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Dimensions of Racism in Advertising

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Wonkeryor_cpi_cb_NealArthur.qxd 6/3/2015 6:33 AM Page 1
Wonkeryor,
Dimensions of Racism in Advertising will be useful for both research and teaching purposes.
It can be used as a textbook in upper-level courses in African American studies, ethnic studies, advertising, mass media, public policy, sociology, and history. For policy makers, it will
provide an alternative explanation for the stereotypical portrayal of Africans and African
Americans in the United States and elsewhere. It will be similarly useful for nongovernmental
organizations in fighting institutional racism and the marginalization of ethnic and racial groups
in advertising and marketing.
Edward Lama Wonkeryor is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor
of Media and Communication and African Studies at Cuttington University. He also taught
courses in African studies, African American studies, and mass communication at Temple
University from 2003 to 2013. His research interests are mass communication, race and
ethnic relations, security studies, African political history, military, globalization, and democratic governance.
Dimensions of Racism in Advertising
explore the role of institutionalized racism and bigotry in multicultural marketing since its
inception in the 1920s. Promoting ethnic diversity in the advertising industry is not just an
important regulatory issue but essential for representation of ethnic images in marketing.
editor
Advertising has had a racial dimension from slavery to the present. Contributors to this book
PETER LANG
www.peterlang.com
P E T E R
L A N G
Dimensions
of Racism in
Advertising
FROM SLAVERY TO THE
TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
EDITED BY
E DWA R D L A M A WO N K E RYO R
Wonkeryor_cpi_cb_NealArthur.qxd 6/3/2015 6:33 AM Page 1
Wonkeryor,
Dimensions of Racism in Advertising will be useful for both research and teaching purposes.
It can be used as a textbook in upper-level courses in African American studies, ethnic studies, advertising, mass media, public policy, sociology, and history. For policy makers, it will
provide an alternative explanation for the stereotypical portrayal of Africans and African
Americans in the United States and elsewhere. It will be similarly useful for nongovernmental
organizations in fighting institutional racism and the marginalization of ethnic and racial groups
in advertising and marketing.
Edward Lama Wonkeryor is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor
of Media and Communication and African Studies at Cuttington University. He also taught
courses in African studies, African American studies, and mass communication at Temple
University from 2003 to 2013. His research interests are mass communication, race and
ethnic relations, security studies, African political history, military, globalization, and democratic governance.
Dimensions of Racism in Advertising
explore the role of institutionalized racism and bigotry in multicultural marketing since its
inception in the 1920s. Promoting ethnic diversity in the advertising industry is not just an
important regulatory issue but essential for representation of ethnic images in marketing.
editor
Advertising has had a racial dimension from slavery to the present. Contributors to this book
PETER LANG
www.peterlang.com
P E T E R
L A N G
Dimensions
of Racism in
Advertising
FROM SLAVERY TO THE
TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
EDITED BY
E DWA R D L A M A WO N K E RYO R
Dimensions
of Racism in
Advertising
PETER LANG
New York  Bern  Frankfurt  Berlin
Brussels  Vienna  Oxford  Warsaw
Dimensions
of Racism in
Advertising
FROM SLAVERY TO THE
TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
EDITED BY EDWARD LAMA WONKERYOR
PETER LANG
New York  Bern  Frankfurt  Berlin
Brussels  Vienna  Oxford  Warsaw
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dimensions of racism in advertising: from slavery to the twenty-first century /
edited by Edward Lama Wonkeryor.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Advertising—Social aspects—United States—History. 2. Advertising—
Moral and ethical aspects—United States—History. 3. Racism—
United States—History. 4. African Americans in advertising—History.
5. Minorities in advertising—United States—History. 6. Mass media and
race relations—United States—History. I. Wonkeryor, Edward Lama.
HF5813.U6D52 659.1089’00973—dc23 2015005820
ISBN 978-1-4331-1548-6 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-1-4539-1581-3 (e-book)
Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche
Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available
on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de/.
© 2015 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York
29 Broadway, 18th floor, New York, NY 10006
www.peterlang.com
All rights reserved.
Reprint or reproduction, even partially, in all forms such as microfilm,
xerography, microfiche, microcard, and offset strictly prohibited.
Contents
Preface
vii
Acknowledgments
ix
Chapter 1 Introduction
1
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
The History of Race in Advertising
Multicultural Marketing and Its Impact on African American Identity
Conclusion
The Organization of This Book
Chapter 2 History of the Regulation of Ethnic Diversity in Advertising
Agency Employment
4
8
12
13
15
Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Employment Discrimination in Advertising: Realities and Perceptions
History of Labor Regulation in Advertising: Why Is This Regulation
Necessary?
Civil Rights Struggles and Advertising Employment
Why Representation Is the Primary Concern: Exploring Advertising’s
Cultural Impact
Overview of Racism in Nineteenth-Century Advertising
Early Twentieth Century Mid-Twentieth Century The 1960s and 1970s: Representation Improves, But Is It Positive?
The 1980s: A Fundamental Turn to More Positive Images
Late Twentieth-Century Multicultural Marketing Efforts
The 1990s and 2000s: Rise of Multicultural Marketing
Conclusion: Why Is Regulation of Minority Hiring Essential?
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and the Formation of White Racial Group
Consciousness
15
17
20
21
23
26
26
29
29
30
31
33
35
Natalie P. Byfield
Normalization of Whiteness a Vital Issue in Race and Media Studies
White Group Consciousness and Mass Culture in the Early Nineteenth
Century
The Penny Press Signals the Formation of a New Social Group
Articulations of White-Race Discourse in the Penny Press
36
37
43
44
vi
dimensions of racism
The Penny Press as an Articulation of Class/Labor/Race Distinctions
The Penny Press and the Elevation of “White” Labor
When Race Is the Story: The Advent of Modern Journalism
The Practices of Modern Media Approaching the Twenty-first Century
Notes
Chapter 4 Racism, Political Communication, and American Presidential
Elections
46
48
50
53
55
57
George Klay Kieh, Jr.
The Theoretical Framework
The American Architecture of Racism: Nature and Dynamics
Racist Political Adverstisements and American Presidential Elections
Case Studies of Presidential Elections
The 1968 Presidential Race
The 1972 Presidential Contest
The 1980 Presidential Election
The 1984 Lopsided Race
Willie Horton and the 1988 Race
The Epochal 2008 Contest
Obama’s Election: Farewell to Racist Advertisments in Presidential
Elections?
Conclusion
Chapter 5 Diversity in Advertising in the Twenty-First Century
58
59
61
62
62
63
64
65
65
66
68
69
71
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Aims
Conceptual Analysis
Dimensionality of Diversity in Advertising in the 21st Century
Conclusion
Chapter 6 Lessons and Conclusion
72
72
78
83
85
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
References
87
List of Contributors
93
Index
95
Preface
From the evolution of the United States, advertising was developed and practiced
in the republic. In present-day America, it is still being practiced. The leading
orthodoxy of the advertising industry has been to advertise to those who are willing and have the ability to buy; previously, this concept was widely limited to the
mainstream populace—the predominantly white Americans. African Americans
and other non-white Americans were sidelined, because the advertising industry regarded them as being financially incapable to buy any advertised products.
This trend continued up to the end of the Second World War. When the Second
World War ended, African Americans had significant purchasing power, the highest since the demise of slavery. Having worked in diverse industries during the
war and having amassed capital and property, African Americans began to see
more advertisements directed at them. In the second half of the twentieth century,
advertising agencies extended their advertising campaigns in varying degrees to
other racial and ethnic groups including Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Hispanics and Latinos.
In colonial America, African Americans and Native Americans were portrayed
in derogatory ways in advertising. Similarly in 19th and 20th centuries America, the mischaracterizations of all non-white Americans and products aimed at
them in advertising were equally denigrating. The majority of advertising agencies were owned by members of the mainstream culture who disavowed the idea
of depicting the non-white populations in positive ways. Non-white Americans
pressured the advertising industry to portray them positively in commercials as
a part of the American populace. The structural changes in advertising to depict
non-white Americans from a stereotypical identity to a positive one was based on
the multicultural marketing concept that marketers must connect with the nonwhite consumers, including African Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific
Americans, and Hispanics and Latinos. In so doing, diversity in advertising and
American market democracy was enhanced.
In this volume, we illuminate the historical evolution of race in advertising
and how racial identity in the communications media was formed. We discuss different topics—multicultural marketing, regulation of ethnic diversity in the advertising agency employment practices, modern newspapers and the formation of
white racial group consciousness, racism and political advertising, and diversity in
advertising. In response to the stereotypical portrayals of non-white Americans in
the media, African Americans and others have fought against negative depictions
and they continue to demand the advertising industry to present positive racial
and ethnic images in advertisements. If the former is done, we believe the culture
viii
preface
of diversity that that has made America a multicultural society will resonate in the
advertising industry.
We think this volume will serve as a contribution to the existing literature
that addresses inequalities and stereotypical characterizations of African Americans and other non-white Americans in advertising.
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Cuttington University
Dana Saewitz
Temple University
George Klay Kieh, Jr.
University of West Georgia
Natalie P. Byfield
St. John’s University
Acknowledgments
We wish to acknowledge and thank our colleagues and friends who encouraged,
supported, and critiqued us during the research and writing of this volume. They
are Abu S. Abarry, professor emeritus, African American Studies Department of
Temple University, Ralph Young, professor of history and director of Teach-in at
Temple University, and Karen M. Turner, associate professor of the School of Media and Communication, Temple University. Students in the courses, Mass Media
and Black Community and Historical Significance of Race, at Temple University
participated in a dialogue on African Americans and Advertising that provided
the impetus for us to probe much deeper into the topic that led to the writing of
this book. For their contributions, we are colossally indebted. We are grateful to
the following institutions and libraries for allowing us to examine their vast collections on advertising, media and communication, politics, racism, diversity and
African Americans: Paley Library and the Charles Blockson Afro American Collection at Temple University; University of West Georgia Library; and St. John’s
University Library. We are thankful to the following publising professionals for
their editorial work and the formatting of this volume: Alison Anderson and Carolyn Cordelia Williams. Without their assistance, we could not have completed
this volume.
Chapter 1 Introduction
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Given the history of race relations in the United States, it is not surprising that
racism has contributed a great deal to the evolution and continual reinforcement
of racial and ethnic stereotypes in advertising from the development of this country up to the present day. This book examines the history of race in advertising
and also discusses the development of African American identity as it relates to
media. An effective discussion is predicated upon the clear definitions of advertising, racism, and multicultural marketing.
Advertising is defined in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary “as the action of
calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements” and also as “the business of preparing advertisements for publication or
broadcast.” Advertising is the most widespread form of public communication
in contemporary societies. It is a major presence in many areas of public space,
including urban centers, retail spaces and stadia, less so in residential suburban
areas, public buildings and parks, and in most news and entertainment media
(Richards et al. 2000: 14). In order to persuade or be effective, the advertisement must communicate to the audience the message it wants to relay. If for
example, the advertisement is trying to sell a particular product than it must persuade the audience that for whatever functional or emotional reason they need to
purchase the product. Not only must the advertisement effectively communicate
the desired message, but the individual audience must be willing to “buy into” the
desired message. In other words, for the advertisement to be effective, the communication must be sent and received. Advertising is a two-way communication
process. Jeannette Dates and William Barlow state
Ever since the beginning of advertising, three rules have prevailed: “to advertise to people
ready, willing and able to buy; to use the media which reach them; and to make advertisements that would win their business.” In practice, advertisers rarely worked at reaching
African American consumers. In contrast, there were two important reasons why black
American consumers wished to be targeted by advertisers: (1) they wanted to be courted
for their money as others were, and (2) they responded to the respect implicit in the
courting process, when the advertisement was neither patronizing nor condescending
(Dates & Barlow 1993: 463).
As consumers African Americans want the advertising industry to appropriate their citizenship in “market democracy, in which every dollar was supposedly
equal to the other regardless of the hand that held it,” by positively and accurately representing blacks in the role of, writes Jason Chambers, “consumers and
equal citizens. As one black advertising specialist observed, “Advertising plays an
2
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
important role in demonstrating upward social mobility and is a yardstick in
charting progress in the search for acceptance and recognition by the majority
society” (Chambers 2008: 5, 15). Because of institutionalized racism, bigotry,
and discrimination in American society, African Americans have been compelled
to challenge their cultural, economic, and political disenfranchisement as well as
the inequality in advertising, as regards how the industry depicts blacks’ images.
Charles Faulkner observes that
Racism is concretized as an American institution because it allows whites an outlet for
their personal, independent frustrations; it provides whites with an avenue of escape from
their own negative self-image (no matter how little regard they receive from their peers,
they can always consider themselves “better” than any Black Person) (Faulkner 1987: 5).
Racism, according to Martin Bulmer and John Solomos, “is an ideology of
racial domination based on (1) beliefs that a designated racial group is either
biologically or culturally inferior and (2) the use of such beliefs to rationalize or
prescribe the racial group’s treatment in society, as well as to explain its social position and accomplishment” (Bulmer & Solomos 1999: 4). In the same context, a
clear definition of racism is provided by Richard T. Schaefer:
Race is a social construction, and this process benefits the oppressor, who defines who
is privileged and who is not. The acceptance of race in a society as a legitimate category
allows racial hierarchies to emerge to the benefit of the dominant “races.” People could
speculate that if human groups have obvious physical differences, then they could have
corresponding mental or personality differences. No one disagrees that people differ in
temperament, potential to learn, and sense of humor. In its social sense, race implies that
groups that differ physically bear distinctive emotional and mental abilities or disabilities. These beliefs are based on the notion that humankind can be divided into distinct
groups. We have already seen the difficulties associated with pigeonholing people into
racial categories. Despite these difficulties, belief in the inheritance of behavior patterns
and in racism when this belief is coupled with the feeling that certain groups or races are
inherently superior to others (Schaefer 2007: 16).
In reference to the poignant perspective on racism, Joe Feagin states that
There is a tendency on the part of many Americans, especially white Americans, to see
racism as an individual matter, as something only outspoken white bigots engage in.
Yet racism is much more than an individual matter. It is both individual and systemic.
Indeed, systemic racism is perpetuated by a broad social reproduction that generates not
only recurring patterns of discrimination within institutions and by individuals but also
an alienating racist relationship—on the one hand, the racially oppressed, and on the
other, the racial oppressors (Feagin 2001: 6).
Since the colonization by Europeans of the geopolitical area that became the
United States, advertising was used by the ruling elite (those with political, economic, and cultural power) to disseminate images that upheld their hegemony
Chapter 1 Introduction
3
while demeaning the political, social, economic, and cultural positions of the
powerless segments of society. In the headlines and illustrations of colonial newspapers, images of blacks and American Indians, and later the Chinese and Irish,
in product advertisements used blatant derogatory caricatures and idealized views
of characteristics, such as noble savagery, that benefited whites. Runaway slave
advertisements in newspapers and handbills showed that slaveholders regarded
blacks, whether freed or enslaved, as subhuman. As property, enslaved Africans
had no agency and therefore could not affect the depictions of blacks in advertising. Free blacks who acquired land and wealth were too few to impact how blacks
were portrayed in media advertisements. As resistance to slavery and lack of fundamental rights for black gained momentum, both black and white abolitionists
and political leaders fought for the accurate portrayal of Africans in American
society. But the dehumanization of blacks and other minorities remained characteristic of the predominant advertising in newspapers and other media in the
United States and persisted into the twentieth century.
Although America became more diverse through immigration, mass media
did not reflect the nation’s full diversity until the 1990s. How African Americans and other ethnic and religious groups in America, including American Jews,
Africans, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos or Hispanics, and Native
Americans, fared in advertising depended on a variety of factors, ranging from the
affected group’s demands for inclusion or more positive advertising to political
and lobbying campaigns on national or global issues to security concerns generated by the 9/11 attacks. As a result, print media (newspapers, magazines, journals,
and tabloids), radio, television, and other media outlets responded to complaints
and changing social and political conditions in American society. Advertising in
these media outlets gradually evolved to show a more diverse social and cultural
cross section of people in the community, especially for multicultural marketing.
But many corporate advertising agencies today still rarely market to some markets, most prominently the black community, with the exception of liquor and
tobacco ads and other unhealthy products and services. Although there have been
some fundamental changes, the advertising industry continues to segregate its
products and markets in a manner that begs improvement.
Multicultural marketing involves the prospect by “Marketers with the foresight to build positive connections with the ‘new’ consumers (African Americans,
Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans and other nonethnic populations) can earn the recognition and brand loyalty to provide a critical edge for
their businesses” that “they’re part of a greater whole and fosters a sense of inclusion among our society’s broad racial spectrum” (Schreiber 2001: ix, xii). Marlene
Rossman argues that marketers who strive to understand the dynamics of ethnics
4
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
and other market segmentations, developing product and market strategies that
will appeal to these groups will undoubtedly make a profit (Rossman 1994: 18).
The History of Race in Advertising
In a historical retrospective, Frank Presbrey states that advertising, just like the
white inhabitants of the United States, evolved in Europe, and that “there is no
record that it arrived on the Mayflower except as we may assume that the uses of
the signboard and the printed pamphlet were familiar to men who had lived in
England or the Netherlands during the first quarter of the seventeenth century”
(Presbrey 1929: 113). Presbrey explains further the historical development of advertising in America,
America’s original settlers came with no knowledge of such a thing as a newspaper, though
they may have seen the printed news pamphlets of irregular issue that began to appear in
Europe in the sixteenth century. John Smith’s party left England fifteen years before the
earliest regularly issued newsbook was published there. The Dutch had been in New Amsterdam five years before the Amsterdam Courant was born at home and twenty-six years
before the friends they left behind saw the Harlem Courant. The Mayflower sailed nearly
two years before the initial issue of London’s Weekly News, and the Pilgrim fathers knew
nothing of a newsbook unless those who had been in Holland had seen the Amsterdam
Courant, first published in 1619.The first of the old English shopbills date from about
1630, and they were not common until many years later. Accordingly the signboard and
the pamphlet probably were the only forms of business announcement other than oral of
which the earliest colonists had any knowledge. It was of course years before the settlements in the American colonies had progressed to a point where even that primitive kind
of advertising, the signboard, began to appear. Hence from the 17th century onward,
advertising in different forms (i.e. outdoor signs, figures of leading colonial personalities,
pictorial signs) which permeated the colonial America until it disappeared in 1884, when
other forms of advertising were developed (113–17).
By the late eighteenth century the printing industry was established in the
colonies:
The first printing press in Pennsylvania was established in 1685, and the Philadelphia
printing industry dominated eighteenth-century publishing. The limitations of the
American market meant that colonial American printing was not technically advanced by
European standards. Anglo-Americans seeking the services of fine printers and bookmakers—for example cartographers looking for printers for their maps—continued to turn
to London (Burns 2005: 90).
Thus, the development of African American identity as it relates to media and
multicultural marketing evolved in two geopolitical regions: Europe and colonial
America.
When Benjamin Franklin and his friend Hugh Meredith became owners of
the Pennsylvania Gazette, formerly the Universal Instructor in All the Arts and Sci-
Chapter 1 Introduction
5
ences and Pennsylvania Gazette, they embarked on advertising first by shortening
the paper’s long name. This is the basis of the familiar editorial page portrait
of Franklin and the words “Founded A.D. 1728” in the Saturday Evening Post.
The advertising giant of the age is a lineal descendant of Benjamin Franklin’s
periodical of news and essays (Presbrey 1929: 132). African American identity in
advertising became an integral part of advertising industries in the colonies. For
example, “In the Pennsylvania Gazette, as elsewhere, however, runaway slaves were
the subjects of many advertisements. In the first years of American journalism the
runaway slave appears to have been the mainstay of the business office” (133).
Franklin, who developed displays and new classes of advertisements of a variety
of products also bought bond servants’ “indentures and advertised them as well as
negro slaves, though later in life he learned to dislike and distrust the institution
of slavery” (137).
A review of advertisements involving blacks showed that the word “boy” or
“girl” was customarily used to describe a person, no matter what age. This derogatory terminology, refusing to accord blacks the status of adulthood, persisted into
the twentieth century. Physical descriptions included the terminology “mulatto,”
“quadroon,” “octoroon,” etc., part of the nascent skin color prejudice that also
plagued African American identity. Due to the need of accuracy in the attempt
to recover a runaway slave, the advertisements described attributes pertaining to
work and artistic skills that reveal accomplishments of Africans in mastering a
trade or other professions.
