Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate called out the AP on social media Friday morning after the publication cropped her out of a photo where she stood beside four white peers following a press conference for a youth science group to fight climate change in Davos, Switzerland. Nakate questioned the AP’s actions, which she said allowed her to understand the definition of racism. Social media rallied behind the activist, but in the same breath, she has also had to defend herself against those who suggested she should have stood in the middle of the photo to avoid being cropped out.
After Nakate noticed that she had been removed from the photo with the other activists, she addressed the AP directly on Twitter, then posted a video statement online. “Why did you remove me from the photo? I was part of the group!” she wrote to the AP, including a link to the article where the cropped photo could be seen.
In the video statement, she said, “I clearly see how I was cropped out of the photos. It was the hardest thing because everyone’s message was being talked about and my message was left out. And, my photo was left out as well.”
The activist received support as well as unsolicited advice from social media. “Thank you for your work! @ap you have to do better, this is not ok. No deadline is tight enough for you to crop one person of five out of an important photo, and if your director of photography is making these tone-deaf decisions you obviously need more diversity in the room,” one person tweeted in response to the cropped photo.
However, there were also those who felt Nakate being repositioned in the photo was a solution to AP’s tone-deaf actions. “Be aware. Next time, stick her in the middle. Try and crop that!” another person said.
Nakate did not allow for those remarks to go unnoticed. “Everyone saying that I should position myself in the middle is wrong! Does an African activist have to stand in the middle just because of fear of being cropped out? It shouldn’t be like this!” she said.
In a statement to BuzzFeed, the activist expressed the hurt she felt. “I cried because it was so sad not just that it was racist, I was sad because of the people from Africa,” she said. “It showed how we are valued. It hurt me a lot. It is the worst thing I have ever seen in my life.”
The AP has since apologized for the incident. “We regret publishing a photo this morning that cropped out Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, the only person of color in the photo. As a news organization, we care deeply about accurately representing the world that we cover,” AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement, according to CNN.
She added, “We train our journalists to be sensitive to issues of inclusion and omission. We have spoken internally with our journalists and we will learn from this error in judgment.”
The publication has since changed the photo to one that includes Nakate.