Lunar New Year Stamp Called Out for Being ‘Culturally Inappropriate’

Carl Samson
·3 min read

A new stamp from the U.S. Postal Service featuring the Year of the Ox has come under fire for being "culturally inappropriate." The stamp, the second in the agency's Lunar New Year series, is scheduled for release in Chicago on Feb. 2. [caption id="attachment_10084143" align="aligncenter" width="800"]

Image via U.S. Postal Service[/caption] Featuring an ox mask, the stamp was designed by art director Antonio Alcalá, with original art from artist Camille Chew. "Calling to mind the elaborately decorated masks used in the dragon or lion dances often performed during Lunar New Year parades, these three-dimensional masks are a contemporary take on the long tradition of paper-cut folk art crafts created during this auspicious time of year," USPS said in a press release last month. Weeks ahead of the stamp's release, critics are pointing out multiple reasons why it's "culturally inappropriate." "What is this!? Insult to the Chinese zodiac's Ox and the line across 'forever' suggests... Wrong on many levels,"wrote Twitter user Karlin Chan, who calls himself an independent "community advocate/activist."

According to the postal service, the word “forever” is crossed out in the online image to prevent counterfeiting, CBS reported. Chan's comments eventually reached Facebook. User Peter Zhao questioned why the stamp was designed by a Hispanic artist and why it was predominantly blue, when celebratory colors are supposedly red and gold. "Luis Fitch and Antonio Alcalá also designed the 2020 Rat stamps. I understand the indigenous people in America went by the lunar calendar. But why ask Hispanic artists create a stamp for lunar New Year celebration mainly observed in Asia? Why wouldn’t USPS employ an Asian artist? Why blue, when the celebratory colors are red and gold? Good point you raised Karlin Chan," Zhao wrote. [caption id="attachment_10084138" align="aligncenter" width="800"]

U.S. Postal Service
U.S. Postal Service

The Year of the Ox stamp is one of three Asian American-inspired stamps coming this year. Images via U.S. Postal Service[/caption] Alcalá and Chew responded to Zhao's calls for an explanation, according to AsAm News. "Thank you for your comments. You raised some good points. I worked with the illustrators, consultants and the USPS on each issuance. I will be sure to ask about this with future stamps in this series. And thanks again for your insights," Alcalá reportedly said. Chew, on the other hand, said: "Thank you for your insights. Red and Gold are part of the color palette of the series as a whole, though aren’t as prominently featured in this design. I’ll be keeping your comments in mind moving forward." Two other Asian American-inspired stamps -- Japanese American veterans and Chinese American physicist Chien-Shiung Wu -- are coming this year. Feature Images via U.S. Postal Service (left) and Karlin Chan (right)