By the late eighteenth century the Industrial Revolution introduced lithography to American printing, a technological advance that allowed publishers to
improve their technical work, print sophisticated images in black and later color,
and print more cheaply by use of machines rather than manual labor. Arrays
of products were available that were manufactured for use by all socioeconomic
classes, not just the wealthy. Advertisers devised ingenious slogans, images, and logos to persuade people (consumers) into buying products. Presbrey writes that in
the first sixty years of the nineteenth century advertising flourished, with “the first
American advertising agents” including “Volney B. Palmer, with offices in Boston,
New York and Philadelphia, and John L. Hooper, who had his office in New York”
(Presbrey 1929: 261). These two advertising pioneers started their enterprises in
the 1840s with “only a year or two difference in their starting dates. Palmer’s three
offices passed to as many different owners in the early 1950s. Hooper remained in
business for thirty years” (261).
According to Presbrey, when the Civil War began about twenty advertising
agents, including “Peaslee & Co.,” a name under which L. F. Shattuck operated,
were operating in New York and half as many elsewhere in the United States.
From the era of the Civil War to the dawn of the twentieth century, advertising
6
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
became national in scope and began to cater to government and corporations as
well as individuals. For example, Shattuck aroused the envy of other agents by
obtaining the business of advertising the government’s war loan. Another agent
had been selected by Jay Cooke, whose success in marketing the government’s
loans forms a brilliant chapter in America’s financial history, but Shattuck’s agency
was given the business on the recommendation of Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of
the Treasury. The bond-issue advertising was placed in every American newspaper
Shattuck or the Treasury Department found—newspapers not covered in the first
mailing quickly identified themselves by writing to government officials—and
the copy must have appeared in some four or five thousand papers, at card rates.
When the war ended, “the bonds of the first Pacific railroads were widely advertised and sold to the general public by Shattuck, also” (Presbrey 1929: 264).
Another influence that started to make advertising history in the 1860s was
the “patent inside,” an idea said to have been used ten years earlier in England.
Several editors of small weeklies published near Milwaukee, deprived by the Civil
War of their printing assistants, appealed to the job office of the Milwaukee Evening Wisconsin for aid in getting out their papers. The Evening Wisconsin filled
two pages with reading matter from its column, printed these pages on one side
of the sheet, and shipped them to the country town, where the editor managed to
set enough local items and advertisements to fill the outside pages. It occurred to
A. J. Aikens, part owner of the Evening Wisconsin, that if two county papers had
applied for this kind of help there must be others in need of it, and he circularized an effort to papers in nearby counties. Some twenty accepted with alacrity,
paying for paper and printing, and something for the general news matter lifted
from the Evening Wisconsin’s forms (Presbrey 1929: 272, 274). Since all the papers
were located near Milwaukee, Aikens encouraged the city’s merchants to advertise
in them.
Equally important, A. N. Kellogg of Baraboo, Wisconsin, went to Chicago
and set up there in this new business. He also started a plant in Chicago, where
better railroad facilities in more directions gave a wider field for the enterprise.
This was the origin of the “Kellogg Lists” and the Newspaper Unions, which eventually established printing plants at the larger railroad centers over the country; the
end-of-the-century advertiser could send copy to one of them and have it appear
in about 10,000 country papers. One of Kellogg’s solicitors beginning in 1872
was W. W. Hallock, to whom is due no small measure of credit for development of
“patent inside” advertising. “Mr. Hallock in 1878 became Eastern representative
of the Kellogg Lists, and in 1928 is still actively at work, with the extraordinary
record of fifty-six years of service, during which the country weeklies and smalltown dailies have received through him untold millions of advertising” (Presbrey
1929: 274). By the 1930s, the foundation was established with large-scale adver-
Chapter 1 Introduction
7
tising for such enterprises as “the Eastman Kodak Company, Sears, Roebuck &
Co., the Quaker Oats Company, the Shredded Wheat Company, Postum Cereal
Company, H. L. Heinz, Gold Dust, the National Biscuit Company and others of
similar size and prestige in 1928” (360).
Images of African Americans were popularly used as logos for products—
such as Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and others. Prior to and after the Civil War,
racist overtones in advertising were the norm. When the war ended, “blacks were
free to begin their own communities, own their own homes, open businesses, and
become members of the buying public—a viable consumer market. Their status
in society changed, but this was not reflected in the advertising prevalent during
the period. Most advertisers created campaigns targeted toward white audiences;
they used blacks in their advertising, but in demeaning and stereotypical postures
that appeal to the white society” (Kern-Foxworth 1994: 29).
Marilyn Kern-Foxworth offers an historical account of African Americans in
advertising with the advent of lithography:
African Americans began appearing regularly in advertising during the 1870s when color lithography was originally used to print trade cards. The cards varied greatly in size and color
contrast, as well as subject matter, although sports figures and ethnic humor were the two
most popular motifs. The cards were given to the purchasers of articles such as shoes, thread,
and other household items, especially during the Victorian era. The cards became valuable
collectibles and sometimes family members would paste them into albums like photos. The
subjects varied, with sports figures and black humor being two of the most popular topics. The
first large-scale use of blacks in advertising actually came with the introduction of trade cards.
Ranging from wallet size to post card size and larger, trade cards featuring blacks surfaced in
early 1800s as lithographers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore began printing
cards for nearly every product manufactured. Enjoying their greatest popularity between 1870
and 1900, some of the cards depicted blacks in a positive manner, but others were blatantly
racist (1994: 33, 34).
In her discussion of advertising from 1900 to the mid-1960s, Kern-Foxworth
found that negative advertising images of blacks remained prevalent in American
society. The logos of the late nineteenth century had become permanent icons in
most American homes.
It was difficult to prepare a meal without using food products featuring a stereotypical images
of pickaninny, black mammy, or black Sambo. In other words, the use of blacks in pejorative
and stereotypical advertising kept them emotionally bound to the idiosyncratic whims of their
former masters. With advertising, former slave owners became masters over different objects.
They made them subservient. They made them docile. They made them act stupid. They made
them appeared ignorant. They made them ugly. They made them grotesque. They made them
want to be white. These symbols not only continued but proliferated around the turn of the
century with the overwhelming success of Uncle Ben, The Gold Dust Twins, Rastus and Aunt
Jemima (Kern-Foxworth 1994: 40–41).
8
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Kern-Foxworth also asserts that the value of black collectibles, items like trade
cards and household products, grew considerably over the years. Value was related
to how insulting the image and accompanying text were to blacks; the greater the
insult the higher the value. The most prized images depicted blacks in compromising positions, and the visages were extremely exaggerated: large heads, thick
lips, pop eyes, and huge teeth (34).
Multicultural Marketing and Its Impact on African American Identity
The value of African Americans as consumers in market was related to white
Americans’ perceptions of blacks in general and corporate America’s regard for
Africans’ purchasing power. Rossman argues that marketers who strive to understand the dynamics of ethnics and other market segmentations, developing
product and market strategies that will appeal to these groups, will undoubtedly
make a profit (Rossman 994: 18). Perhaps most important, Rossman explains
that the meanings of marketing go from “the satisfaction of needs and wants at
a reasonable price” to “a total system of interacting business activities to plan,
price, promote, and distribute want-satisfying products and services to household
and organizational users at a profit.” There are other definitions equally mindnumbing. They all come down to the same thing: stimulate interest, create desire,
and get the consumer to buy (19–20).
From the eighteenth century to the first fifty years of the twentieth, advertising agencies virtually ignored African American consumers, because white entrepreneurs thought that pitching their products to black consumers risked blurring
their products’ image with mainstream consumers. Advertising was limited to
white America as advertisers felt that white Americans had the economic power
to obtain the advertised products. African American consumers were appreciated by the advertising industry immediately following World War II because
advertisers recognized that black consumers had the economic power and enterprise like white consumers. Herman Gray explains that during the early 1930s
African Americans did spend a large amount of money which became certain
after numerous surveys were conducted (Gray 1986). Statistics showed that even
though African Americans were at the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder,
they were still large contributors to the economy. A study by the National Negro
Business League in the 1930s revealed that African American consumers’ spending power was $1.65 billion dollars (AdAge 2003). Marketers failed to design and
implement advertisement that was aimed at African Americans, considering their
impressive spending power.
The representation of African American images that would appeal to black
consumers began at marginal, demeaning, and erroneous level. For example,
Chapter 1 Introduction
9
“One of the most pervasive myths is that almost all blacks are poor, so it’s not
worth targeting them. Of course, there are poor African-Americans; many studies
show that poor blacks are poorer today than before” (Rossman 1994: 122–23).
It is no surprise then that when African American consumers were finally incorporated in the advertising industry in the early 1930s, the advertising industry
still used negative images to depict blacks. These stereotypical characterizations
of African Americans emanated from white ideology. From the 1940s through
1960s, only a few African Americans had leading positive roles in advertisements.
The Civil Rights Movement critically changed the ways African Americans
were depicted in the mass media systems and in the advertising industry, particularly. According to Robert Baker and Sandra Ball, a report by the Kerner
Commission showed the effects of the mass media on the sociological and psychological disposition of the domination and subordinate cultures. It showed that
daily repetition of commercials and programs has impressed on African American
families that they are have-nots (Baker & Ball 1969). During and immediately
following the Civil Rights struggle, African Americans demanded that the mass
media accurately portray them in real life situations as wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, workers, and family members. Like the dominant majority, African
Americans wanted to be depicted as a people who have aspirations, desires, and
needs in contemporary American society.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, African Americans were given adjunct roles
as well as roles in group pictures, a process defined by Roland Barthes (1957) as
inoculation, in which advertisers or other capitalist consumer systems incorporate
small elements of ethnicity into the media. During this period, corporations marketed products to African American consumers in the black print and broadcast
media that were often harmful to the well-being of individuals and the community as a whole. The prevalence of advertising for alcohol and tobacco was eventually
attacked by educated African American elites; rampant alcoholism and tobacco
use were seen as vices that threatened to destroy the quality of life in black families
led to campaigns to reject sponsorship of corporations that sold those products.
A billion dollar industry, hair and skin care products were marketed with the European idea of beauty, pushing blacks to use harmful chemicals to assimilate and
adapt a negative image based on self-hatred. The marketing of luxury items such
as Cadillacs, while appropriate for the small group of middle class blacks, also
influenced poor urban black communities to engage in splurging.
When the Cosby Show appeared, Bill Cosby through his influence and power
had major sponsors, including Kraft Foods, the manufacturer of Jell-O pudding.
Cosby became the spokesperson for Jell-O and appeared in a series of television
commercials with an ethnically diverse group of children. These images started
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Edward Lama Wonkeryor
the fundamental turn for more positive images of African Americans in advertisements. Rossman cites U.S. Census figures that
around 60 percent of black households in 1990 had incomes of less than $25,000, compared to 40 percent of white households. However, only about one third of blacks are
poor; two thirds are above the Census Bureau’s poverty threshold index for 1991. Studies
also show that the middle- and upper-income segments of the black community have
grown enormously in the past ten years. More than 13 percent of households headed by
blacks have incomes of $50,000 or more. And, in this highly segmented market, even
people with lower incomes buy and use goods and services (1994: 123).
The demand by African American consumers for inclusive advertising where
the identities of multiethnic groups, including African Americans, are recognized
and respected is quite compelling. As Rossman writes, African Americans are a
large, enterprising and growing market, representing about 32 million people,
with close to $300 billion in spending power. Although blacks are generating
more income, they strive to maintain their “African American identity” and not
become like white consumers; African Americans are not consistently brand loyal,
for they are what Rossman calls “a highly subsegmented and stratified market”
(124, 126). She notes that “Many upscale African-Americans buy private-label
and generic goods, which are less expensive than brand names. The proliferation
of discount and cut-price stores and warehouse clubs has popularized generics and
bulk buying” (126). In this marketing milieu,
Some members of the black lower class are more responsive to marketing campaigns that
stress images of black unity and Afrocentric identity over all other issues. On the other
hand, middle-class and upscale African-Americans’ increased pride in black culture is not
usually a major factor in their purchasing decisions (141).
Previously, African Americans who wanted recognition sometimes imitated
upper-class members of the mainstream culture through “conspicuous consumption of goods usually associated with wealth” (141). For example, African Americans on the lower economic rung of American society tend to depict wealth by
purchasing expensive cars, clothing, and other luxury items. Michele Lamont and
Virag Molnar (2001) argue that “Marketing specialists believe that blacks use
consumption to signify and acquire equality, respect, acceptance and status” (36):
Marketers interpret the buying habits of blacks as strongly guided by a desire to be recognized as equal and full participating members of society and to disprove the stereotype of
blacks as belonging to an underclass deprived of buying power. This desire is manifested
in distinct consumption patterns: in comparison to whites, blacks spend disproportionately more on items that they view as affirming their equal standing (36).
Chapter 1 Introduction
11
Understanding the African American community and the racist ideas that
sanction its oppression provides only a partial explanation for the persistence of
stereotypical images of African Americans in the mass media, of which advertising
is a part. As I have previously stated, the exploitation of African American images
evolved from the period of enslavement and is not a new phenomenon, but rather
a reappearance of a classic social control strategy by the dominant majority (those
who control the political, economic, and cultural power) in the United States. To
perpetuate their dominance, they must argue very convincingly for the marginalization and stereotypical characterizations of African Americans, thus undermining their African American identity. Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffin contend
that there are two methods of “disseminating and maintaining social control”: (1)
instituting repressive state apparatuses (RSAs) and (2) instituting ideological state
apparatuses (ISAs) that are usually prevalent in an unequal society. The RSAs use
the military, police force, and various forms of terrorism to gain social control
through oppressive and violent means. IRAs involves “non-violent social formations such as schools, the family, the church, and the media institutions that shape
and represent our culture in certain ways” (Benshoff & Griffin 2004: 13–14).
We argue that both methods have been used by the dominant majority, at one
point or the other in the United States, to marginalize African Americans. Mass
media institutions such as film, radio, television, newspapers, and advertising industries are especially potent because of their large and receptive audiences. The
overwhelming presence of derogatory or comical images of the black community
portrayed through advertising and other mass media outlets undermines African
American identity as equal and civilized citizens of our society. “And as long as
Blacks feel secondary to whites, Blacks never can become first class—because they
can’t ‘become white’” (Gordon 1985: 7. It is important to note with Thomas
Cripps, that “black media stereotypes are not natural, much less harmless, products of an idealized popular culture; rather, they are more commonly socially
constructed images that are selective, partial, one-dimensional, and distorted in
their portrayal of African Americans” (Cripps 1993: 5).
I also believe that advertising is acutely powerful because it offers pictures full
of colors, shapes, body language (when people are depicted), words, signs, and all
kinds of things we find in our society. For example, in a commercial that shows a
man in a pin-striped suit drinking a fresh cup of coffee, we immediately make assumptions about who he is, where he comes from and where he is going as well as
lifestyle is he living. If we leaf through a magazine and see a head shot of a white,
blonde woman wearing bright red lipstick, we would critique her attractiveness
and draw conclusions based on the emotions “red” might evoke (aggression, passion). Contemporary African American stereotypes are not hard to find as long
as people train themselves to decode the media messages. To illustrate, many bill-
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Edward Lama Wonkeryor
boards and business houses that sell their products to the African American community use stereotypical images to advertise. According to these advertisements,
African Americans value instant gratification and conspicuous consumption over
more conventional things, including good education. Ascribing these traits to
African Americans is inaccurate and unjust and it poses a national identity crisis
for African Americans and other Americans.
Conclusion
Advertisers in contemporary American society must become sensitive in how they
define and market products, given the diversity of America’s populations. As WeiNa Lee, Jerome D. Williams, and Carrie La Ferle put it,
Within the United States, advertisers need to recognize the distribution of consumers
across a number of characteristics, including gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientations,
and so on, if they hope to build relationships and maintain market share in today’s evergrowing diverse society. Diversity of people, products, and images is crucial in the 21st
century for an advertiser’s bottom line; it also helps to contribute to a more representative
and inclusive society (Lee, Williams, and La Ferle 2004: 4).
African Americans recognize that the United States is a racist society and to
disavow their dislocation at the fringes in advertising, they will compellingly fight
to strengthen their African American identity in the advertising industry As Paul
Kellstedt explains, “The media, to be sure, do play an important role in determining the shape and trajectory of public attitudes on race; but so, too, do other
forces” (Kellstedt 2003: 134). Thus, the depiction of distinctive cultural groups in
the media shows that the groups have a type of power, a safe place in society, and
a noted identity (Cortese 2004: 15). Anthony Cortese provides an insightful perspective on ethnic and racial representation in advertising vis-à-vis the dominant
majority’s social system:
Racial images in advertising are important for at least two reasons. First, there is evidence
that advertising and other media images help to shape attitudes about race and ethnicity.
Thus, we can select the ethnic images that advertisements present to individuals. Second,
ads can provide a barometer of the extent to ethnic minorities have penetrated social
institutions dominated by white males. That is, ads reflect in which arenas (e.g., business, politics, the economy, education, sports, entertainment, academia, art, the military,
religion) the power of a white-male-dominated social system is challenged by minorities,
including women (2004: 15).
We argue that despite the negative portrayals of African Americans in the
advertising industry specifically, and in other communications media in general,
African Americans have consistently fought to reclaim their identity, because the
Chapter 1 Introduction
13
advertising industry is gradually improving the portrayal of blacks in commercials. I also recognize that racism still permeates the advertising industry, yet African American advertisers and advertising industries will undoubtedly contribute
to the eradication of misrepresentation of African Americans in advertising. This
is a viable means for African Americans’ identity to become positively actualized
in the multicultural marketing and advertising in the United States.
The Organization of This Book
This book is organized into six chapters addressing diverse themes in the advertising industry. Chapter 1 examines the history of race in advertising and also
discusses the development of African American identity as it relates to media. It
defines advertising and also explicates multicultural marketing and its impact on
African Americans. It finally delineates the organization of this book.
Chapter 2 examines the history of the regulation of ethnic diversity in advertising agency employment practices. It also examines imagery as a reflection of
hiring practices within the agency and the steps employed by African Americans
and other ethnic minorities in promoting diversity in the agency. Chapter 3 deals
with modern newspapers and the formation of white racial group consciousness.
It provides insight into how the principles of the Enlightenment crossed the Atlantic and conflicted with the developing market economy and the expansion of
rights it afforded white males, while reducing the rights of free blacks and reinforcing the property status of enslaved blacks. Modern newspapers, the Penny
Press, were formed in this cauldron. Their commercial reliance on advertising
defined them as modern. Thus, the audience they attracted to sell to advertisers
did not represent a general audience.
Chapter 4 discusses racism, political advertising, and American presidential
elections. It examines the racism-political advertisement nexus, especially its use
as an instrument for priming and conditioning the voting behavior of whites.
Further, it assesses the impact of the election of Barack Obama as the first African
American President of the United States on the use of racist political advertisements in future presidential elections. Chapter 5 deals with diversity in advertising in the twenty-first century. The main thesis of this chapter is that the painful
history of racism in advertising from enslavement to contemporary time has created an enduring legacy that American society finds it difficult to overcome. This
chapter provides a conceptual analysis based on existing literature of how promoting ethnic diversity within the advertising industry is not just an important regulatory issue to address historical failures. It is essential for multicultural marketing
in order to characterize and portray representational images of diverse ethnicities.
Chapter 6 suggests some lessons about the state of advertising in contemporary
America.
Chapter 2 History of the Regulation of Ethnic
Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Why is it necessary today for government agencies to regulate ethnic diversity in
advertising? Why are African Americans and other ethnic minorities still significantly underrepresented in executive roles in the advertising industry? Of course,
the insidious and pervasive history of explicit racism in advertising dating to the
days of slavery is well documented. However, in more recent times, multicultural
marketing has moved to the forefront of advertising efforts, so it may seem surprising that minorities are still struggling to be hired and retained in the industry.
The following conceptual analysis takes a historical look at racism in advertising,
and attempts to examine the deep roots of this contemporary issue of discrimination. We argue that the painful history of racism in advertising from the days of
slavery through the late twentieth century has left an enduring legacy that is still
difficult to overcome. Contemporary multicultural marketing efforts are a positive step, but the injustices that took place over centuries of institutional racism
in advertising are clearly not yet merely a historical footnote. This chapter further
examines the unique role and responsibility of the advertising industry as both
a mirror of society and an extraordinary influence on popular culture and social
norms.
