé fan account on Twitter on Monday. A representative of wikiHow responded on Twitter, calling the image “disgraceful” and said they were “working on preventing this from ever happening again”. A volunteer removed the image (as well as the instruction it accompanied: “schedule and attend fundraising events”) within minutes of the first tweet, and an investigation was launched into its origins, wikiHow said.
In a fuller apology and explanation tweeted on Wednesday, a representative said wikiHow was “disgusted and ashamed” to have published the image, but that it did not believe it to have been “intentionally whitewashed”. “When we saw the whitewashed image of Obama, Jay Z and Beyoncé, we were disgusted and ashamed. It never should have been on wikiHow.” WikiHow’s investigation had found that the image was made three years ago by a team of illustrators. “One person sketches, the other person colors. The sketcher sent the colorist a black and white sketch. The colorist did not know the race of the models [and] wasn’t aware it was Obama and Beyoncé. We don’t think the illustrator intentionally whitewashed here.
“This doesn’t excuse the fact that we hosted a terrible image on wikiHow and we needed more diversity on that article, period. We’re talking with our illustrators to prevent recurrence and encourage diversity. Especially in positions of power.” The Guardian has contacted wikiHow to expand on how it intends to encourage diversity. The site is infamous for its often bizarre illustrations, which are often circulated without context for comic effect on Twitter, Tumblr and elsewhere on social media. An online game matching cartoons with the titles of the wikiHow article they accompanied went viral in April last year.