Posts Tagged ‘Frank S Robinson’

Old Navy ad


“Why so many blacks in ads?” is one of those burning issues that I was totally oblivious to until Frank S. Robinson, no relation to the Hall of Fame outfielder, as far as I know, laid it out recently.

He wrote that “I’ve made a point of tallying blacks in ads and commercials. And in fact they are way overrepresented, relative to their 13+% population share.” Oh, dear! And I thought we were supposed to be post-racial!

An “over-educated Trump supporter” named Bruce who’s “a conscientious, growing, practicing follower of Jesus Christ” – that is oxymoronic to me – elucidates further that not only are there too many blacks, but that “women as the head of household and/or the ‘brains of the outfit’ are overrepresented” as well, and breaks down other delineations.

“Urban liberal advertising agency powers are still directing ad content and money to buy ad campaigns, so this should be no surprise.

“However, are they risking a backlash? Are they fomenting a bit of ‘reverse racism’ and unnecessary divisiveness?”

Oh, so NOW it’s “divisiveness”. Maybe I need that course that some GWU law professor suggested to understand certain disgruntled 2016 voters.

To deal with this “scourge”, I recommend:

Frank should look at TV commercials, not just in recent years, but over the period that there has been national television. Let’s pick 1947, because that makes it an even 70 years, and because that was the year the World Series was first broadcast nationally – OK, to six cities from Schenectady to St. Louis.

Bruce should calculate the racial composition of those ads running in the 1950s and 1960s and well beyond versus the racial breakdown. He would discover, shockingly, that there was a certain group that was “overrepresented” compared to its numbers in the population for a very long time.

Moreover, the ads are representing a changing demographic. One in seven marriages in 2014 were of people from different races/ethnic groups, so the commercials represent not just what is but what will be.

At the point that the average number blacks and Hispanics et al. in ads are overrepresented over the seven-decade span – and not just the “non-threatening black friend” (yikes, 1 black person among 4 white people is already over your 13% quota!) – I’ll get back to them on what to do about this “problem”.

Meanwhile, I’ll muse over Frank’s assertion: “That yuppie demographic is where the consumer-spending money is. And for them, blackness is actually attractive; connoting coolness, hipness, with-it-ness, knowing what’s going on. Not inferior but superior. And to this demographic, an America fully integrating blacks is a better America. Putting them in ads hence creates a positive buzz.”

In other words, that assertion from the 1960s and ’70s that some deemed “racist” may be true: Black IS beautiful. And speaking of which, Procter and Gamble put out an ad called the Talk, which a conservative site described, in the title of its article, as “‘Sick sick sick’ racist Procter & Gamble ad crosses every line! If you are white, brace yourself before watching”.

If there’s something I DON’T want to write about, it’s cultural appropriation. It’s a no-win topic. So why tackle it? Because it keeps bubbling up in my circle of friends and acquaintances.

In response to a New York Times article, an NPR piece stated Commentary: Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible. And it’s from there that I’ll describe the phenomenon:

“Writer Maisha Z. Johnson offers an excellent starting point by describing it not only as the act of an individual, but an individual working within a “‘power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.’

“That’s why appropriation and exchange are two different things, Johnson says — there’s no power imbalance involved in an exchange. And when artists appropriate, they can profit from what they take, while the oppressed group gets nothing.”

This distinction is important, and I believe addresses Frank S. Robinson’s post about “the newest gambit of politically correct grievance agitprop.”

The phenomenon is not new, actually. According to the Washington Post, the term goes back to the 1970s or ’80s. Bo Derek’s cornrow hairstyle in the 1979 movie 10 was a REAL issue to some folks, but I’ll admit I didn’t get it.

Weekly Sift had this:

“Cultural appropriation is when somebody from a dominant culture tries to acquire fame and fortune (or just look cool) by using stuff created by a dominated culture…. Sometimes it’s done with respect and a share-the-wealth attitude. (Paul Simon didn’t just steal the South African sound, he toured with and helped popularize authentic South African bands.)” [There are some who would disagree.]

“Sometimes it’s annoying and disrespectful, but relatively harmless (like Anglos who have no idea what Cinqo de Mayo commemorates ‘celebrating’ by drinking too much tequila).

“And sometimes it results in a significant injustice, like Elvis becoming a musical icon while the black pioneers he imitated couldn’t get radio time.” Presley became a source of conflict in my own household growing up.

My father HATED Elvis, but I thought he was bringing his own rockabilly sensibilities to the mix. (Now, if you want cultural appropriation, look at Pat Boone, whose vapid Tutti Fruiti squeezed Little Richard’s version out of the marketplace.) I had none of Elvis’ music until I went to college.

I saw this article about a Portland, OR “burrito eatery being shut down after the two white women who ran it were criticized for making food from a culture that wasn’t theirs.” I believe one or both of them jokingly suggested they “stole” the recipe, which helped generate outrage. I find that was a most unfortunate outcome.

I would suggest that the denigration of a culture, especially knowingly, such as Ted Nugent’s headdress in this context could also be seen as cultural appropriation.

So I believe cultural appropriation, different from cultural exchange, exists, and it’s undesirable. But I accept I don’t always know where the line is drawn.

For ABC Wednesday

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