We offer a historical analysis based on existing literature and critically examine actual ads throughout history as a manifestation of racial discrimination in
daily life and agency employment practices. The chapter is woven together to tell
both stories at once: the well-documented history of discrimination in portrayal
of African Americans in mediated images, as well as the less-known story of employment discrimination and failed attempts to counteract that discrimination.
Ultimately, our conclusions support the theory that encouraging and fostering significant ethnic diversity among advertising personnel is not just an important regulatory issue to address historical failures, but is essential to portray
accurate images of diverse ethnicities, to encourage a culture of tolerance and
respect for diversity, and finally, to enable positive multicultural marketing efforts
to succeed.
Employment Discrimination in Advertising: Realities and Perceptions
On September 7, 2006, the New York City Human Rights Commission
(NYCHR) issued a report indicating that hiring black employees in advertising
agencies had barely improved since the Commission conducted a similar inquiry
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Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
in the 1960s. A front page article in the New York Times reported that among
8,000 employees working for sixteen advertising agencies, about 22 percent make
more than $100,000 a year, but only 2.5 percent of these are black. Subsequently,
nearly a dozen ad agencies promised to set numerical goals for increasing black
representation of their creative and managerial staffs (Cardwell and Elliott 2006).
These agencies agreed to be monitored by the city for three years, and regularly
report hiring, promotion, and retention figures. Failure to meet the goals could
result in further legal action and fines up to $250,000 (Melillo 2006).
Why are so few minority executives employed in advertising today? According to advertising executives interviewed in Advertising Age in June 2006, there
are several forces at work: (1) institutional racism, (2) advertising’s inability to
compete with better-paying industries for the most qualified candidates, and (3)
government regulations (Sanders 2006). Some executives “cite a rule intended to
fuel diversity—government mandates that minority contracts be afforded only to
minority-owned agencies—as hampering it, leaving general-market agencies to
decide if it’s in their best interests to work with minority-staffed agencies rather
[than] staff up with nonwhites themselves.” Furthermore, according to Lisa Sanders, author of the article, while there may be varying opinions, one thing seems
clear. Were there no pressure on agencies by a government authority, agencies
would be unlikely to take action:
“There’s not a lot of desire by [general-market] agencies to become more integrated,”
admitted Don Richards, senior VP-agency diversity at the American Association of Advertising Agencies. “There are more pressing issues: profit margins, compensation, and an
overall talent drain from the industry. I don’t believe that agencies shy away from trying
to get minority employees. But it is more in the middle of things that keep agencies awake
at night than a top priority.”
Another executive interviewed, Sheldon Fischer, chairman of the Four A’s
diversity advisory board recruitment subcommittee, pointed directly to a more
explicit, overt form of racism:
“They aren’t wanted. Though these agencies are enormous in terms of their global impact,
they are small shops politically. They appear to be close-knit families. They hire from
among their own: there is nepotism and politics.” What’s more, clients aren’t pushing
for change. “Absolutely, if a client asked for more African-Americans on their accounts,
agencies would respond,” said Mr. Richards, … “They’d devote resources to it and make
an effort.”
These comments echo remarks made since the 1960s, without significant
changes in employment ratios of African Americans. In Madison Avenue and the
Color Line (2008), Jason Chambers explores why minorities have been historically
underrepresented in advertising agencies. Of course, overt discrimination has al-
Chapter 2 Regulation of Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
17
ways played a role. But Chambers additionally points to the fact that many advertising executives since the 1960s have complained, justifiably or not, about the
lack of a “pipeline,” that few young African Americans seek careers in advertising.
Today, when so many agencies have signed binding agreements mandating ethnic
diversity, agencies are hungrily seeking minority candidates. However, there is still
a lack of awareness among young, educated African Americans that advertising is
a creative, lucrative, minority-welcoming profession, with a clear career path that
follows directly on the completion of a college education. Chambers writes
If asked, many Americans could name their favorite commercial or trade character, but
not the name of the individual or agency behind its creation. Thus the advertising industry may be the most visible, yet most hidden industry in the United States… . [I]
n contrast to aspirants to other professions such as accounting, law, or medicine, Blacks
were not able to look to the educational system for a guaranteed path into advertising
(2008: 2).
Other advertising executives concurred. Several respondents to a March 2006
AdAge.com poll reported that in college classes few African Americans enrolled
in advertising courses. Jack Lindgren, who teaches advertising at the University
of Virginia, says that of the forty students in his classes per year, “only a few” are
African American: “If have one or two, I’m very lucky” (Sanders 2006).
Another reason cited for the low numbers is high demand for a small pool
of qualified candidates. “’There’s a certain percentage of African-Americans in
the general population, and those that have graduated from college are a small
part of that. Competition for them is strong,’ said Richards, of the 4As. ‘They’ve
got options’.” In addition to the wide diversity of reasons listed above, the reality
remains clear. Overt discrimination in advertising has always existed:
The industry has a history of segregation by race and gender. Harold Levine, founder of
now-defunct Levine, Huntley, Schmidt & Beaver, recalls that when he interviewed at
agencies after World War II, he was told to limit his job search to those agencies known as
Jewish only. “It was only in the late ‘60s, in the midst of the creative revolution, and small
agencies were hiring Jews and women. It was only then that the giant agencies started to
talk about diversity. The history of the agency business is one of white male Christians.
The culture is very white and masculine” (Sanders 2006).
History of Labor Regulation in Advertising:
Why Is This Regulation Necessary?
Discrimination in advertising, as in most other professions, was commonplace
and unchallenged until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Equal opportunity in employment was blatantly denied under the long-standing system of legal
segregation. Finally, out of the widespread protests, marches, sit-ins, and clashes
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Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
across the nation, the Civil Rights Act was passed, guaranteeing the right of equal
employment opportunity in private industry to every individual. Title VII established its investigative and administrative role, with the formation of the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
Title VII … declared it an unlawful employment practice for companies … with 25
employees or members to fail or refuse to hire, to exclude or expel, or to limit, segregate,
or classify its employees or members in any way that would deprive any individual of
employment opportunities because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin (EEOC
1968).
Regulators quickly came to the realization that “large, diffuse interest groups
have trouble enforcing mutually desired norms in the absence of coercion” (Bernstein 2001: 111). By the 1960s, the advertising industry publicly announced
its dedication to diversity in recruitment and hiring, but, without legal coercion,
there was no pressure to change.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights was first established in
1945 as the New York State Commission Against Discrimination. Its goal was to
pass fair employment legislation and set up an independent committee to investigate charges of discrimination. The Commission eventually became the leading
government body in the nation examining discrimination in the advertising industry. However, its first goal was to examine how advertising incorporated African Americans (Chambers 2008: 60); hiring practices were a secondary concern.
The Commission conducted a study in the early 1960s that served as the foundation for examination of the use of minorities in advertising: “Their study revealed
that even in the rare instances in which blacks appeared in advertisements, they
usually did so in an institutional role as an employee of the advertiser rather than
as spokespersons. Agencies included them as evidence of an integrated employment policy within the company sponsoring the advertising” (160–61).
Why would use of minorities in advertising imagery be considered evidence
of an “integrated employment policy”? The underlying assumption in the 1960s
was that minorities must be used in ads to clearly communicate that the advertiser
does not discriminate in its own employment policies. Clearly, by this time, agencies and clients began to realize that featuring minorities makes good business
sense; it reflects racial and ethnic diversity in employment and also communicates
effective target marketing strategies to reach diverse consumers. Given the spending power of minorities, marketers realized it would be unwise not to employ
minorities in advertising imagery. William Boyenton writes:
The Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) … took the position that advertisers owed Negroes an obligation now and they proposed to have the demands satisfied. Either Negroes
were to be incorporated in general advertising or the advertisers being addressed—which
Chapter 2 Regulation of Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
19
were the nation’s biggest consumer spenders—might expect to have Negro patronage
withheld; the euphemism, “selective patronage,” was used (1965: 228).
Boyenton notes that from the inception of advertising three fundamental
rules have dominated its practice: “to advertise to people ready, willing and able to
buy; to use the media which reach them; to make advertisements which will win
their business” (227). However, there is another dimension, a “social responsibility to represent Negroes in general advertising.” He explains that the first three
rules of practicing advertising are concerned with generating profit, while the last
rule deals with social responsibility.
As minority representation began to improve slightly in the 1960s, the
NYSHR still argued there were contradictions and blatant inequalities in how advertising agencies, advertisers, and networks ignored or portrayed African Americans and other minorities in advertisements. Chambers states:
So, since networks and producers were open to more black actors, and advertisers followed agency recommendation, the NYSHR concluded … that advertising agencies were
the stumbling block. Their study revealed that even in the rare instances in which blacks
appeared in advertisements, they usually did so in an institutional role as employees of
the advertiser rather than as spokespersons. Agencies included them as evidence of an
integrated employment policy within the company sponsoring the advertisement. To be
fair, this was a direct response to the arguments from black marketing and advertising
professionals who stressed the need for firms to display their fair hiring policies as a way
to reach black consumers. To commissioners, this institutional approach, while not problematic by itself, unfairly limited the roles black could play in advertisements (Chambers
2008: 161).
According to Chambers, the continuing work of civil rights organizations like
CORE and the NAACP and NYSHR commissioners recognized the “shell
game”-like arguments that networks, advertising agencies, and advertisers were
always using about African Americans in advertisements. They recognized “that
it was easy for the networks to pass the responsibility for blacks’ invisibility on
television onto advertising agencies and for agencies to pass it back to networks
or onto their clients.” Consequently, if investigations evolved beyond advertising
images to include agency hiring policies, the Commission could threaten agencies with more than moral arguments; it could threaten to prosecute under state
fair employment laws. Moreover, since advertising agencies were the link between
networks and advertisers, they had the influence to change the policies of both
parties about the use of minorities (161). Again, without the threat of fines or
legal action, there is little incentive for any organization to change its practices.
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Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Civil Rights Struggles and Advertising Employment
By the late 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement had critically changed the ways African Americans were depicted in mass media and the advertising industry, particularly. According to Robert Baker and Sandra Ball, a January 1, 1969 study, “Mass
Media and Violence: A Staff Report to National Commission on the Causes and
Prevention of Violence,” issued by the Kerner Commission examined the effects
of the mass media on the sociological and psychological disposition of the dominant and subordinate cultures. It showed that daily repetition of commercials and
programs has impressed on African American families that they are have-nots
(Baker & Ball 1969). During and immediately following the Civil Rights struggle, African Americans demanded that the mass media accurately portray them
in real life situations as wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, workers, and family
members, like the elite who control political, economic, and cultural power. African Americans wanted to be depicted as a people who have the same aspirations,
desires, and needs as the rest of contemporary American society. They wanted to
be incorporated into the advertising industry not only as consumers but also as
employees, but discrimination impeded their aspirations. The Civil Rights Act
provided a mechanism they could use to challenge explicit discrimination. In the
words of Alfred Blumrosen, who in the 1960s served as a consultant to the New
Jersey Civil Rights Commission, Office of Equal Opportunity of the Department
of Housing and Urban Development, and Office of Federal Contract Compliance
of the Department of Labor,
The crucial innovation in the 1964 Civil Rights Act was the enlargement of the role of the
individual right to sue in the federal courts, rather than the enhancement of administrative agency powers. Victims of discrimination were given the right to sue in the federal
courts if informal administrative efforts did not settle their claims.... Under the statute as
administered, the group interest of minorities is an equal with labor and management at
the negotiating table and in the courtroom (Blumrosen 1971: 4).
With this background, African Americans were finally in a position to challenge employment discrimination against them in the advertising industry. The
New York City Human Rights Commission finally began to implement one of
its secondary goals: to improve recruitment and training of minorities in advertising. In mid-1963, the Urban League released its study of agency employment
discrimination (Bloch 1963). The study indicated that 2.5 percent of advertising
agency employees were Negro, most in clerical positions. Only 0.7% of managers
in advertising were Negro (EEOC 1968: 563, 565). In addition to these relatively
small numbers was the fact that black employees were concentrated in a small
number of agencies (Chambers 2008: 170).
Chapter 2 Regulation of Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
21
This report, along with the powerful influence of the Civil Rights Movement,
led to a period of intensive scrutiny and dramatic change in the industry. Government and corporate leaders stepped into action. The industry responded with
what trade reporters described as a “tremendous push” of training and recruitment programs that began to increase the number of blacks working in mainstream agencies (Chambers 2008: 159). Based on the Urban League study results,
the American Association for Advertising Agencies (AAAA) lent its support to job
equality, and issued a public statement on antidiscrimination, stating that it was
“vital to seek out, recognize, and employ the best talents available … regardless
of race, color, religion or national origin.” Around that same time, the NYCHR
sent invitations to ninety-nine agencies to meet with them to discuss the question:
“What are agencies doing about equal job opportunity, can they do more (164)?”
Over the course of the 1960s, many agencies developed training and hiring programs, often reaching out to minority college and high school students. By 1968,
the New York Times reported, “Black America is becoming visible in America’s biggest national advertising medium. Not in a big way yet, but it is a beginning and
men in high places give assurances that there will be a lot more visibility (Wilson,
Gutierrez, & Chao 2003: 144).
However, all these positive efforts were short-lived. By 1970, there was a
rapid decline in government pressure, and successive changes in leadership at the
NYCHR severely hampered its ability to foster change in the industry. As the
1960s drew to a close, the sense of urgency had dissipated and other social and
economic issues led civil rights, government organization, and public attention
elsewhere (Chambers 2008: 204–5). Chambers quotes a black advertising executive who noted, “The [racial] revolution on Madison Avenue is dead forever; from
now on it’s all business” (205). Unfortunately, all formal, mandatory, legally enforced efforts to diversify the advertising industry came to a halt and were not
publicly discussed again until the twenty-first century.
Why Representation Is the Primary Concern:
Exploring Advertising’s Cultural Impact
Advertising messages, in order to sell products, also create meaning. The powerful, pervasive influence of advertising is a man-made, carefully constructed reflection not only of the brand image of the product but also of the image of the
consumer and the images in the minds of the people entrusted to create the ads.
Advertising is not subliminal in the hidden messages embedded in ice cubes, but in the
sense that we aren’t consciously aware of what advertising is doing (Kilbourne 1999: 159).
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Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
From the early days of advertising in the eighteenth century to today, the art
and business of advertising has been a well-financed, carefully considered mass
communication effort designed to reshape our social communication and create
needs and wants that did not exist before. Marketers seek to increase profits by
building emotional connections with consumers, and then fostering brand loyalty
by creating artificial, imaginary depictions of narrowly defined target audiences
enjoying those products. These aspirational, emotional, evocative images are designed to homogenize audiences and motivate consumers to see themselves as
achieving idealized goals of happiness through purchase of consumer goods.
Not only does advertising frame representations of various groups, but advertising’s images convey models of contemporary human experience. In the days of
slavery, advertisers proudly displayed images of slaves bought and sold as if they
were beasts of burden. Today, we are surrounded by emotionally engaging images of ethnically diverse, happy people drinking beer, wearing Nikes, smoking
cigarettes, eating fast food. Yet, in either case, to whom do these idealized images
belong? Who is framing these representations? All creative work is a reflection of
its creators. In contemporary times these creators are, of course, the art director,
copywriter, and creative director assigned to the account—and their client. These
individuals, supported by huge media budgets, have enormous power to influence
cultural norms and social behavior. Furthermore, ethnocentrism is an innately
human behavior. Therefore, the background, ethnicity, cultural experiences, and
cultural sensitivity of these creative individuals are of paramount importance in
creating ads that are positive representations of various ethnicities. In Adweek article “Crossing Over,” in 2005, young creative directors are interviewed about the
work of general market agencies attempting to target African Americans:
Perry Fair, a young associate creative director, remembers being a little starstruck as he
sat across the table from one of … the top creative directors, … [He] had been recently
hired by True Agency … a multicultural shop [part of TBWA\Chia\Day in Playa del Rey,
California]. Fair’s awe soon dissolved into shock as the creative director outlined an idea
for a Nissan spot … [that] involved wrapping an entire car—inside and out—in kente
cloth, the colorful, traditional African fabric. The ad would show an African American
family driving around in the car. [The creative director told Fair] “It would be so cool.
You people love that [cloth], right?” Fair … informed the white creative director that such
an ad would be insulting… . “I realized I was witnessing this blind spot in one of this
country’s top creative agencies” (Adweek 2005).
The article points out that “good minority ads … are the opposite of blatant…
. Rather than using cultural cues that are obvious to outsiders, they show subtle
understanding and an insider’s affinity with the audience’s background. “Minority
insights are based on a lifetime of cultural absorption and several years of craft …
Chapter 2 Regulation of Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
23
they are like a private joke that takes a lifetime to tell.” Clearly, effective minority
hiring practices are the key to telling these “private jokes” properly.
Furthermore, advertising reflects the ideological structure of the media and
marketing decision-makers. What is their ideology? Simply put, to generate profits. The key to money-making in advertising is researching, defining, understanding, and reaching out effectively to a defined target audience. These messages,
if well produced, are then fully appropriated by those audiences. According to
Professor Oscar Gandy of The Annenberg School of Communication, “Media
scholars see a causal relationship between media representation and real-life social
relations … media contribute to an understanding and appreciation of difference
and that audiences integrate the beliefs and opinions generated by the media into
their cognitive structures (Creedon & Cramer 2007: 224). With this much power
and influence, it is instructive to examine what code of ethics advertising agencies serve. Unlike journalism, medicine, accounting, and other professions, there
is no formal code of conduct for advertising agencies. Felix Gutierrez, co-author
of Racism, Sexism, and the Media, notes that “Ad agencies serve no moral code
other than to advocate for products so people will buy them” (Wilson et al. 2003:
161). Advertising agencies are designed to do a particular job—to sell products
and please their clients with great creative work and cost-effective media buying.
Advertising agencies are not concerned about the social and cultural impact of
their ads; rather, they must be concerned with generating profits, enabling their
businesses to grow and thrive, and continuing to secure their relationships with
their clients.
The ongoing story of contemporary culture told by the advertising industry
is not just a contemporary issue; it is a reflection of the history of the influence of
advertising since its inception. Let us now examine what this history looks like in
regard to depictions of African Americans.
Overview of Racism in Nineteenth-Century Advertising
Since the colonization by Europeans of the geopolitical area that became the
United States, advertising was used by the ruling elite (those with political, economic, and cultural power) to disseminate images that upheld their hegemony
while demeaning the political, social, economic, and cultural positions of the
powerless segments of society. In the headlines and illustrations of colonial newspapers, images of blacks and American Indians, and later Chinese and Irish, in
product advertisements used blatant derogatory caricatures and idealized views
of characteristics, such as noble savagery, that benefited whites. Runaway slave
advertisements in newspapers and handbills showed that slaveholders regarded
blacks, whether free or enslaved, as subhuman. Obviously there were no roles for
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Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
African Americans to play in the advertising industry from the period of enslavement to the mid-twentieth century. The exclusion of African Americans in the
industry was biased, because it was based primarily on entrenched institutional
racism and bigotry, as well as attempts by the ruling elite to economically disempowered blacks. By implementing such an agenda, the elite unscrupulously
reinforced their racial superiority over Africans and other ethnic minorities in the
United States.
Created by Franklin Green, in 1869. Courtesy of Temple University Libraries, Charles L. Blockson
Afro-American Collection
Chapter 2 Regulation of Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
25
As property, enslaved Africans had no agency and therefore could not affect
the depictions of blacks in advertising. Free blacks who acquired land and wealth
were too few to affect how blacks were portrayed in media advertisements. As
resistance to slavery and lack of fundamental rights for blacks gained momentum, both black and white abolitionists and political leaders fought for accurate
portrayal of Africans in American society. But the dehumanization of blacks and
other minorities remained characteristic of advertising in newspapers and other
media in the United States and persisted into the twentieth century.
