Is this poster “Super Racist”?

**UPDATED image of poster2016-06-27t12-12-35-6z--1280x720.nbcnews-ux-1080-600

So what does a racist poster look like? Is it a poster where children of only one colour are shown as if the other colour doesn’t exist? Is it a poster showing children of two different colours but where only one colour is shown in a positive light? Is it a poster where cool and not cool are not divided evenly along racial lines?

Let’s look closely at the above poster  and break it down numerically.

Question: How many white children have been labelled cool?

Answer: Two, one boy and one girl.

Question: How many white children have been labelled not cool?

Answer: Two, both boys.

Question: How many brown children have been labelled cool?

Answer: Zero

Question: How many brown children have been labelled not cool?

Answer: Four, three boys, one girl

On the basis of these numbers alone we can conclude that more brown children have been shown being labelled not cool than white children, and that no brown children have been labelled as cool at all. There is also a sexual imbalance, with boys overall of both colours being labelled uncool. Labels, though, do not represent the whole poster as it also shows responsible behaviour from brown children that is simply not labelled.

The most responsible job, the lifeguard, is shown as a brown child. Isn’t that cool? The lifeguard is a girl, isn’t that cool? Brown and white children are shown swimming together, happy and having fun while following the rules. Isn’t that cool? There may be an imbalance if you go only by the labels but isn’t that being a bit precious? Would anyone have said anything if the majority of the not cool labels were on white children? No, of course not.

Here is a racist poster to compare it with. What do you think? Are they both racist or is only one racist? If they are both racist, is the pool poster also sexist because cool and not cool isn’t evenly split between girls and boys?


When Margaret Sawyer first noticed the Red Cross safety poster at a pool in Salida, Colorado, she thought she was looking at an unfortunate relic of the past.

When she saw it a second time at an entirely different pool in the central Colorado town, she was shocked, according to NBC affiliate KUSA.

“I saw this one and I just kept thinking, ‘It looks like they’re trying to do something here that shows all kids together of all different backgrounds but they’re clearly not hitting the mark,'” she said.

Not only were the poster’s designers not hitting the mark, Sawyer thought, they had created an image that was racist.

Sawyer complained to a lifeguard at the first facility and penned a letter to management asking for the poster’s removal, she told KUSA.

After seeing the poster a second time, she posted an image of it online.

“I felt really angry,” she said.

The poster – titled “Be Cool, Follow The Rules” – depicts various children playing at the pool.

But white children are labeled as behaving in a “cool” way while children of color who are depicted defying pool rules are labeled “not cool.”

…The Red Cross apologized for the “Be Cool” posters in a statement that was posted online Monday.

… John Sawyer tweeted, “Hey, @RedCross, send a new pool poster to @SalidaRec bc the current one they have w your name on it is super racist



Margaret Sawyer screenshot-facebook



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  • Cadwallader

    If this controversy is about labels and definitions; how about first defining “cool?”

    • rantykiwi

      A cool kid is obviously one who is living in poverty – the parents can’t afford enough clothing to keep the kid warm.

  • Observer

    Amazing in this day and age where the inverse usually happens whether it’s in crime shows or adverstising (although as noted above, Sawyer wouldn’t complain in those cases).

  • Genevieve

    This poster is all about scenarios that are cool or uncool, not people. I’m guessing that the Sawyers get offended about things on a fairly regular basis.

  • Shalice

    I think counting children and cool labels is super crazy. Is there someone not super crazy the poster can be sent to?

    I don’t think some people will be satisfied until all the white children are dressed in KKK uniforms and labelled uncool. After all, according to them that IS the reality.

    Edit : Added last two sentences

  • KatB

    Just as well Margaret managed to fit this problem into her seemingly busy lifestyle. I’d have to say though that she’s being a bit racist herself as the girl by the diving board and the girl being pushed into the pool both look like my twins, (quite white, but with Maori blood), therefore I would say these two in the picture are mixed race with dark blood in them, (just like my two). If she’s going to really analyse innocent posters and look for problems that aren’t there, then I hope she really does a good job because as I’ve pointed out, she’s already missed two girls of mixed blood ethnicity. I have to be honest though, as I’m not as much of an expert as Margaret on “Ethnicity of Children In Pool Safety Posters”, I may have missed other ethnic children in this poster and some may just have a good suntan.