A review of advertisements involving blacks showed that the word “boy”
or “girl” was customarily used to describe the
person or persons, no matter their age. Some
differences in content are discernible by geographical locale that relate to the identity of
blacks and other minorities. Refusing to accord blacks the status of adulthood, the derogatory “boy” or “girl” terminology persisted
into the twentieth century. Physical descriptions included the terms mulatto, quadroon,
octoroon, etc., a part of the nascent skin color
prejudice that also plagued African American
identity. Due to the need of accuracy in the attempt to recover a runaway slave, the advertisements described attributes pertaining to work
and artistic skills that reveal accomplishments
of Africans in mastering a trade or other professions.
Images of African Americans were popularly used as logos for products, such as Aunt
Jemima, Uncle Ben, and others. Before and
after the Civil War, racist overtones in advertising were the norm. When the war ended,
blacks were free to begin their own communities,
own their own homes, open businesses, and become
members of the buying public—a viable consumer
market. Their status in society changed, but this
was not reflected in the advertising prevalent during the period. Most advertisers created campaigns
targeted toward white audiences; they used blacks in
their advertising, but in demeaning and stereotypi- No date. Courtesy of Temple Universical postures that appeal to the white society” (Kern- ty Libraries, Charles L. Blockson AfroFoxworth 1994: 29).
American Collection.
26
Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Marilyn Kern-Foxworth offers an historical account of African Americans in advertising with the advent of lithography:
The first large-scale use of blacks in advertising actually came with the introduction of
trade cards. Ranging from wallet size to post card size and larger, trade cards featuring
blacks surfaced in early 1800s as lithographers ... began printing cards for nearly every
product manufactured. Enjoying their greatest popularity between 1870 and 1900, some
of the cards depicted blacks in a positive manner, but others were blatantly racist (33–34).
Early Twentieth Century
In her discussion of advertising from 1900 to the mid-1960s, Kern-Foxworth
found that negative advertising images of blacks remained prevalent in American
society. The logos of the late nineteenth century had become permanent icons in
most American homes:
It was difficult to prepare a meal without using food products featuring a stereotypical
images of pickaninny, black mammy, or black Sambo. In other words, the use of blacks in
pejorative and stereotypical advertising kept them emotionally bound to the idiosyncratic
whims of their former masters. With advertising, former slave owners became masters
over different objects. They made them subservient. They made them docile. They made
them act stupid. They made them appeared ignorant. They made them ugly. They made
them grotesque. They made them want to be white. These symbols not only continued
but proliferated around the turn of the century with the overwhelming success of Uncle
Ben, The Gold Dust Twins, Rastus and Aunt Jemima (40–41).
Kern-Foxworth also asserts that the value of black collectibles, items like trade
cards and household products, grew considerably over the years. Value was related
to how insulting the image and accompanying text were to blacks; the greater the
insult the higher the value. The most prized images depicted blacks in compromising positions, and the visages were extremely exaggerated: large heads, thick
lips, pop eyes, and huge teeth (34).
From the eighteenth century to the first fifty years of the twentieth, advertising agencies virtually ignored African American consumers, because they argued
that white entrepreneurs thought that pitching their products to black consumers
would blurring the products’ image with mainstream consumers. Advertisers felt
that white America had the economic power to obtain the advertised products.
Mid-Twentieth Century
African American consumers were suddenly appreciated by the advertising industry immediately following World War II because advertisers finally recognized
that black consumers had economic power and as enterprising as white consumers. Studies showed that even though African Americans were at the bottom rung
Chapter 2 Regulation of Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
N. K. Fairbank Company, Dept. 20,
Chicago, May 1, 1905. Courtesy of
Temple University Libraries, Charles
L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.
Postcard sent from Phoenix, Arizona,
February 16, 1909. Courtesy of Temple
University Libraries, Charles L. Blockson
Afro-American Collection.
1910. Courtesy of Temple University Libraries, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.
27
28
Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Cream of Wheat Co., 1923.
Courtesy of Temple University
Libraries, Charles L. Blockson
Afro-American Collection.
Cream of Wheat Co., 1924.
Courtesy of Temple University
Libraries, Charles L. Blockson
Afro-American Collection.
Chapter 2 Regulation of Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
29
of the socioeconomic ladder, they were still large contributors to the economy.
Marketers failed to design and implement advertisement aimed at African Americans, considering their impressive spending power. By the 1930s representational
use of images in advertising that would appeal to black consumers had progressed
from marginal, demeaning, and erroneous images to more inclusive elevating and
sometimes accurate views of blacks as working-class cooks, chauffeurs, porters,
nannies, and other domestic workers. These stereotypical characterizations emanated from the whites’ ideology and worldview. From the 1940s through the
1950s, the socioeconomic status of these characters was depicted without any
subtlety.
The 1960s and 1970s: Representation Improves, But Is It Positive?
From the 1960s onward, efforts to target minorities improved as marketers recognized African American buying power. Unfortunately, corporations interested
in minority-targeted marketing focused primarily and blatantly on marketing
harmful products, such as alcohol and tobacco, directly to African American consumers in the black print and broadcast media. The prevalence of advertising for
alcohol and tobacco was eventually attacked by the educated African American
elites; rampant alcoholism and tobacco use were vices that threatened to destroy
the quality of life in black families and led to campaigns to reject sponsorship of
corporations that sold those products. In addition, hair care and skin care products, a billion-dollar industry, were marketed by promoting the European ideal of
beauty. These products pushed blacks to use harmful chemicals on their hair and
skin in order to assimilate into the mainstream community; this attempt to adapt
led to a negative self-image based on cultural rejection of their natural appearance
and beauty. Furthermore, the marketing of luxury items such as Cadillacs, while
appropriate for the small community of middle-class blacks, also influenced poor
urban black communities to engage in splurging on products that they could not
afford.
The 1980s: A Fundamental Turn to More Positive Images
By the 1980s, when the Cosby Show appeared, Bill Cosby, through his positive
influence and media power, had major sponsors, including Kraft Foods, the
manufacturer of Jell-O pudding. Cosby became the spokesperson for Jell-O and
appeared in a series of commercials with an ethnically diverse group of children.
Equally important, these images started fundamental turn for more positive images of African Americans in advertisements. The Census Bureau reports that,
30
Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
around 60 percent of black households in 1990 had incomes of less than $25,000, compared to 40 percent of white households. However, only about one third of blacks are
poor; two thirds are above the Census Bureau’s poverty threshold index for 1991. Studies
also show that the middle- and upper-income segments of the black community have
grown enormously in the past ten years. More than 13 percent of households headed by
blacks have incomes of $50,000 or more. And, in this highly segmented market, even
people with lower incomes buy and use goods and services (Rossman 1994: 123).
The demand for recognition and inclusive advertising by African American
consumers became quite compelling. As Rossman writes in Multicultural Marketing: Selling to a Diverse America, “African Americans are a large, enterprising and
growing market, representing about 32 million people, with close to $300 billion
in spending power” (124). Although blacks are generating more income, they
strive to maintain their “African American identity” and not become like white
consumers; they are not consistently brand loyal, for they are what Rossman calls
“a highly subsegmented and stratified market” (126). In this marketing milieu,
Some members of the black lower class are more responsive to marketing campaigns that
stress images of black unity and Afrocentric identity over all other issues. On the other
hand, middle-class and upscale African Americans’ increased pride in black culture is not
usually a major factor in their purchasing decisions (136).
The reason black lower class respond to marketing advertisements that depict
images of black unity and Afrocentric identity over all other issues is that some
lower-class blacks are motivated to buy items that express black identity to gain
esteem and enrichment in their own culture. They indicate they are more willing
to show their racial loyalty; their actions are akin to behavior such as selecting
African-sounding names for themselves and their children. The fact that middleclass and upscale blacks often do not base buying on their need to express black
identity is not surprising, given that their education and employment would influence them to emulate others in their socioeconomic class and refrain from
expressions of black identity that could adversely affect their economic or social
standing.
Late Twentieth-Century Multicultural Marketing Efforts
Racial discourse and construction of stereotypes clearly adapt and change over
time. African Americans were demanding to be heard and recognized. However,
among marketers, until the early 1980s, it was still assumed that minorities were
not the most desirable marketing targets. “Mainstream advertisers, some publishers argued, wanted affluent readers who could afford the products they advertised.
Denying any racist intentions, the newspaper managers said that they were merely
following more affluent readers” (Wilson et al. 2003: 27). Presently many media
outlets operate using a “marketing approach that seems ironic, counterintuitive
Chapter 2 Regulation of Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
31
and anachronistic”; but instead of targeting their media to diverse audiences, they
basically “aimed for the most affluent demographic and waited for those readers
or viewers to come to them” (27).
In 1979, John Mount of the Los Angeles Times marketing research department
said, “We don’t approach marketing from a racial standpoint. It just happens that
the more affluent and educated people tend to be White… . We want a certain
class of audience, a certain demographic profile or reader, whether that person be
Black, White, or Brown or Chinese or whatever … as their income goes up and
their educational level comes up … they become prospects for our advertisers”
(Wilson et al. 2003: 28). But over the 1980s, as some newspapers, such as the Los
Angeles Times, witnessed decreases in readership, newspapers and their advertisers
realized that they could no longer “sit back and wait for richer and better educated people of color to ‘become interested in a newspaper like the Times.’ … The
newspaper ownership … recognized that they would have to compete for readers
against … the growing ethnic media” (28). Finally, by the 1990s, with the rise of
various print and broadcast ethnic media, marketers realized that ethnic consumers were not a problem but an opportunity (29). Suddenly, contemporary marketers realized not only that multicultural marketing was a smart business move, but
that they had a significant role to play to overcome and counteract generations of
insult to minorities.
The 1990s and 2000s: Rise of Multicultural Marketing
By the early 1990s, ethnic or multicultural marketing became the mantra of contemporary marketing. This new marketing paradigm views the market as “divided
into segments and aims at gathering information regarding the customers, traditions, rituals, relationships and identifies of these segments of potential consumers” (Lamont & Molnar 2001: 35). Marketers realized that media that successfully
appealed to diverse audiences, with culturally relevant messages, would have the
greatest chance for success. Clearly, the goal of advertising is to promote sales and
consumption. Extensive market research and testing helps advertisers determine
which markets are most viable. According to Wilson, Gutierrez, and Chao, “Racial and ethnic media are in an exploitative relationship with their audience …
advertising promotes products as quick fixes for low income consumers. The message is you may not live in the best neighborhoods, but you can drink the same
liquor (as white people)” (2003: 166).
As multicultural marketing grew, the categories of liquor, tobacco, and alcohol advertising continued to dominate minority-targeted media outlets. Research
has shown that African Americans are still more aggressively targeted than white
audiences with ads for alcohol, fast food, and tobacco. In 2003, the Center on
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Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) issued a report, “Exposure of AfricanAmerican Youth to Alcohol Advertising, 2003 to 2004,” detailing the exposure
of African American youth to alcohol advertising in magazines and on radio and
television. That report provided the first comprehensive review of African American youth exposure to alcohol advertising. Specifically, the report finds that:
Compared to the per capita exposure of youth in general, African-American youth were
exposed to 17% more beer and ale magazine advertising and 43% more distilled spirits
magazine advertising per capita in 2003, as well as 21 % more beer and ale advertising
and 42% more distilled spirits advertising in magazines in 2004.
Alcohol advertising was placed on all fifteen of the most-watched television
programs among African-American youth in 2004. Three leading alcoholic beverage brands (Bud Light, Heineken Beer and Miller Genuine Draft) contributed
more than half of the nearly $4.8 million spent on this advertising (Center on
Alcohol Marketing and Youth 2003).
The data regarding tobacco advertising are equally convincing, though unfortunately not surprising. A 2007 study by Brian A. Primack, James E. Bost,
Stephanie R. Land, and Michael J. Fine indicates that African Americans are also
still exposed to more pro-tobacco advertising than Caucasians. “The pooled rate
ratio of African American to Caucasian tobacco-related billboard densities was
2.6 (95% CI 1.5, 4.7), indicating that there were 2.6 times as many tobacco advertisements per person in African American neighborhoods compared with Caucasian neighborhoods” (Primack, Bost, Land & Fine 2007). Previously, African
Americans who wanted recognition at times imitated upper-class members of the
mainstream culture through “conspicuous consumption of goods usually associated with wealth” (Rossman 1994: 141). For example, African Americans on the
lower economic rungs of American society tend to depict wealth by purchasing
expensive cars, clothing, and other luxury items. Thus Michele Lamont and Virag
Molnar argue that “Marketing specialists believe that blacks use consumption
to signify and acquire equality, respect, acceptance and status” (2001: 31). Marketers interpret the buying habits of blacks as strongly guided by a desire to be
recognized as equal and full participating members of society and to disprove the
stereotype of blacks as belonging to an underclass deprived of buying power. This
desire is manifested in distinct consumption patterns: in comparison to whites,
blacks spend disproportionately more on items that they view as affirming their
equal standing (36).
Between alcohol, tobacco, fast food ads, and omnipresent selling of conspicuous consumption, it is clear that African Americans, even today, are often still not
positively reflected in representations created by advertising agencies.
Chapter 2 Regulation of Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
33
Conclusion: Why Is Regulation of Minority Hiring Essential?
The African American community has experienced oppression and institutionalized discrimination in employment and in other spheres of life in the United
States, from times of slavery to the present-day. Understanding the racist ideas
that sanctioned the oppression provides only a partial explanation for the persistence of stereotypical or negative images of African Americans in the mass media.
On review of the brief history of mandatory diversification and the long history
of negative representation, our conclusions support the theory that encouraging
and fostering significant ethnic diversity among advertising personnel is not just
an important regulatory issue to address historical failures, but is essential to positively portray representational images of diverse ethnicities in order for cultural
stereotypes to change.
However, since the 1960s when the Civil Rights struggles demanded institutional reforms so that minority populations could fully participate in all spheres
of society, little has changed in the advertising industry in regard to equality in
hiring practices. In fact, though significant efforts were made to train and recruit
African Americans in the 1960s, real change did not materialize. By 1970, discussions related to minority hiring in advertising disappeared from the headlines and
subsequently virtually disappeared from the boardrooms and human resources
departments of advertising agencies.
Today, although there are still vestiges of racial discrimination, the perceptions of white Americans have started to change. The advertising industry has
obviously seized this opportunity, evaluated and welcomed the growth of minority populations as potential customers, and begun to step forward and create some
very culturally positive multicultural marketing campaigns. In the twenty-first
century, multicultural marketing has become a necessity, given the multiracial and
multiethnic characteristics of America. Despite this, as recently as 2006, the New
York Human Rights Commission study showed that virtually no progress had
been made in terms of employment. Again, only government mandates will force
organizations to focus on and improve minority hiring practices. Many agencies
have hired Chief Diversity Officers to ensure that diversity in hiring practices is a
top priority. Chambers observes that “just as agencies used their creative power to
encourage people to switch their brands of toothpaste, they should use those same
powers to create an interest in the industry within the black and Puerto Rican
communities” (2008: 178). We believe that advertising has tremendous power
and influence in our community. In addition, advertising has a financial mandate
and a moral imperative to promote diversity in its imagery. Ultimately, we expect
that the changes discussed above will help lead to true respect for cultural differences in our society, and we hope that over time, employment discrimination
34
Dana Saewitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor
will be entirely eliminated within the advertising industry. Perhaps then, one day,
there will be no need for government agencies to serve as watchdogs.
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers
and the Formation of White
Racial Group Consciousness
Natalie P. Byfield
The centrality of mass media to modern, western-type democracies has been undisputed for over 200 years. Until the latter part of the twentieth century, newspapers were the main type of information media. Social theorists often discuss the
context of the expansion of individual rights and the sovereignty of the people
over the ruling groups, ideas that define the era of the European Enlightenment.
As such, newspapers were a part of American colonial society. However, the early
colonial press in America was an advance over the press in Europe at the time.
In England, newspaper publishers were required to buy a license for the right to
publish. That was one of many restrictive policies whose aim was to “control the
flow of information on government affairs” (Pasley 2000: 53). Fearful that such
policies would lead to newspapers that were mouthpieces for the government, the
colonial administration in America refused to adopt these types of measures (54).
Many of the values being institutionalized in the press in colonial America were
newfound principles based on freedom from domination. These principles were
an extension of ideas from the Enlightenment, whose philosophers also grappled
with the issues of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in the New World (Davis
1975). These values thus conflicted with the most significant features of the economic system in colonial America.
This clash of values was evident on the pages of colonial and post-colonial
newspapers in the U.S. During the nascent years of the nation, there were essentially two kinds of newspapers, partisan and commercial. The partisan papers
represented political parties and were a platform for their views. The commercial
papers were essentially advertising sheets. The commercial papers shared features
of the political papers in that their editorials also were partisan and their “news”
coverage was limited. However, advertising was the focus of the commercial papers. Those in the coastal cities served as business journals that were essentially
“shipping newsreporting the payload of cargo ships (Schudson 1978: 14). While
these colonial newspapers carried advertising, they were very different in their
business or economic structure from the “modern” or “free market” newspapers
that would develop in the early nineteenth century.
This difference in business structure would prove to be quite significant as
far as the role of the media in society was concerned. Advertising would play a
new role in the “free market” papers of the early nineteenth century reshaping the
36
Natalie P. Byfield
relationship between media and society. This relationship was determined at the
time when the future of slavery was also being decided. Hence, the new role for
advertising also tells a story about race in America. It is the story of the development of white group consciousness and the importance of the emerging “free
market” mass media. Ultimately, this new role for advertising suggests that in a
racialized state like America, the market gave birth to and built some elements of
white nationalism.
Normalization of Whiteness a Vital Issue in Race and Media Studies
Much of the scholarship in sociology and other fields about the relationship between media institutions and the phenomenon of race in western societies is from
the perspective of the negative impact media have on racial minority communities. Research about negative racial representations in films and television programming (Gray 2004; hooks 1992; Rodriguez 1998; Wilson & Gutierrez 1995)
charts for us the history of these representations and their relationship to socioeconomic and political developments in the formation of the racialized model
of capitalism in the United States. Research about the selection process of representations in news media content (Campbell 1995; Entman 1992; Martindale
1986) focuses on media’s internal organizational structure and social processes
that reproduce racial hierarchies. There is also research on the internal organization or structure of media institutions and its relationship to the external social
order (Chancer 2005; Hall et al. 1978; van Dijk 1993a) on the impact of media
on audiences or society in general (Entman & Rojecki 2001; Shohat & Stam
1994; Wilson & Gutierrez 1995).
Regardless of the focus of the research, the often underlying premise and stated conclusion are often that media play a significant role in the construction and
maintenance of the subordinate position of racial minorities in western societies.
But there is little research on the role of the media, in the initial development of
white group domination. What we have learned about race using social constructivist analysis is that the phenomenon of racial groupings materialized and was
reproduced through social interactions, governed by social practices that grew
into an ideology of group domination that generated socioeconomic and political
laws and policies that would reproduce existing hierarchies (Bonilla-Silva 2006;
Fields 1990; Omi & Winant 1994; Zuberi & Bonilla-Silva 2008).
This reliance on an ideology of group domination for the reproduction of
racial groupings suggests that media institutions, whose products—newspapers,
films, books, and so on—dominate the public sphere, likely play a significant role
in the social construction of race: not just that of the “otherized” but of those
whose race have been normalized. This likelihood was raised more than fifty years
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and Formation of White Consciousness
37
ago by prominent sociologist Herbert Blumer. In a speech in 1956 at the dedication of the Robert E. Park building at Fisk University—one of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities—Blumer merged notions of racial group
consciousness, racial group position or domination, and the role of the media:
My thesis is that race prejudice exists basically in a sense of group position… . [This approach] shifts scholarly treatment away from individual lines of experience and focuses
interest on the collective process by which a racial group comes to define and redefine
another racial group. A basic understanding of race prejudice must be sought in the
process by which racial groups form images of themselves and others. This process … is
fundamentally a collective process. It operates chiefly through the public media in which
individuals who are accepted as the spokesmen of a group characterize publicly another
racial group (Blumer 1958:3).
Blumer’s level of analysis—group consciousness—suggests that it would be
appropriate to investigate how people construct discourse—the frameworks people use to view the world. The production of discourse is one of the most important processes in the development of racial group consciousness.
Racism, defined as a system of racial and ethnic inequality, can survive only when it is
daily reproduced through multiple acts of exclusion, inferiorisation or marginalisation.
Such acts need to be sustained by an ideological system and by a set of attitudes that legitimate difference and dominance. Discourse is the principal means for the construction
and reproduction of this socio-cognitive framework (van Dijk 1993b: 192).
The research of scholars such as Teun van Dijk, who analyze media discourse
in the public sphere, suggests that the imbalance of power between the media and
individuals or groups privileges media constructs. Van Dijk (1993a) argues that
the media managers in western nations like the United States construct all aspects
of media content—sourcing of information, rhetoric, and story subjects—to support the racial dominance of whites. But, media’s discourse on race comes not
only from editorial content, as described by van Dijk, but also from advertising.
Since much of the research on how media discourse shapes relationships of race
is based on studies of editorial content, it behooves us to understand how the
development of advertising possibly advanced white racial formations and in the
case of this study white racial group consciousness.
White Group Consciousness and Mass Culture
in the Early Nineteenth Century
Some historians argue that whites in America shared a hegemonic position of
domination over blacks after the Civil War when threatened by the competition
from the newly freed black laborers and the amassing of black political power
under Reconstruction (Hodes 1997; Fredrickson 1971). But this was not the case
38
Natalie P. Byfield
in post-revolutionary America and the early nineteenth century. To arrive at the
point where elite and moderate-income whites would share a hegemonic position
of domination over blacks required a change in the perception of the roles of poor
and moderate-income European descendants Whites, particularly those who were
not owners of large tracts of land or enough capital to be independent merchants
or businesspeople, would need to differentiate themselves from people classified
as black and/or slaves. Some historians suggest that this demarcation is in part
based on categories of labor (Hodes 1997) and how this group of laborers became
a self-reflexive group (Roediger 1999).
The change in perception began during the post-revolutionary era, when
many of the people who would become categorized as “white” had experienced
a transformation from being classified as British subjects to being classified as
unsubjugated/independent, rational people in an independent republic (Roediger
1999; Saxton 2003). By the end of the war, many whites had served out their
indenture, some by fighting in the war. David Roediger argues that in celebrating
the passage of the Constitution it was clear that many European descendants with
little or no capital had fought for personal independence and dignity for the types
of work they did. Journeymen, artisans who had completed their apprenticeship,
were on their way to becoming masters of their crafts (and other people) through
employment of artisans. Artisans, or skilled craftspeople, were proliferating in the
urban areas; even “mechanics,” who before the war were low-level workers, were
gaining importance in this new society (1999).
However, U.S. society in the early nineteenth century still drew comparisons
between slaves and white wage laborers: “the experiences of the white artisans
themselves encouraged the consideration of white slavery as a possible social category” (Roediger 1999: 67). The words “servant” and “slave” were interchangeable
(47). Roediger expounds that
[There is a] tendency of US citizens toward “confounding the term servant with that of
slave.” There was good reason for such confounding, dating from the early imprecisions
of colonial usages of slave and servant right through Noah Webster’s inconsistent distinctions between the two terms in the dictionary of 1828 and the tendency in the South to
apply servant overwhelmingly to slaves in the antebellum years (47).
This is an indicator that the “race” of working-class Europeans was not yet constructed as white. Indeed, as a group, may in some cases have been constructed
as “black.”
Historian Barbara Fields contends that slavery did not exist in America because of an ideology of racial differentiation; instead the ideology of race developed as an explanation for slavery in “a republic founded on radical doctrines
of liberty and natural rights” (1990: 114). She finds that race, like other ideolo-
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and Formation of White Consciousness
39
gies, is constructed in language to explain social relation created and reproduced
through daily, ritualized interactions (110). This period in the late eighteenth and
early nineteenth centuries saw low- and middle-income Europeans beginning to
distinguish themselves; when the terms “servant” and “slave” were still somewhat
synonymous, the ideology of race did not as yet incorporate the “black/white”
dichotomy of contemporary America. Without the entrenchment of an ideology of race based on dichotomous groupings, this nascent group of workers of
European descent could hardly see themselves as a race completely distinct from
blacks or having the same interest(s) as upper-class people of European descent.
As Roediger (1999: 67) notes, wage laborers of European descent simultaneously
feared two things: loss of their independence as laborers and erosion of their status
to that of slave.
It is no surprise that this period saw the rise of a labor movement. Urban
craftsmen fought for a ten-hour workday and anything that would establish them
as independent and not like slaves. The push to further distinguish themselves
from blacks/slaves grew with the abolition movement—which advanced considerably at the beginning of the nineteenth century and became more radicalized
by the 1830s. Radical abolitionism heightened the efforts of working-class Europeans to distinguish themselves from blacks because the extensive role of blacks
in the abolition movement made it clear that black and slave were not “naturally”
equated (Roediger 1999: 67).
Roediger’s research on urban workers of European descent in the Northeast
during the nineteenth century identifies the self-reflexivity of this group through
the ways in which they try to distinguish themselves from blacks, who were largely
classified as slaves.1 Roediger argues that white labor, was successfully able to construct a differentiation from black labor through an ideological shift that made
it more acceptable to be considered wage labor. Like Fields (1990) and Higginbotham (1992), Roediger notes the importance of language to the development
of racial groupings. Roediger said that in the early nineteenth century, the terms
“hireling,” “serving for hire or wages” were a slur:
Webster’s 1829 dictionary of American English gives “prostitute” as a synonym for hireling and further defines hirelings as “perjurers by virtue of their avarice.” … The term was
especially opprobrious for American republicans. In particular, the artisanal followers of
Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson held that a free government required “independent”
small producers who owned productive property and therefore were neither cowed nor
mercenary, as lifelong hirelings would inevitably be. For Paine, “freedom [was] destroyed
by dependence” and servant was an opprobrious term. Hirelings and slaves were sometimes connected in popular logic… . Thus, the gradual transition to wage labor from
1800 to 1860 (and beyond) was an extremely serious matter for labor republicans… .
From Tom Paine to Abraham Lincoln ran a line of thought that held that wage labor was
not degrading per se—for Paine, man was free in large part because he held “property in
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Natalie P. Byfield
his own labor. “Wage labor could then be a rite of passage on the road to the economic
independence of free farming or of self-employed craft labor (45).
Occurring simultaneously with the changing connotations associated with wage
laborers was the increase in voting rights allotted to this group as well as the decrease of these rights allotted to free blacks.
What were the features of the culture that gave rise to this segment of white
group consciousness? The formation of modern mass media in the United States
occurred during this period—the Jacksonian Era (Schudson 1978; Saxton 1984).
This moment ushered in the Penny Press. This early form of the modern media
system congealed around an economic model that required media to pull together
the largest possible audience to sell to advertisers (Wilson & Gutierrez 1995).
That this audience was low- and moderate-income European descendants is not
an accident. This group of “whites ”in early U.S. society that developed with or
through the emergent media system distinguished itself because its members had
found an ideological path that separated them from slaves and free blacks and
could eventually unite them with the hegemonic group of European elites.
The Penny Press spoke to this budding group of European descendants. These
newspapers represented their interests, and could be financially sustained because
the Penny Press papers had structured themselves to benefit from the new class
position of this audience and their advertiser peers. Unlike slaves and many freed
blacks, these white wage laborers had access to capital, albeit not as much as elite
whites, and they could earn a living. With ideological support to be wage laborers, these white workers began to articulate their own interest with the formation
of unions. Terms like “mechanics society,” “artisan,” and “journeyman” grew in
popularity (Roediger 1999: 50). The Penny Press was for them.
During this period there was also a growing “alternative” medium—the abolitionist press, published by both whites and blacks. This “alternative medium”
was similar to the Penny Press in being nonpartisan;2 yet, the abolitionist media,
both black and white, are typically not included in the history of the Penny Press.
The history of the abolitionist press shows that it was a counterpoint to the “traditional” Penny Press of the era. Some of the issues in the abolitionist press were
not supported by the audience that bought the Penny Press.
The black press played a strong, vocal role in the fight against slavery. There
were approximately 500,000 free blacks in the U.S. during this period; however,
the black communities across the nation had tremendous difficulty financially to
support a black press (Rhodes 1994). About forty black-owned newspapers were
started in the antebellum U.S., but only six were able to survive for more than
two years.
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and Formation of White Consciousness
41
Poverty, illiteracy, competing political agendas, and the social effects of racism and discrimination contributed to the creation of an audience that could not support—financially or otherwise—a single vision of one newspaper. African American publications
played a vital role in galvanizing the abolitionist movement, encouraging education and
racial improvement, and disseminating the news, yet nearly all operated at a loss and most
were short lived (Rhodes 1994).
The first black newspaper in the U.S., Freedom’s Journal, began publishing in
1827 by free blacks Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm (Franklin 1980: 188).
In 1829, Cornish published another paper, Rights of All; and in 1836 he published the Weekly Advocate (188). He began another joint venture in 1837 called
the Colored American. “Other black abolitionist newspapers were the National
Watchman, edited by William G. Allen and Henry Highland Garnet; the Mirror
of Liberty, a quarterly issued by David Ruggles; and, of course, the North Star of
Frederick Douglass” (189). Unlike the Penny Press, whose readership grew almost
exponentially, the black press had trouble gaining subscribers. The same is true for
the white abolitionist press, Rhodes argues.
The white abolitionist press took both moderate and more radical positions
concerning the future of slavery in the U.S. The more moderate abolitionist took
the position of “the American Colonization Society, which was formed in 1816
to promote the colonization of free blacks in Africa” (Davis 1975: 33). Charles
Osborn published the Philanthropist in Ohio in 1817, then moved to Tennessee
in 1819 and published the Manumission; Elihu Embree published the Emancipator in Jonesboro, Tennessee in 1820; Quaker William Swain published the Patriot
in Greensboro, North Carolina; and William Lloyd Garrison, one of the most
famous radical white abolitionists, published the Liberator around 1830 (Franklin
1980: 180–85). Franklin points to the period after 1830 as the rise of the militant
abolitionists; he notes that they were often faced violence.
Elijah P. Lovejoy was run out of St. Louis for criticizing the leniency of a judge in the trial
of persons accused of burning a Negro alive. Later in Alton, Illinois, he was killed when
a mob destroyed for the fourth time the press on which he printed the Alton Observer.
In Cincinnati a mob destroyed James Birney’s press in 1836, and he barely escaped with
his life (185).
Much of this type of violence was instigated by early Penny Press editors (Mindich
2000: 19). Mindich cites incidents in which the violence was directed at both
abolitionist editors and African Americans who happened to be around.
The “white-run” abolitionist papers also experienced very limited success. They did not
reach the circulation the Penny Press, in general, achieved: “In reality, most anti-slavery
and other associational newspapers had circulations that rarely reached in the thousands.
William Lloyd Garrison noted that even ten years after he began publishing the Liberator,
the paper never had more than about 3,000 subscribers (Rhodes 1994).
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Natalie P. Byfield
It is clear that the media at this time had various positions on the race question. What has not been clearly acknowledged is that the development of these
media reflected articulations of a particular group position—whiteness. Roediger’s research suggests that the establishment of the consciousness of this group
of whites as wage laborers was only part of what was taking place. This group was
differentiating between itself and blacks, both slaves and free, to construct a distinction in consciousness based on whiteness (1999: 87).
Despite the limited reach of the abolitionist papers, they were actively engaged in dialogue with the Penny Press. One of the subjects of coverage in the
black and white abolitionist press that was also included in mainstream news
coverage was condemnation of the use of bloodhounds to track runaway slaves
and Native Americans:
however unexceptional these southern slave-catching dogs may have been, abolitionists
were nonetheless offended at the way slave owners animalized slaves by sending dogs after
them as though they were beasts of the forests. In an 1832 description of a slave hunt in
South Carolina, the Boston Liberator (published by William Lloyd Garrison) conveyed
this animalization by noting that the “slavite” used “his guns and dogs to destroy ” two
fugitives as though they were “panthers or bears” (Campbell 2006: 273).
Ironically the black and white abolitionist press could not help each other
survive against the relative juggernaut the Penny Press represented. Two of the
great leaders in the alternative press arena, Garrison and Douglass, went their
separate ways politically. Journalism historian Mindich credits Garrison’s antiConstitution position for the split (2000: 19). Mindich argues that while Garrison wanted to drop out of the political system, Douglass was fighting to be
included as a full citizen (19).
The Penny Press was being taken in another political direction as it expanded.
Its audience began to equate blacks with noncitizens (Roediger 1999). Articles
were filled with stories about renewed conflicts over slavery—as in the case of
westward expansion—and conflicts with Native Americans—as in the case of
southern territories. The narrative was that the issue of race was a threat to the
union (Saxton 1984: 234). This threat to the union came in two forms: fear of
slave rebellions3 and apprehension that the newly formed union would becoming
irreparably fractured. The latter was an internal conflict created by the obvious
contradiction with the ideals of the Enlightenment. But the meaning workingclass groups of whites assigned to blacks was that of “enemy” of the union (Roediger 1999: 57).
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and Formation of White Consciousness
43
The Penny Press Signals the Formation of a New Social Group
The Penny Press were the first “modern” newspapers in America. They introduced
a new approach to advertising. Other newspapers cost six cents and relied on
political parties or commercial interests to support them financially; Penny Press
papers cost a penny and supported themselves through sale of advertising space
to anyone willing to pay (Schudson 1978; Wilson & Gutierrez 1995). People and
businesses sought ad space from the publications with the greatest readership.
The Penny Press’s new business model changed the economic foundation of journalism; it required owners, in effect, to sell their audience to advertisers; to any
advertiser; to a “free market” of advertisers. As a result, the sway political parties
held over media content in the blanket sheet papers—the precursors to the Penny
Press—and their interests over newspaper publishers began to diminish (Schudson 1978). The interests and desires of advertisers4 could now put constraints on
what publishers produced in their editorial content (Bagdikian 1983).
Political party affiliation no longer determined newspaper readership. Publishers now had to be is much less mediated than that in contemporary advertising, the texts are still cultural representations or artifacts from a community that
were accepted as legitimate by that community. Hence, introduction of advertising in newspapers serves as an indicator for a new social relationship between
media entrepreneurs and representatives of community-based associations and
individual members of the public. The ads in these newspapers provided a barometer for the formation of racial groupings in the communities and served to
reinforce, legitimate, and reproduce these group formations.
The research of some race and media scholars who have explored the early
modern newspaper and race (Wilson & Gutierrez 1995) suggests that the formation of modern newspapers in the United States in the early nineteenth century
is tied to the formation this new social group in the U.S. Wilson and Gutierrez
argue that
The first “penny press” took on a new form that was uniquely adapted to the free enterprise system. The newspaper sold for only a penny, but its primary income did not
depend on subsidies from a political party, a government in the form of public notices,
or the subscription of readers. Instead, the newspaper’s revenues and profits were to come
from advertisers who would pay for the space in the Sun (the first penny paper) to place
commercial messages to reach the large readership attracted by the low price… . Mass
society in the United States did not necessarily mean a society of the masses, but a society
in which the people were amassed into an audience for the messages of the mass media
of communication (39–40).
Constructing the newspaper readership in the nascent Penny Press meant using
all the organs of the newspaper—editorial content, advertising, production, and
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distribution—to meet the needs of the audience the publisher wanted to attract
while simultaneously ensuring the paper’s survival. Who was this audience?
Articulations of White-Race Discourse in the Penny Press
An item in the Bulletin of the Business Historical Society in December 1936 that
early advertisements are described as a“simple, unillustrated announcement that
John Smith sold clothing at a certain address.” They resemble classified ads today.
But the main mode of discourse in these ads excludes blacks from the world catered to by the publishers. This point was strong because advertisements were still
a very large part of the content of these papers.
A search of a ProQuest database of five historical newspapers, the Christian
Science Monitor (1808–1995), Hartford Courant (1764–1984), New York Times
(1851-2005), Wall Street Journal (1889–1991), and Washington Post (1877–1992),
using the parameters “journeymen ”and the dates 1 January 1830–12 December
1860,5 found 1,995 documents. Some were news stories and some—if not the
vast majority—were devoted solely to a variety of advertisements.6 Most of the ads
were from the Courant.7 The ads were for a variety of things, for example, medicines, goods for purchase and sale, rooms to let, help wanted. A search of the same
database with the same time period and the new parameter “Mechanics’ Society”
turned up fifty-eight documents; again many if not most represented advertising.
This new incarnation of mass advertising indicated two things: the importance of the new categories and the significance of this new form of mass media
to the development of the category of white individuals. The number of documents produced with the search parameter “journeymen”—1,995—indicates the
significance of this new category of people, albeit the latent presentation of issues
of race. Two of the want ads from the September 21, 1838, edition of the Courant
read: (1) “a journeyman Cabinet Maker, and a journeyman Joiner, that are good
workmen and of good principles”; and (2) “5 Good Journeymen Cabinet Makers,
and a carpenter.”
These advertising pages were relatively crude, straightforward ads with no
special layout distinguishing any of the ads and very few drawings distinguishing
some. While there is clear evidence of this new group of post-Revolutionary War
laborers, there is little manifest evidence of “white” racial terms outside the postrevolutionary labor categories that excluded blacks. A random review of the pages
points to very few indicators of race. A search of this database using the same time
period and the parameters “African,” “slavery,” and “negro” produced a relatively
small number of documents, only 125.8 Yet when one examines the advertising
content in the context of the early nineteenth-century mass culture, the content is
sometimes rife with latent references to race, both black and white.
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and Formation of White Consciousness
45
On a page of advertisements in the July 6, 1830, edition of the Courant the
following ads were run:
Wanted immediately, two Journeymen Waggon Makers, to whom steady employment
will be given. N.B. The subscriber has removed to his new stand on the east side of Mainstreet, about thirty rods south of the one formerly occupied by him.
Mechanics’Society. A Quarterly Meeting of this Society will be held at their Hall, this
evening, (July 6th), at half past 7 o’clock.—A general attendance is requested. E. Gleason,
Secretary.
Run Away, On the 10th June, an indented Boy 16 years old, by the name of Cyrus Sperry.
Said boy is about 5 feet high, blue eyes, with a curled head of hair; had on when he went
away a suit of dark brown clothes and a nape[?] hat, with a pair of saddle-bags on his
shoulders. I forbid all persons harboring him on penalty of the law. A reward of one dollar
will be paid if delivered at my house, and no charges.
Colonization Society. The subscriber, Treasurer of the Connecticut Colonization Society, will receive donations made in this State and acknowledge them in the Connecticut
Observer. A memorandum of the name of the donor or Society paying, when collected,
by whom paid over, and the name of the minister of the Religious Society contributing,
will enable me to make suitable acknowledgements, and communications to the Parent
Society, and entries. Seth Terry, Treasurer.
Notice for someone to be an agent for non-resident Landholders, and can offer to emigrants from the Eastern States extensive and valuable tracts of Land in Trumbull, Portage,
Medina, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Huron, Union and Marion counties.
The first two ads, which mentioned “journeymen” and “Mechanics Society,”
are references to the new category of “white” labor of European descent. The
third, about the runaway white indentured servant, points to two things: (1) the
fear Roediger suggests whites harbored that close similarities would be drawn
between their existence and that of chattel slaves; and (2) the need for groups of
whites, particularly the “propertyless,” to distinguish themselves from blacks:
The long decline of urban indentured servitude, which had begun during the two decades
of economic uncertainty before the Revolution, continued during the war because freedom was offered in exchange for military service, and because of the drying up of British
immigration, the general decline in shipping, and republican attacks on the “traffick in
white people” (Roediger 1999: 32).
The fourth ad, for the Colonization Society, is yet another advertisement with
no manifest representations of race. However, the Colonization Society worked
for the return of blacks to Africa. It was a coalition of moderate leaning abolitionists and slavers. The abolitionist forces wanted blacks, when freed, to have the
option to return to Africa; on the other hand, the slavers wanted to eliminate
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the category of free black people. This simple, quietly stated ad reflected a huge
debate in abolitionist circles about the appropriateness of abolitionists supporting
the Colonization Society (Franklin 1980). The fifth ad is a want ad advertising the
services of an agent for Easterners in the expanding areas in the West where the
continuation of slavery was being debated.
Historians who study this period indicate that by the third decade of the
nineteenth century mass culture also revolved around the rights of white yeomen
commoners who owned and cultivated their own land white landless artisans in
urban areas and white indentured servants. Their interests centered on the resolution of two political issues that were inherently racial: the slavery question and the
land rights of Native Americans (Saxton 2003, 1984). While the slavery question
became more pronounced later in the 1800s, Native American land rights were a
big issue during the early development of the Penny Press. The early days of the
Penny Press seemed to indicate a symbiotic relationship between the development
of white group consciousness and the developing mass circulation media based on
advertising, for the advertisers were reaching out to this new group of people and
reifying their existence as a group.