  • NahYeah

    Actually, she didn’t even get the labels correct. In the bottom right of the poster, the “not cool” tag is clearly pointing at the white girl, presumably because the (fully justified and far more culturally aware) brown girl is pushing the “not cool” white girl into the pool to teach her the error of her ways, after she made a racist remark.

    In the top left corner, the “not cool” tag is clearly pointing to the puddle, not to either child. The puddle is racist, because statistically more brown children die in the water than white children.

  • NZ Groover

    This isn’t the full poster. In the original there are 2 white kids labelled not cool at the top of the poster. You can only see their legs here.

    • spanishbride

      Updated. I also found this version.

      • rantykiwi

        Add labels to suit the spin you want on it – the whole thing is a huge non-event.

  • Tony Norriss

    What about the white girl at the bottom left doing the nazi salute. Surely, that’s not cool.

  • cows4me

    Another candidate that has unfortunately missed out on a nice long stay in a nut house.

  • jaundiced

    It’s quite easy to be racist. According to Rosemary McCleod in her opinion piece on Mike Hosking, you just need to be white and well off:

    ‘He performs a valuable public role showing what racism looks like: pale-skinned, privileged, and smug.’
    I think she forgot to mention ‘male’.

    • Paul Scott

      Do people still read that embittered old hag Rosemary McLeod /?

  • Time For Accountability

    It is extremely racist by omission.

    There are no black African Americans, Hispanics, Asians or Middle East children.

    • Paul Scott

      I think the rules have changed a little. Racism is now any negativity or omission towards the Islamic faith. LBQTY fckwits have to take a back seat

      • Nige.

        [Mod] Please, no swearing.

  • Time For Accountability

    It is also gender biased because boys and girls look like boys and girls.

    Where are the cross identifying gender children etc etc?

  • SFB

    The kids the poster is aimed out probably did not notice. It was their uptight parents and the Jesse Jacksons of this world.

    • Paul Scott

      Yes. But of course they could not possibly print the rules, with punishment for obviously dangerous behaviour being exclusion from pool. That would be insensitive, and it might trigger some feelings of offence.

  • Huia

    When I first saw this poster I took it at face value, I immediately thought it was aimed at teaching illegal Muslim immigrants acceptable behavior in public swimming pools.
    I still think that.
    There is a recognized problem world wide because of unacceptable sexual behavior by middle eastern and African Muslim males when in the same pools as white children and any other non Muslim race because of the rapes, assaults, masturbation and molestation that is happening.
    In some areas white people are now afraid to let their children swim in public pools and numbers have dropped dramatically in Europe and the USA.
    I believe the Red Cross tried to sensitively put the problem onto a poster so as not to cause offence, but, of course have failed miserably because there are always people with too much time on their hands like Miss Hurty feelings above. She has completely missed the point in the rush to get to the media and have her two minutes of fame by squealing Rascism.
    Typical behavior in our world today unfortunately when she should have been using the media platform to protest against the abuse being perpetrated at the pools by a certain element who need to be brought into line with the rest of humanity.

  • taurangaruru

    Where is the sign for the LGBT & Transgender toilets? Absolutely disgraceful oversight.

  • Cadae

    Throughout their primary school education, my sons were given reading books with pictures that had no white boys depicted in leading roles or in a positive light, yet there are no outraged complaints about such clear bias deliberately promulgated in our schools.

  • WBC

    Is she not being ‘super racist’ through her belief that brown people need her assistance?

  • Paul Scott

    yeah , there,s one little dark character with eyes open wide. I don’t know why he’s not cool. But here are some cool videos of German Govt promotion to Islam how to bang white girls

    • Nige.

      [Mod] That’s a very insightful video. However it belongs in the general debate area and should carry a warning of graphic content. Go ahead and put in up after 7am. Thanks.

  • Andy

    I learned long ago just to use stick people.