The Penny Press as an Articulation of Class/Labor/Race Distinctions
The significance of the Penny Press can best be understood by juxtaposing it to
its precursor—the “blanket sheet.” The newspapers the Penny Press replaced were
called “blanket sheets.” Their cost—six cents a copy—was indicative of the fact
that their readership represented a different socioeconomic group from those the
Penny Press would want to attract. Even the physical structure of the “blanket
sheets” was an indicator of socioeconomic differentiation. The audience for the
“blanket sheets” appeared to be a group with more financial resources than the
readers of the Penny Press.
Selling for six cents a copy and described as “blanket sheets” (35 inches by 24, they unfolded to a four-foot width), such papers obviously were intended to be spread out on the
library table at home, or across the counting-house desk. Circulation was by subscription,
and subscriptions cost ten dollars a year, the equivalent of a week’s wages for a skilled
journeyman (Saxton 2003: 95).
Saxton argues that the initial success of the Penny Press came from changes in
format, price, distribution, and content (97). The Penny Press papers were much
smaller than the blanket sheets. Printed on 8½ by 11 inch sheets; they sold for a
penny a copy; they were sold by street vendors rather than subscription; and they
reported on crime, violence, humor, and sex, which was not politically neutral
(97–98). Thus the development of the Penny Press with its new advertising sys-
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and Formation of White Consciousness
47
tem suggests, at the very least, the amassing of a new group of people with its own
distinguishing features, one of which was less financial means.
In post-revolutionary America the population that was able to take advantage
of the cheaper price of this news was the new groups of European descendants
who were gaining power in the society: landless whites who could benefit from
westward expansion; urban whites who found new opportunities in the growing
free market economy and the entrepreneurism it spawned—the emergent wage
laborers. Urban labor sectors experienced an expansion as new types of laborers
gained acceptance (Roediger 1999; Saxton 2003). The agricultural sector also experienced an expansion as the number of independent farmers grew, bolstered by
migration of whites from the South to the West (Du Bois 1935).
This new audience was also being shaped by the social, economic, and political events that were unfolding simultaneously. Besides the conflict over slavery;
there were regional clashes with Native Americans that resulted in land-grabs by
Southern states. These issues were, in part, manifestations of growing demands
from the expanding group of middle-income people of European descent. This
period also experienced the rise of the abolitionist movement, which began its
period of militancy as the Penny Press emerged (Franklin 1980). The abolitionist
cause contributed many newspapers to the U.S. media during this time. While
the abolitionist press did not experience the same success as the Penny Press, the
topics it covered contributed to the subjects addressed in the Penny Press (Rhodes
1994). The Penny Press audience appeared to be distinct from that of the abolitionist press, despite the fact that many supported abolition. Some of the Penny
Press readership were pro-something else that trumped their beliefs about slavery.
The beliefs of the new Penny Press audience were being molded in a cauldron
reflective of the time period. The populace in general had to reconcile or not the
significance of an independent state based on an independent, rational electorate using slavery as the foundation of its existence (Davis 1975; Roediger 1999).
Whites, especially the emergent middle-income independent workers, had to reconcile their existence with slaves and free black labor (Du Bois 1935; Roediger
1999). Their social status was higher than that of slaves, but was it equal to that of
free blacks, many of whom were also urban laborers? And, what was their status
in relation to other European descendants? People of European descent were not
culturally one group even in post-revolutionary America.
It is important to note some of the specific happenings that shaped the tenor
of the nation and distinguished the concerns of some Penny Press readers—this
growing group of moderate-income “whites.” They were divided over the rights
free blacks should have in the union as citizens and what areas should be incorporated into the nation as slave states to prevent the domination of the slavocracy.
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Natalie P. Byfield
Davis notes some of the events that showed how Americans resolved the dilemmas of that era:
The Constitutional Convention of 1787 “enacts the Northwest Ordinance, prohibiting
slavery in the territories north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi Rivers… . [And
33 years later in 1820] the House and Senate are deadlocked over the question of admitting Missouri as a slave state, and there is some fear of civil war. As a compromise, Congress adopts an amendment that there shall be no restriction on slavery in Missouri, but
that the institution will be prohibited from the unorganized Louisiana Territory north
of 36o30' latitude. There is continuing agitation to refuse Missouri admission unless the
state provides for gradual emancipation” (1975: 26–35).
In 1820, at the time of this heated congressional debate over Missouri, “there are
already 10,000 slaves in Missouri and 69,000 in Louisiana” (60). The following
year, Missouri is admitted. Not only does its state constitution leave out the antislavery clause some wanted, it includes a clause that bars free blacks (35).
The debates over slavery and its expansion were not only moral debates; they
reflected divisions among the white population. The opening of Missouri was a
nod to the landless whites. Du Bois (1935) notes that
poor whites left the South in large numbers. In 1860, 399,700 Virginians were living out
of their native state. From Tennessee, 344,765 emigrated; from North Carolina, 272,606,
and from South Carolina, 256,868. The majority of Southern states sent as many settlers
to the West as the Northeastern states, and while the Northeast demanded free soil, the
Southerners demanded not only free soil but the exclusion of Negroes from work and the
franchise. They had a very vivid fear of the Negro as a competitor in labor, whether slave
or free (28).
These disputes made clear that there was no hegemonic “white-race” stance in
the society at this time. The more salient concern was the creation of a distinction between white and black labor. From its coverage of these issues the Penny
Press had the opportunity to articulate superior positions in society for low- and
middle-income whites, for example, the right to exercise the privileges citizenship
brought them. Only later in the nation’s history would events transpire and legal
codes be established that led to the creation of white hegemony.
The Penny Press and the Elevation of “White” Labor
The history of slavery in America shows that the distinctions among economic
groups of whites were as dramatic as those between ruling whites and blacks (Du
Bois 1935). When Africans first arrived in colonial America in 1619, enslavement
of Africans was not institutionalized (Fields 1990: 104). Eventually African slavery entered the legal codes, not as a result of “race,” Fields argues, but because it
was more profitable to use African slave labor than that of European indentured
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and Formation of White Consciousness
49
servants (104). Working-class Europeans knew that their social status and the
lives they lived as a result of this status were distinct from those of elite whites.
After the legal system began to institutionalize slavery in 1661,9 and for the next
150 years, white indentured servants continued to be a major part of the economic system. However, that part of the system began to dissipate from the postrevolutionary era through the early part of the nineteenth century. Throughout
this period, poor and working-class whites sought to distinguish themselves as
non-servants, for servant was often equated with slave (Roediger 1999).
Few things illustrate the institutionalization of the middle classes of whites,
as a distinct group, more than the emergence of the Penny Press. The Penny Press
put this middle group of whites in the position to eventually share the hegemonic
position of whites ruling over blacks. The first Penny Press papers were started by
these new classes of whites, whose very existence was a result of an expansion of
the “free market ”system; they disagreed politically with the outgoing national
leadership and hailed the rise of Andrew Jackson and his brand of “democracy,
”which expanded rights for middle-class whites, in particular voting rights (Roediger 1999). They were part of the new growing, group or class of artisans or wageearners and resented the upper classes.
Of the seven men identified as founders of pioneer penny dailies, available biographical
data indicates that six began as artisans—five printers and one cabinetmaker… . The
seventh … like the others was a wage earner. Men such as these—on the basis of their
journeyman’s and editorial skills—might have had access to working credit, scarcely to
large capital. One reason for the affinity of their newspapers to Workingmen’s and Jacksonian politics was the anger many of these editors felt at seeing upper-class blanket
press dailies subsidized by bank loans … while they themselves were starving for capital
(Saxton 2003: 99).
Many of the early Penny Press papers were essentially labor papers that supported a growing labor movement. Not only did they represent the rise of a new
socioeconomic class and regions in the society, they were part of “Jacksonian democracy,” an expansion of rights for white men and no one else. A number of
Penny Press graduates served in the Jackson administration; he is said to have
“appointed more than fifty [editors] to posts in his administration” (Pasley 2000:
52). In conjunction to earning national recognition through their rapid social and
political success, the Penny Press also achieved rapid economic growth. Given the
speedy expansion of its readership, the Penny Press materialized as a type of mass
media in the United States:
the spread of the penny press expanded both the numbers and class base of newspaper
readership. In 1840 there were 138 dailies; in 1850, 254. Average daily circulation rose
from 1,200 in 1830 to just under 3,000 in 1850. New York alone had fourteen dailies
in 1850 with a combined circulation running well over 150,000. This amounted to 1
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newspaper a day for every 4.5 inhabitants, in contrast to 1 for every 16 twenty years
earlier (Saxton 2003: 96).
This medium supported and reproduced the group it represented through advertising and editorial content. A review of the pages of the newspapers produced
by this emergent industry includes, in both latent and manifest content, representations of these new groups of whites. The simultaneous development of this
modern incarnation of newspapers as well as the formation of new socioeconomic
groups of whites likely indicates a symbiotic relationship between the two types of
social formations: mass media and white racial group consciousness.
When Race Is the Story: The Advent of Modern Journalism
Thomas Jefferson viewed the rudimentary forms of mass media he experienced as
necessary components of democracy, providing the populace with indispensable
information to make informed decisions. In the early years of the nation until
the 1830s, those newspapers were the nation’s first mass media systems. Media
scholars (Schudson 1978; Tuchman 1978) have noted that early American newspapers were distinct in the following ways: they were partisan, often due to their
funding by political parties; “news ”coverage was limited; and there was a plethora
of advertising. These papers were replaced in the early nineteenth century by the
Penny Press. The symbiotic relationship between white racial group consciousness
and the new economic model of mass media raises the following question: how
did this new medium convey “news” about the republic to the growing white audience that was expanding westward and southward? Did the way they conveyed
news help build ideological unity between Europeans as a dominant “race” over
blacks?
In the burgeoning United States in the decades before and after the election
of Andrew Jackson in 1828, the society experienced tremendous socioeconomic
and political upheavals. Mintz (2003) notes that
A surge of democratic fervor swept the country in the 1820s and 1830s. … Between
1820 and 1840, most states eliminated property qualification office-holding. To encourage popular participation in politics, states reduced residency requirements for voting,
opened polling places in more convenient locations, and eliminated the practice of voting
by voice. In addition, direct methods of selecting presidential electors, county officials,
state judges, and governors replaced indirect methods. But while white manhood suffrage
was becoming a reality, women and most African Americans were denied the right to
vote.
Some media scholars (Schudson 1978; Tuchman 1978) and historians (Saxton 1975, 1984) contend that the Jacksonian Era, during the 1830s, ushered in
a new period in the history of “news” in newspapers. Jacksonian democracy ac-
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and Formation of White Consciousness
51
companied a new social model that eschewed “birth and breeding” and increased
opportunity (Schudson 1978: 44). Landed aristocrats were being pushed aside
by a growing middle class, which got position in society through money earned
as merchants and investors. The growth of “popular” democracy represented an
increasing diversity of new ideas that required journalism to develop a new way to
incorporate. Schudson viewed these changes as the growth of a democratic market
society. However, the growing democratization of society was consigned to white
communities.
The Penny Press led this new era in American newspapers. Due to their lower
costs—one cent—these papers increased readership quickly and were instrumental in spreading their particular brand of “democracy.” Journalism’s new economic foundation developed with the newly articulated independent labor/“white”
group consciousness that was reflected in the news values of the budding mass
media system in the United States. Scholars (Saxton 1984; Schudson 1978; Tuchman 1978; Wilson & Gutierrez 1995) have identified a qualitative correlation
between changes in news values and the advent of this new economic model.
From the point of view of story or topic selection, this change translated into a
dramatic change in newspaper content. No longer beholden to politicians and
political parties, some “Penny Press” papers eschewed direct coverage of politics
and political opinions. Others continued to cover politics, but with an emphasis
on independence from partisan politics (Schudson 1978: 22).10 The move away
from politics and business as the main areas of coverage and the expanded readership paved the way for an increasing variety of subjects for coverage. Topics of
newspaper articles expanded into other areas of people’s social interaction, including crime and sex (Saxton 1984: 223). Other topics considered newsworthy were
issues related to race and slavery. These topics were covered within the context of
the great issues of that period.
One of the great issues of that day was territorial expansion, including annexation of parts of Mexico. The issue of westward expansion had an impact on
interaction between the dominant culture and Native Americans and Africans—
both enslaved and freed. The federal government wanted control of the Southern
territories where many Native Americans still lived:
At the time Jackson took office, 125,000 Native Americans still lived east of the Mississippi River. Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek Indians—60,000 strong—held
millions of acres in what would become the southern cotton kingdom stretching across
Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. The key political issues were whether these Native
American peoples would be permitted to block white expansion and whether the U.S.
government and its citizens would abide by previously made treaties (Mintz 2003).
The Penny Press solidly backed the Jacksonian party’s call for territorial expansion,
although it meant the forced removal of Native Americans from much of south-
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Natalie P. Byfield
eastern United States (Saxton 1984:229). The U.S. leaders also wanted Texas,
then part of Mexico. Annexing Texas would complicate the debate over balancing
slavery among the newly incorporated states—a debate that had been going on
since the formation of the union.
Debates over the future size and shape of the union were splayed across the
pages of this new mass media system. Saxton found that while there was initial
ambiguity in the positions taken by the Penny Press about Native American resistance to westward expansion, the papers eventually acquiesced to Jackson’s position: “Conflicts with Indians typically were summarized under such headlines as
‘More Indian Outrages in Florida’” (231). While the papers were divided on the
issues of slavery, particularly as it related to expansionism, Saxton found that their
“disagreements did not necessarily differentiate the editors in terms of their racial
concepts” (234). Despite differences in positions on expansionism, they represented blacks and Indians in the most derogatory terms possible. What could be
responsible for mass media supporters of abolitionists representing Africans in derogatory terms? Two separate processes appear to be taking place simultaneously,
the distinction between black and white labor and the elevation of the position
of the latter.
Whether white racial group consciousness was manifestly articulated as a
news value is not the point; the point is that stories about other racial groups
were presented in the context of problems whose resolutions could decide the
fate of the union. Saxton’s research points out that identifying white racial group
consciousness as a news value in journalistic judgment is important because above
all else it points to people actively engaged in constructing group differentiation.
“Racial categories are not natural but constructs, not absolutes but relative, situational, even narrative categories, engendered by historical processes of differentiation” (Shohat and Stam 1994:19).
The basis for the existence of the new mass circulation newspapers was the
greater “egalitarianism” of the Jacksonian era. In tangible terms the new printers, who became newspaper publishers, joined that rank due to a lowering of
social and economic bars. Saxton noted that their coverage of other issues related
to working-class rights promoted a more democratic sensibility. What were the
structural factors that encouraged pejorative language and other negative representations of racial minorities? The language in the Penny Press was possibly a
greater bellwether of racial meaning than the language in the partisan press of the
previous era. The economic model of the mass circulating Penny Press required
that papers sell their readers to advertisers. Consequently, presentation of the content had to appeal to the broadest possible audience. As Wilson states:
The function of the content of the mass media in the nineteenth century and much of the
twentieth century has been to reach the lowest common denominator in the society and
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and Formation of White Consciousness
53
address the media content to that level… . [T]he fundamental relationship … between
advertising and the media has not changed. In the period when the mass audience media
dominated all other forms, this relationship dictated that minority groups were treated
in the mass media in terms that did not offend or, in fact, reinforced the attitudes of the
dominant society toward those groups (Wilson & Gutierrez 1995: 40–41).
During this period, white racial group consciousness appeared to be a news
value; specifically, particular racial meanings appeared to be delineated by the
economic foundation of the system. In other words, race appeared to be part of a
structural formation. On the cognitive level, the race of non-whites was associated
with barriers to the transplanted European republic becoming a unit. This defined
the concept of “race” and “people with race” as a “problem” for the republic. The
incorporation of this particular meaning of race in the economic structure of mass
media strongly suggests that studies of “race and mass media” are really about
racial consciousness,11 particularly among the dominant group.
In the case of the dominant group, the media also served to normalize the
race of all people of European descent. The connective tissue was a shared identity—as citizens defined as non-black—that was being developed in the discourse
of the media during this period. What is taking place is a development of a form
of nationalism:
nationalism is best seen as a relational identity. In other words, the nation, … is hardly
the realization of an original essence, but a historical configuration which is designed to
include certain groups and exclude or marginalize others—often violently (Duara 1996:
163).
Prasenjit Duara argues that national identities are relational. There are times
when people will feel connected as a group and other times when this feeling will
be submerged and a sense of connection with another group will be privileged
(1996:165). Duara defines identities as in flux; “forged in a fluid complex of cultural signifiers; symbols, practices, and narratives.” This is the discursive arena in
which Duara argues that nationalism is developed.
This suggests that the media are a likely place for the development of feeling
of national identity. In the case of the Penny Press, the media were used as a vehicle to distinguish one group from another—“black” from “white” and enslaved
labor from free labor—and to forge a common identity with another—workingclass European with upper-class European. The narrative in this case was the narrative of citizenship.
The Practices of Modern Media Approaching the Twenty-first Century
In contemporary media, white racial consciousness as a news value is unarticulated in journalists’ judgments about the external environment. As a news value, race
54
Natalie P. Byfield
is also not officially a criterion for the selection of news stories or parts of stories.
But the history of race as a news value in mass media suggests that it is built into
the economic foundation of the system. “Racism is above all a social relation—
‘systematized hierarchization implacably pursued,’ in Fanon’s words—anchored
in material structures and embedded in historical configurations of power” (Shohat & Stam 1994: 19). Did this mean that the transplanted European society in
the United States had shunned the post-Enlightenment ideal of the “one-ness of
humanity”? Saxton suggests that they had not left the path they began, seeking
“historical explanations through geography and environment for racial differentiation”; instead the new society was structurally conflicted over reconciling the
“the rights of man” with the existence of African and Native American enslavement (231–33).12 However, despite the differences in positions about slavery and
abolition, the presence of “race”—African and Native American—was viewed as
a problem for the union (234).
Saxton’s point about the continued acceptance of some of the principles of
the Enlightenment does not appear to adequately take reflexivity of mass media
systems into account. For example, it does not sufficiently contemplate resistance
to racial oppression and the impact it had on how racial differentiations and racial
animosities were articulated by whites. Given the history of modern journalism
and mass media, how has the history of its formation affected practices in the
media of our contemporary world?
In contemporary media coverage of racial issues we have seen some important
news stories used as an opportunity to focus on racial differentiation between
black and white. This has happened when fundamental changes were taking place
in racial relationships in the society (Ferber 1998). We saw this in 2008 in the
coverage of the Democratic Party primary races between Senators Barack Obama
and Hillary Clinton, when the issue of “working-class whites,” their loyalties, and
their relative importance to the body politic became important in coverage. This
was particularly a factor in the Pennsylvania primary in late April. The state was
described as being three distinct regions, one of which was like Alabama of the
past and consequently unlikely to support a black candidate like Barack Obama
in the primaries and particularly in the general election.
We also saw racial differentiations articulated in the media coverage of the
infamous Central Park Jogger Story, in which a white female investment banker
jogging through New York City’s Central Park was raped and six black and Latino teens were wrongly convicted. This case unfolded during New York’s 1989
mayoral campaign in which David Dinkins, the first serious African American
candidate, was running. The language used in the coverage of the case was ugly. I
conducted a study of coverage of the story based on a content analysis of a sample
of 251 newspaper articles in the New York Daily News and New York Times over
Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and Formation of White Consciousness
55
the course of fourteen years, from the time of the incident until the case was overturned and the convictions vacated in 2002. In the coverage, words like “wilding,”13 wolfpack, pack, were often used.
Are the media still operating as an arena for the development of white nationalist identities? The cases above suggest this phenomenon may still exist. When
we consider the political economy of advertising in our contemporary world, this
seems still to be the case.
Notes
1. Free blacks existed, but in very small numbers relative to the number categorized as slaves.
2. Mindich argues that journalism historians have uncovered enough evidence to show that the
early Penny Press was not as nonpartisan as standard histories have indicated. In fact, it appears
that the early abolitionist press was more nonpartisan than the early Penny Press (2000: 20).
3. The 1791 rebellion that ended slavery in Haiti did not go unnoticed in the United States.
In 1800, a slave named Gabriel Prosser organized a large army in Virginia with the intent of
taking Richmond. Abolitionist groups were forming all over the nation, and the debate over
the slave/non-slave status of states newly admitted into the union waged on; see Davis 1975.
4. The influence of advertisers would be different from that of political parties because ostensibly
they would be a much wider variety.
5. These dates were chosen because 1830 is typically the date cited for the beginning of the Penny
Press and 1860 begins the run-up to the Civil War.
6. “The typical paper in 1828 was four pages with the first and fourth pages filled almost exclusively with advertising. The mass circulation penny press, which Michael Schudson argues
‘invented’ the category ‘news,’ was introduced in the 1830s in competition with the established
six-penny papers. According to Schudson, these papers relied even more on advertising” (Baker
1992: 2113).
7. Given the time frame of the search, 1830–1860, it is to be expected that the vast majority of
articles would come from the Hartford Courant, the oldest newspaper in the database. Founded
in 1764, the Courant is the nation’s oldest continuously publishing newspaper. http://www.
courant.com/about/custom/thc/thc-history,0,1855918.htmlstory.
8. While this was the North and the location could account for the few direct mentions of race,
many abolition societies were based in New England.
9. This was initially accomplished primarily through laws that extended the term of servitude for
African to a lifetime; see Fields 1990.
10. This is not the same as neutrality. The papers simply were free to support whomever and
whatever they wanted to. Saxton (1984: 226) makes the point that “A common misapprehension with respect to mass circulation dailies of the Jacksonian era is that they were politically
nonpartisan. Certainly the editors themselves contributed to this illusion with their denials of
party affiliation. What they meant was that they were not subsidized by parties or candidates.”
11. James Pitts defines race consciousness as follows: “Racial consciousness is defined as normative
behavior that develops in a society where racial stratification is present. By normative behavior,
I mean behavior involving “should” or “ought” sentiments concerning racial structure. ”Pitts’s
research identified three “behavioral attributes to those who are race conscious: “(1) those who
are race conscious react to their race as a social object; and (2) … feel a sense of obligation to
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Natalie P. Byfield
their race… . It is behavior addressed to maintaining advantages or overcoming disadvantages
which accrue to one’s group as the product of race inequality” (1974:6 67–68).
12. For the history of “racialized paradigms” of humanity see Rodriguez 2000: 34–46.
13. This term has been used in the media only to refer to blacks and Latinos, to represent young
people traveling in a large group with the intent of committing crime or intimidating people.
Chapter 4 Racism, Political Communication,
and American Presidential Elections
George Klay Kieh, Jr.
Since the seventeenth century, racism has been an enduring and ubiquitous contour of the American capitalist political economy. The racist scourge is deeply embedded in every facet and sector of American life—institutions, law, and culture
(Glick 2003: 1). Given the long history of the phenomenon, Cupich (2008: 1),
using a biblical metaphor, refers to it as the United States’ “own original sin.” One
of the major sectors that reflects the ubiquity of race in the American body politic
is the electoral arena. John Judis provides a poignant description of the strangulating hold racism has on American elections—federal, state and municipal, legislative and presidential:
The issue of race is the longest-lasting cleavage in American politics. It is also perhaps the
least understood. The open exploitation of racist sentiment by vote-hungry politicians
was for centuries a durable American tradition. More recently race has assumed a subtle
often unspoken form during campaign season (Judis 2001: 1).
Political advertisement serves as the instrumentarium through which the images
that emanate from the architecture of racism are used as the terra firma for framing messages that seek to influence voting behavior. From the repository of elections, two cases are instructive. During the 1990 North Carolina senatorial race
between white incumbent Jesse Helm, and Black Democratic challenger Harvey
Gantt, Helms used a notorious racist political “White Hands” ad The ad showed
the arms and hands of a white man opening and crumpling up a rejection letter
(Kiley 2008: 1). The voiceover says, “You needed that job, and you were the best
qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota. Is that
really fair?” During the 2006 Tennessee senatorial contest between Harold Ford,
a Black Democratic candidate, and Bob Corker, the white Republican candidate,
there were videos juxtaposing Ford with young white women (New York Times
2008: 1).
Against this background, the purpose of this chapter is twofold. First, it examines the racism-political advertisement nexus, especially its use as an instrument
for priming and conditioning white voting behavior in presidential elections. In
other words, how did racist political advertisement seek to shape voting preferences of white voters in past American presidential elections? Second, it assesses
the impact of the election of Barack Obama as the first African American U.S.
president on the use of racist political ads in future presidential elections. Has
Obama’s election made racist ads anachronistic?
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George Klay Kieh, Jr.
The Theoretical Framework
The chapter builds on the theory of implicit racist appeal, used by Tali Mendelberg in her major study The Race Card (Mendelberg 2001). The theory is based on
several postulates. First, although racism is repudiated in the United States, racial
conflicts still exist. This is because the United States remains a racially divided
society.
Second, race is injected into American political campaigns through various
indirect methods. Mendelberg observes, “The implicit nature of these appeals allows them to prime racial stereotypes, fears, and resentments while appearing
not to do so” (2001: 4). She posits further that “Implicit racial appeals convey
the same messages as explicit racial appeals, but they replace the racial nouns and
adjectives with more oblique references to race. They present an ostensibly racefree conservative position on an issue while incidentally alluding to racial stereotypes or to perceived threat from African-Americans.” Implicit racial appeals seek
to prime white voters’ established racial prejudices through indirect means, with
the goal of using racist proclivities to influence their voting behavior. Charlton
Mcllwain (2007: 170) notes that “Implicit racial appeals rely greatly on the use of
racial “code words” in conjunction with racial imagery to produce subtle appeals.”
In essence, the exigencies of the post-Civil Rights era and theemergence of the
legal norm of racial equality led to the implicit racial model of political advertisement. Lee Atwater, one-time leading political strategist of the Republican Party,
asserts, “You start out in 1954 by saying ‘nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968, you cannot say ‘nigger’—that hurts you. Backfires. So you can say stuff like forced busing,
states’ rights, and all that stuff” (Herbert 2007: 1).
Third, candidates who employ racism in campaign communications often
select wedge issues” such as welfare and crime as kernels of their political advertising. These issues are framed by racial stereotypes that associate blacks with the
deleterious effects of the issues. Based on the well-established images white voters
have of these issues as they relate to blacks, the expectation is that these voters will
decipher the racist message.
Fourth, the power of implicitly racial appeals today is due to the coexistence
of two contradictory elements in American politics: powerful egalitarian norms
about race, and a party system based on the cleavage of race (Mendelberg 2001:
6). On the one hand, the language of racial equality resonates in various aspects
of American politics. Candidates of all races can seek elected offices without legal
hindrances. And voters choose the candidates who speak to their issues. On the
other hand, the political bases of the two dominant parties—Democratic and Republican—reflect the racial divide: in elections, blacks tend to support the Democratic Party more than they do the Republican Party.
Chapter 4 Racism, Political Communication, Presidential Elections
59
The American Architecture of Racism: Nature and Dynamics
The sine qua non for comprehending the role of racism in American presidential
elections is the imperative of situating it in the broader crucible of the American
capitalist political economy. Fundamentally, this is because racism emerged as
part of the development of capitalism in the United States. Neither was dependent on the other in order to exist or change (Quijano and Ennis 2000: 534).
Nevertheless, racism continues to be a tool in the hands of the American bourgeois class as it endeavors to keep the subaltern classes divided. It is therefore difficult for the subalterns to forge a transracial alliance and wage a struggle against
the deleterious effects of capitalist plunder and exploitation. The travails of racism
have been dynamic, responding to the imperatives of the development of the
American capitalist political economy. Central to the changing role of racism
in the political economy continues to be resistance from the dominated racial
groups, particularly African Americans, and the responses by the American ruling
class have shaped the dynamics of continuity and change.
In the context of the American capitalist political economy, racism has shaped
and has been shaped by a confluence of cultural, economic and political currents.
Carter Wilson discusses the ways these interlocking process operate:
racial oppression is sustained within an exploitative and oppressive economic structure.
This structure shapes the formation of a racist culture that functions to reinforce patterns
of racial oppression. The state, operating within this economic and cultural context, generally supports and legitimizes oppressive relations (Wilson 1996: 16).
The cultural current is anchored on what Cornel West (1983) calls “cultural practices.” These are the transmission valves through which racism is injected into and
sustained in American society. And this has been done in several ways. Fundamentally, the idea of race was a way of granting legitimacy to the relations of domination initially imposed by slavery (Quijano & Ennis 2000: 534). That is, the
emergent cultural substructure rationalized the mode of production, the relations
of production, and the asymmetries in power between slave holders and slaves.
These contours have remained intact, but their public manifestation has reflected
the changing dynamics of the political economy. Cultural practices shape racial
identities: the social construction of who people are (white, black, …), the myths
(including the “whites are superior and non-whites, including blacks are inferior”
thesis), and the resultant racial pecking order in American society.
Another function is that the cultural current has provided the crucible in
which both white and non-white groups have been socialized. In turn, this has
conditioned and shaped perceptions, attitudes and the behavior toward racism.
The construction of racial language” is critical to cultural practices. Appellations
such as “nigger” and “colored” were developed as references to blacks and racial
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George Klay Kieh, Jr.
symbols and mirror images, especially about non-white groups are developed. The
dominant Euro-American culture also sets the parameters within which discourses about racism takes place. The overarching tenets are: (1) the causes of racism
are not lodged in the American capitalist political economy but are attributable to
individual pathologies; (2) the whites who designed and implemented the system
of slavery are now dead; hence, their descendants, who did not participate in the
scourge, cannot be held responsible for the “past”; and (3) aggrieved minority
groups such as African Americans need to forget about the past, and simply work
with whites in a “color blind society.” Clearly, this is an ahistorical, simplistic and
hubristic framework for shaping discourses. This, among others, led Eric Holder
(African American), current attorney general of the United States, to remark,
“Americans are cowards when it comes to the issue of discussing race” (Murray
2009: 1).
At the vortex of the economic current is the exploitation of the subaltern
classes in the various sectors of American society. Through racial segmentation.
the racial divide makes it easier for the American bourgeoisie to “divide and rule”
both white and non-white members of the subaltern classes. In other words, racism is used to undermine class solidarity. To make matters worse, relative economic advantages continue to go to people who are socially categorized as white
(Strong 2007: 1).
Politically, racism has operated in various ways. At the national level, the federal government continues to develop political and legal arrangements about race
depending on the phases of the development of the capitalist political economy.
For example, during the “era of the old racism” (from the seventeenth century
to 1964), African Americans were denied citizenship and the rights appertaining
thereto.
When African Americans protested against the American “apartheid system,”
the state mobilized the full battery of coercive instruments—military, police, and
security forces—to suppress and repress them. However, given the dynamic nature of the American political economy, the political racism nexus continues to
change as well. Like the economic and cultural currents, the relationship between
the political sphere and racism is dependent on the imperatives of the capitalist
system, as well as the conundrums posed by resistance from the subalterns. For
example, it was in this context that the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were
enacted into law in 1964.
The burdens of racism African Americans continue to bear in the United
States can be examined against the background of the development of the American capitalist political economy. The 1964 Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts
were epochal developments for African Americans. As a consequence of their
struggles for racial equality and justice, the “American democratic capitalist state”
Chapter 4 Racism, Political Communication, Presidential Elections
61
was forced to legally end the “old racism,” characterized by blatant acts of racism
legitimized by “Jim Crow laws.”
However, the “old racism” has been replaced by the “new” one. Although
African Americans now have “legal equality” with whites, this has not abolished
the practices of racism (Alan 2007: 1). Under the “new racism,” the scourge has
assumed a more subtle de facto complexion variously referred to as “institutionalized racism” (Better 2007). The new genre of racism continues to adversely affect
the capacity of African Americans to effectively exercise the rights and privileges
of citizenship. African Americans lag well behind whites in virtually every area of
social life: they are about three times more likely to be poor, earn about 40 percent
less, and have about an eighth of the net worth (Bonilla-Silva 2006: 1–2). They
also receive an inferior education compared to whites, even when they attend integrated institutions. In housing, black-owned units comparable to white-owned
ones are valued at 35 percent less (1). Similarly, race remains a major determinant
in access to employment, health care, and justice (Better 2001).
One of the major dimensions of the American architecture of racism is the
collective portrait of African Americans that has been developed. Based on stereotypes, the portrait has been used to dehumanize and demonize African Americans. It is not possible to discuss all the stereotypes and attendant images that
continue to shape and condition the portrait. African Americans are portrayed
as lazy people who do not want to “work hard” like whites. The resultant stereotype is that they depend on the government for “handouts” through the welfare
system. African Americans are also characterized as “predatory” and generally associated with criminal activities. Similarly, they are portrayed as violent, “uncultured,” loud, and predisposed to vulgar profanity. At the intellectual level, African
Americans are painted as ignorant and “empty headed.” In terms of consumption,
they are branded “avid lovers of fried chicken and barbeque ribs.”
Racist Political Advertisements and American Presidential Elections
In various American presidential elections—1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, and
2008—the presidential candidates of the Republican Party, the party itself and
various conservative individuals and groups—used racist political advertisement
as the deus ex machina for influencing the behavior of white voters. Using the
mirror images that evolved from the racist portrait of African-Americans as the
pivots, political advertisement is then use to frame the issues and prime white
voters—what Caliendo and Mcllwain (2006: 48) refer to as “The primary effects
of racialized political communication.” The six presidential elections, which occurred during the post-civil rights era, were chosen as the case studies because ra-
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George Klay Kieh, Jr.
cialized political advertisement were used in them by the Republican presidential
candidates and various conservative groups.
Case Studies of Presidential Elections
The 1968 Presidential Race
The 1968 presidential election was held against the backdrop of burgeoning
crises in the American capitalist economy. One of the major problems was de
facto racism and its continuing impact on African Americans. Clearly, the Civil
Rights and Voting Rights Acts did not end racial discrimination against African
Americans. As Worthington (1992: 1) observes, “black people continued to be
intimidated, coerced and murdered.” African Americans with the assistance of
progressive whites and others continued to wage the struggle for racial equality
and justice. In some cases, acts of protest turned violent and further infuriated
hard core white racists, who were already repelled by the official end of America’s
“apartheid system.” Fearing a “black revolution” with cataclysmic consequences
for white interests, the agents of racism hoped the 1968 election would produce
an administration that would stop the escalating “black revolution.”
Against this backdrop, racist venom provided invaluable materials around
which some of the political ads for the 1968 campaign were framed. The intent
was to use racist political advertisements based on already deeply established antiblack prejudices to appeal to the white electorate. Thus, both Richard Nixon,
the Republican candidate, and George Wallace, the quintessential racist former
governor of Alabama and flag bearer of the American Independent Party, determined that “playing the race card” was the most effective strategy for winning
the election. The two candidates crafted their political ads around the image that
portrayed blacks as “violent and anarchistic” with the ultimate goal of subverting
the cultural, economic, political, and social interests of “white America.”
Nixon used several racist strategies as the deus ex machina of his political advertising. First, his political ads made recurrent references to the “silent majority.”
This was the racially coded expression for the white majority, who were concerned
but quiet about the rising tide of “black violence.” Nixon pledged to serve the
interests of this group by restoring “law and order” in the American polity. Second, the Nixon campaign designed and launched political ads that appealed to
Southern whites, who were angry over the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting
Rights Acts. Dubbed the “Southern strategy,” the ultimate purpose of this racialized form of political communication was to get what Kevin Phillips, Nixon’s
chief political strategist, called “Negrophobe whites to quit the Democratic Party
and join the Republican Party against the participation of blacks in the electoral
Chapter 4 Racism, Political Communication, Presidential Elections
63
process” (Boyd 1970: 215). Third, there were ads that pledged that Nixon, if
elected president, would “get welfare bums off welfare” (Glick 2004: 1). Again,
the expression was a racially coded reference to blacks, portrayed as “lazy” and
reliant on “government handouts.” Fourth, the Nixon campaign crafted ads to
convey his opposition to school busing. These ads conveyed to white voters who
were opposed to racial integration that Nixon was committed to keeping black
kids from attending white schools and vice versa.
As for George Wallace, he used his national notoriety as a virulent bigot to
galvanize white voters who were opposed to the legal termination of America’s
“apartheid system.” Using his infamous 1962 gubernatorial inaugural address in
which he said, “And I say, segregation now! Segregation tomorrow. Segregation
forever” as the motor force, Wallace’s political ads sought to portray him as the
true candidate of white racists. Although he did not win the presidential contest,
Wallace had an impressive showing: he won the popular votes in five states, got
46 electoral votes, and 9.9 million popular votes (Smallwood 1983: 23). This
placed him third behind Richard Nixon, the winner, and Hubert Humphrey, the
Democratic runner-up.
The 1972 Presidential Contest
As has been argued, despite the legal end of American “apartheid” in 1964, racism
remained an enduring feature of the American capitalist political economy. For
example, each time the government took steps to obliterate the vestiges of de jure
racism, the actions were met with a wave of opposition from white racists who
had nostalgia for the “apartheid system” and its wanton discrimination against
blacks. They desired the return of the era of legal segregation and discrimination
in which, among other things, blacks were not considered humans, much less
U.S. citizens.
In one such case in 1971, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education,
the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school desegregation was mandatory, even if
it involved busing children between schools. The executive branch was required
to formulate and implement the requisite modalities for enforcing the decision.
However, amid an avalanche of pressure from whites who were opposed to having
their children bused to predominantly black inner-city schools, and having black
students in white schools, the Nixon administration was derelict in executing the
court’s edict. Clearly, the reason was President Nixon’s decision not to alienate a
significant segment of the white electorate, especially in light of the ensuing 1972
presidential election.
By the 1972 presidential election, racial polarization in the United States
had reached another peak. One of the major effects was, as Carmines and Stim-
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son (1990: 131) note, that “race had become ‘nationalized’ as a central issue in
American politics, giving shape and form to many voters’ political beliefs.” Sensing this state of affairs, President Nixon, primed white voters to perceive him as
the candidate committed to the maintenance of “white privilege.” He portrayed
his liberal Democratic rival, Senator George McGovern, as an advocate of racial
integration. The racially coded message was that McGovern was a “nigger lover”
who wanted to end “white privilege.” Continuing the “silent majority theme,”
Nixon’s campaign ads framed his racist appeal around his unequivocal opposition
to mandatory busing and school integration, two issues that resonated with racist
white voters. In the end, Nixon cruised to a second term of office. While it is difficult to quantify the impact of racist political ads on voting behavior, there is no
doubt that the ads were designed to influence how whites voted.
The 1980 Presidential Election
The 1980 presidential contest pitted Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter against
Ronald Reagan, actor and former governor of California. Reagan decided from
the outset that his campaign would continue the Nixonian tradition of manipulating the racial fears of whites as a strategy for winning their votes. Accordingly,
he began his campaign in one of the bastions of racism in the United States,
Philadelphia, Mississippi. Central to the town’s racist legacy was that it was where
the notorious Ku Klux Klan murdered three civil rights workers in 1964. Reagan
used his campaign speech in the town as a “trial balloon” for one of his subsequent
major racially designed political ads that revolved around the centrality of “state
rights”—the euphemism used by white racists in the 1960s to defend Jim Crow
segregation in the South (Suster 2008: 1).
Having established that his racist appeals resonated well with white bigots,
Reagandesigned a full battery of advertisements that leached on racial prejudices
and the resultant images white racists had about blacks. One of the central themes
that adorned his political ads was the myth of a “post-racial America” as a result
of the Civil Rights Act. The coded racist message was that whites and blacks were
now “equal.” Hence, there was no need for policies such as affirmative action.
The imagery of a “color-blind” society was used as the antithesis of affirmative
action and other policies designed to help ameliorate some of the asymmetries
between whites and blacks created by centuries of legal racism. In order to drive
home his opposition to the government policies that sought to redress blacks’
grievances or compensate them for either the historical or contemporary effects of
discrimination, the Reagan ads portrayed blacks as “lazy people,” who were both
dependent on, and abusive of the welfare program (Glick, 2004). Significantly,
the ads primed white voters with two major stereotypes that were anchors in the
Chapter 4 Racism, Political Communication, Presidential Elections
65
American racist architecture. The first was of the “welfare queen driving a Cadillac” (Suster 2008: 1). The other was of “a young black buying steak with food
stamps.” In the end, Reagan defeated Carter by 50.7 percent to 41 percent in the
popular vote and a whopping 489 to 49 electoral votes. Again, while it is difficult
to discern the specific impact of the racist ads on the voting behavior of whites,
there was no doubt that the ads were designed to influence their behavior.
The 1984 Lopsided Race
During its first term, the Reagan administration promoted the myth that with
the legal end of the American “apartheid system” there was now “racial equality.” Hence, there was no need for the federal government to continue pursuing
policies that were intended to compensate for centuries of racial discrimination
against blacks. Moreover, the Reagan regime played a pivotal role in perpetuating
the insidious notion that federal government policies on race were placing whites
at a disadvantage. Thus, for white racists, President Reagan was deified as the
“protector of the white race.” On the other hand, William Wright argues, “For
Black people, Ronald Reagan became the great symbol of the subtle white racist
and subtle white racism” (Wright 1998: 111).
Against this background, the 1984 presidential election that pitted President
Reagan against former Vice President Walter Mondale was conditioned by an increasing wave of racial polarization. Reagan’s campaign decided to take full advantage of his well-established popularity among white racists. Accordingly, political
ads portrayed affirmative action programs as manifestations of “reverse discrimination” against whites. Other ads launched a frontal assault on the manufactured
issue of “racial quotas.” In both cases, the ads were designed to convey to white
voters that they were “victims of racial discrimination.” Reagan was the only candidate with a record committed to ending affirmative action programs and their
“discrimination against whites.” In the end, Reagan won a landslide victory: 58.8
percent of the popular vote and 523 electoral votes, to 40.6 percent and 13 for
Mondale. While it can be inferred that the racist ads might have had an impact
on white voting behavior, it is difficult to determine the specifics.
Willie Horton and the 1988 Race
The 1988 presidential contest between Republican Vice President George Bush
and Democratic Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis was shaped by one of
the enduring stereotypes in American racist architecture—the portrayal of blacks
as criminals. Down in the public opinion polls by 18 percentage points, the Bush
campaign was desperate to find the “game changer” in the presidential race. The
racialized issue of crime became the “ace.”
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George Klay Kieh, Jr.
The Bush campaign used William J. Horton, an African American man in
prison for murder, as the centerpiece of its racist political ads on crime. While
on his ninth furlough from prison in Massachusetts, Horton jumped furlough
(Glick 2004:2). He was eventually arrested in Maryland and charged with assault,
kidnap, and rape of two Maryland citizens. In its political ads, the Bush campaign
coined the name “Willie,” which was not the way Horton was referred to. The
formulation was used as a deliberate way of getting what Glick (2003:1) refers to
as “racial mileage.” The Bush campaign blamed Dukakis, as governor of Massachusetts, for Horton’s crimes, specifically for having an “ultraliberal, ultralenient
approach to crime” (Eberhardt & Fiske 1998: 91).
A visual commercial used many times in the Bush campaign showed a “revolving door of justice,” with prisoners of ambiguous skin color being released
from prison as soon as they were admitted” (Eberhardt & Fiske 1998: 91). Again,
this was designed to portray Dukakis as “too soft and permissive on crime.” Collectively, the racist Bush administration ads were designed to convey to white
voters the idea that their lives and property were in danger from “black criminals” like “Willie” Horton. Only Bush could develop the policies to “maintain
law and order” by ensuring that “black criminals like Willie Horton” serve their
sentences. When the ballots were counted, George Bush emerged victorious with
53.4 percent of the popular vote and 426 electoral votes. Like the aforementioned
elections, it was difficult to gauge the impact of the racist ads on white voting
behavior.
The Epochal 2008 Contest
The 2008 presidential election was epochal because it was the first time a black
person was the candidate of one of the two major political parties. Barack Obama,
junior senator of Illinois, in the second year of his first term, became the Democratic candidate after a bruising party primary. His opponent was long-time Arizona senator John McCain, a veteran of the Vietnam War. Conditions favored
Obama. On the domestic front, the majority of Americans as reflected in public
opinion polls were disgusted at the economic malaise and associated loss of jobs,
housing crisis, and overall deteriorating standard of living. Also, there was mass
discontent with the Bush administration’s assault on civil liberties, as evidenced
by the numerous violations committed under the government’s surveillance program, a major pillar of the United States’ “counter-terrorism strategy.”
The Bush administration was also unpopular at home for the Iraq war, especially because of the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and the injury
of thousands of others. Americans were weary of the Bush era, particularly the
adverse consequences of its domestic economic policies and its war in Iraq. Ac-
Chapter 4 Racism, Political Communication, Presidential Elections
67
cordingly, the desire for change became widespread among Americans across the
racial and ideological divide.
Despite the domestic economic crisis and foreign policy misadventures, race
was a central issue. Clearly, this was due to the fact that one of the two major
candidates was black, a first in American presidential elections. Thus, both the
McCain campaign and sundry right-wing groups could use Obama directly to
frame racialized political ads. For his part, Obama, out of mind-boggling idealism or “political speak,” made every effort to de-stress the centrality of race.
This orientation reflect the position he articulated in his keynote address at the
2004 Democratic National Convention: “There’s not a black America and a white
America and Latino America and Asian America; there is the United States of
America” (Obama 2004: 2).
The ads from the McCain camp and various conservative groups demonstrated that Obama’s portrayal of a post-racial America was still a “dream.” As
Gasper (2008: 16) notes, “But whether Obama believed his own rhetoric, the
realities of the presidential election refuted Obama’s rosy picture of the state of
race in the United States. ”McCain ads were aired with the goal of subtly appealing to white voters. Several ads characterized Obama as “out of touch with mainstream America,” a reference to the notion that whites represent the “mainstream”
and blacks are the “others” at the periphery. An ad accused Obama of “palling
around with terrorists,” to accentuate the stereotypical view of blacks as violent
and unpatriotic. Similarly, the ad about Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s criticisms of U.S.
imperial foreign policy was subtly racialized to portray Obama as an associate of
an “angry and radical black man” who “hates the United States.” An ad comparing
Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton suggested to white voters that he was
nothing more than a bubble-headed, publicity-seeking celebrity (New York Times
2008: 1). There were two major racial cues from this ad. First, Obama “doesn’t
look like all those other presidents on these dollar bills.” Second, despite the two
white female entertainers, the racially coded message was that Obama is akin to
black entertainers who lack the intellect and critical skills required for leadership
positions; hence, he is not qualified for the serious position of the President of the
United States.
Not to be outdone, various right-wing groups joined the “game and played
the race card.” The New Yorker illustrated caricature of Obama dressed in Islamic
garb giving a fist bump to his afro-sporting, rifle-toting wife Michelle (New Yorker, 2008). This New Yorker was certainly not right wing, although it was criticized
for the appearance of the image.
In an ad designed by Diane Fedele, president of a Californian conservative
Republican women’s group, Obama’s face was put on a fake $10 food stamp surrounded by a slice of watermelon, a bucket of fried chicken, a rack of barbequed
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George Klay Kieh, Jr.
ribs, and a picture of Kool-Aid (Wickham 2008: 1). The racial message was that
an Obama presidency would “waste” (white) taxpayers’ money on the expansion
of the welfare system for blacks. Interestingly, the outcome showed that Obama
won 43 percent of the white vote. This meant that the other 57 percent voted
for McCain and minor party candidates. Were the majority of white voters who
did not support Obama influenced by race, especially the ads from the McCain
campaign and conservative groups? This is difficult to determine. Overall, Obama
won 53 percent of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes, versus 46 percent and
173 for McCain.
Obama’s Election: Farewell to Racist Advertisments in Presidential Elections?
Does the election of Barack Obama signal the end of racism and the use of the
“race card” in presidential elections? Clearly, Obama’s election is a major step
forward for the improvement in race relations in the United States; but, racism is
still well and alive in the United States Hence, “playing the race card” will remain
an enduring feature of the American political landscape. In fact, the repository
of evidence indicates that despite his good showing among white voters, Obama
won because of race. According to Stewart and Ansolabehere (2009: 1), “Ironically, the candidate whom commentators lionized for ending America’s debilitating racial divisions won the election on the basis of increasingly distinct white and
nonwhite voting patterns. …The percentage of blacks voting Democratic rose
from 88 percent in 2004 to 95 percent in 2008.” Hispanic voters—who had been
drifting into the Republican camp in recent years—heavily favored Obama—“the
percentage of Hispanics voting Democratic rose from 56 percent 2004 to 67 percent.” “This additional support among nonwhites proved decisive… Indeed, had
blacks and Hispanics voted Democratic in 2008 at the rates they had in 2004,
McCain would have won.”
So, would it be possible to create a “postracial America” in the future? Yes, but
it would require a fundamental restructuring of the American capitalist political
economy. First, there is a need to end exploitation on the basis of race. Second,
steps need to be taken to counter the use of race as a tool by the ruling class to
divide the working and other subaltern classes. Third, changes need to be made in
the inequitable distribution of wealth and power. Fourth, a new racially pluralistic
architecture needs to be designed. Fifth, based on the aforementioned, Americans
would need to be re-socialized with new beliefs that reflect a society without racial
prejudice and discrimination.
Chapter 4 Racism, Political Communication, Presidential Elections
69
Conclusion
The Republican presidential contenders in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, and
2008 “played the race card” to prime white voters to support them. The “race
card” is an integral part of the American capitalist political economy, which has
used race historically as a divisive strategy for keeping the members of the subaltern classes divided. This political economy fostered a racist architecture anchored
on various stereotypes and their associated images about blacks.
Prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, political ads made direct racist appeals to
white voters framed around the stereotypes that provide the foundation of the
racist architecture. In the post-Civil Rights Act era, a more subtle form of racial
cuing has been used. Racialized political ads use blacks as scapegoats for political,
economic, social and cultural problems.
Finally, the Obama election raised the issue of the utility of racialized political ads in future presidential elections, especially against the backdrop of what
some see as the emergence of a “post-racial American society.” However, as the
repository of evidence demonstrates, Obama’s election does not make racialized
political advertisements obsolete. First, race played a pivotal role in the election of
Obama. Second, establishment of a “post-racial American society” would require
a fundamental transformation of the American capitalist political economy.
Chapter 5 Diversity in Advertising
in the Twenty-First Century
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Advertising has always been an integral part of American culture and traditions,
with far-reaching racial and economic implications. In colonial America, for
example, enslaved Africans constituted parts of the marketable goods that were
advertised to the consuming public—predominantly European Americans. The
needs and interests of African Americans were, and continue to be subservient
to those of European Americans. Thus, the advertising industry developed advertising campaigns that were aimed at European Americans specifically, thereby
depicting African Americans as inferior consumers. In contemporary America,
the dichotomy of marketing has radically changed as African Americans, Asian
Americans, Hispanic Americans, and other Americans have become financially
empowered. Today the financial capability of African Americans, for example, has
transformed them into valuable consumers that marketers cannot ignore. Products that have offensive advertisements aimed at African Americans and other
Americans would propel them to become disillusioned consumers and therefore
cease to purchase these products.
Advertising in America commenced during the last fifty years of the 19th
century and its transformative campaigns continued into the dawn of the 20th
century. At the time of its transformation, the advertising industry was bent on
expanding its marketability. This was “made available by the growth of the railroad and the telegraph, by the rise of national magazines, and by the capacity for
surplus production” (Benjamin, Jr. 2004: 21). Since the evolution and practice
of advertising, it has been guided by three cardinal principles: “to advertise to
people ready, willing and able to buy; to use the media which reach them; to make
advertisements which will win their business” (Boyenton 1965: 227). Boyenton
went on to make an affective point that “a fourth rule: a social responsibility to
represent Negroes in general advertising” (227) was added. By incorporating the
fourth rule which concerns itself with social aspect, it reworks the other three
delineated features which are concerned with generating profit. Next, Boyenton
maintains that advertising has been made on an amoral plane. In his study, David
M. Potter (1954: 177 as cited in Boyenton 1965: 227) explains, “Advertising has
as its dynamics no motivation to seek the improvement of the individual or to
impart social usefulness… Though it wields an immense social influence…it has
no social goals and no social responsibility.”
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Edward Lama Wonkeryor
Ironically, one may concur with Potter’s expressed view that advertising has
commanding influence when it comes to the social potency of advertising, therefore, it must refrain from “matters which are controversial or even unpleasant,
since such matters may antagonize or offend some members of the audience”
(Potter 1954: 183 as cited in Boyenton, 1965: 227). The representational images
of African Americans singularly and other ethnic minority Americans wholly have
been stereotypically portrayed through advertisements in the mass media, because
as Terence H. Qualter notes in his 1991 study, “Advertisers prosper through the
perpetuation of traditional stereotypes of class, race and sex” (69). Advertisers
would have to positively reframe their advertisements aimed at African Americans
and other Americans, in order to elevate their African Americans’ humanity and
other Americans’ humanity to the vortex of American humanity, by respectable
representational images.
Aims
This chapter has multiple aims. It examines advertising in the twenty-first century. Its main thesis is that the painful history of racism in advertising from the
period of enslavement to contemporary time has created an enduring legacy that
American society finds it difficult to overcome. In the end, this chapter provides a
conceptual analysis based on existing literature of how promoting ethnic diversity
within the advertising industry is not just an important regulatory issue to address
historical failures, but is essential for multicultural marketing in order to characterize and portray representational images of diverse ethnicities.
Conceptual Analysis
Because diversity in the United States in this millennium has become very pronounced, advertising practitioners have recognized the sensitivity surrounding the
meaning of messages that are contained in advertising campaigns that target different consuming audiences, including African Americans. So far, they are striving
relentlessly to craft advertising campaigns that would be appealing and not offensive to the consumers, because advertisers are aware of how African Americans
and other non-white Americans had been offended by the advertising messages
that have racial overtones. As previously stated, African Americans, since colonial times, have been offended by those—especially members of the privileged,
dominant white class—who legislate the political, economic, and cultural power
in the United States. Sadly, such maltreatment of African Americans by white
America has contributed largely to racial disunity and interethnic intolerance. “In
early advertisements, blacks and other racial minorities, if they appeared at all,
were shown only in servile, supporting parts. The common role conformed to a
Chapter 5 Diversity in Advertising in the Twenty-First Century
73
long-standing American cultural tradition of the black slave and servant—simpleminded, happy and devoted” (Qualter 1991: 71). Joe R. Feagin argues,
Most importantly, ethnocentric and hierarchical framing was sharply accelerated as a
result of the slavery that dramatically emerged by the early 18th century. Over this era we
observe the development of the highly racist imagery and racial-category framing that
for centuries now have been directed by self-defined whites at Native Americans, African
Americans, and numerous other non-European groups. Clearly, whites have long been
framed as much more virtuous and quite superior, while the racialized “others” have long
been framed as unvirtuous and inferior (2012: 15).
Feagin explains that, as of the late 17th century, this aggressive racial-superiority
and racial inferiority framing has continued, and indeed occasionally gathered
speed. The dominant white racial frame was developed in part to legitimize and
enforce the racial hierarchization of Western capitalism’s labor force, and to give
reasons why some workers and families had significant liberty and others did not.
But the white racial frame early on had much wider use in asserting general white
superiority over peoples and cultures, and it has functioned in that broad manner
now over several centuries (Feagin 2012: 15).
In discussing the basic foundations of their theory of African American offending, James D. Unnever and Shaun L. Gabbidon conceptually argue that, their
“theory of African American offending is that blacks have a unique worldview (or
cosmology, axiology, aesthetics, cognitive landscape, collective memory) of the
African American social order that is not shared by whites and other minorities
(see Coll, Lamberty, Jenkins, McAdoo, Crnic, Wasik, & Garcia, 1996; Feagin,
2010; Gay, 2004; Harrell, 2000; Jean & Feagin, 1998; Mazama, 2001; Oliver,
2006)” (Unnever & Gabbideon 2011: 26–27).
Unnever and Gabbideon claim that African American worldview has been
formed by racial dynamics largely outside of their control. Consequently, their
theory assumes that African Americans, unlike any other racial group (i.e., Hispanic Americans, or Asian Americans, etc.), have a unique racial lens that informs their beliefs and behaviors particularly as they relate to the salience of race
and how racism impacts their lives in America. The undergirding belief of this
worldview is that race and racism matters. In other words, nearly every African
American holds the view that they will experience racial prejudice and racial discrimination during their lives because they are black. Along these lines, African
Americans believe that they will not be treated as fairly as other races (i.e., whites)
or other ethnicities (i.e., Hispanics, Asians, etc.). Put simply, they are aware that
the playing field is not level; that is, they are aware that they will be discriminated
against because of their race. In sum, Unnever and Gabbideon contend that the
pivotal belief that solidifies and defines the worldview shared by African Americans is that the United States has been and continues to be a systematically racist
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Edward Lama Wonkeryor
society (Unnever & Gabbideon 2011: 27). And so, a member of the mainstream
culture offending blacks in ways that reinforces the blacks’ inferior position in
American society is truly consistent with the superior and racist orientations of
whites. Offending blacks resonates as well with how their images are controlled
and utilized in advertisements by advertising firms. In this way, Mona Scott expounds in her 2012 study that,
A controlling image can be applied to any racial or ethnic group that is subordinate to the
dominant racial or ethnic group. In society, the dominant group uses controlling images
to control and exploit the groups that it dominates. Consider the controlling images of
subordinate groups in American society: the hard-working but subservient Mexican immigrant; the Black prison inmate who is beyond redemption and has no place in society;
or even the doting White suburban soccer mom. Members of the dominant group are
able to define their identity and tell the story of their history and their place in it. At the
same time, they also have the power to define the identities and histories of the groups
they dominate. Historically, in the United States, affluent White males have created the
ideologies that inform the stereotypes of Mexicans, African Americans, and other nonwhite and ethnic minorities, as well as White women (Scott: 52).
Because of these allegorical classifications of different racial and ethnic groups
and their subordinate places in American society, white America has placed itself
above all other racial groups in economic, social and political terms. Lewis R.
Gordon contends, for example that, Africans have established a great deal of complicatedness for the contemporary society which illustrates a mark of a healthy
consciousness. In other words, Africans, regardless of the structural constraints
they confront in their daily lives in America and elsewhere in the world, decline to
become acquiescent to attempts of human erasure (Gordon 2007). He contends
further,
It is not that all black individuals subscribe to such resistance. It is simply sufficient that
enough resistance has existed from the start of racialized slavery in the sixteenth century
to make the anthropological question of what it is to be a human being a constantly unfolding discourse and material praxis of the modern age. For black people, the concrete
formulation is the reduction of blacks to forms of inert labor, as labor without a point of
view, as property. Even for many freed blacks, the institutional imposition of labor with
blackness meant a constant struggle for the assertion of claimed freedom in a world that
had no room for blacks to have leisure time; to be black and not laboring amounted to
an illicit laziness. But even more, the plethora of lines drawn against human assertion
meant a constant struggle against illegitimate being. Any category of social life becomes
stained with indiscretion in black form; how does one “live” when one lacks a right to
exist (Gordon 2007: 76–77)?
Barring the above descriptive formality, and within the advertising milieu, the
symbolic racist characterizations of products advertised to African Americans and
other non-white consumers reflects their inferior economic, social, and political
Chapter 5 Diversity in Advertising in the Twenty-First Century
75
positions vis-à-vis the superior positions of whites in all aspects of American life.
Overturning such disreputable products characterizations intended for African
Americans and other non-white Americans, for example, Cohen maintains that
“Social benefits may derive from advertising beamed at the black market with the
help of black personnel. A greater understanding of blacks would insure contributions through the very aspects of advertising that have been the subject of much
criticism” (Cohen 1970: 10).
Cohen argues in her work that advertising can make use of its persuasive
techniques to overcome the negative ways of thinking among blacks who have
suffered from rejections and loss, and offer positive reinforcement to their upward
drives. Advertising can employ its communication know-how to design effective communication systems that promote positive values. These communication
channels may also be used to inform blacks of opportunities available to them
and provide whites with suggestions for contribution to black programs. Advertising can use its managerial expertise to create advertising programs that will help
black entrepreneur to succeed, while at the same time it provides satisfactions
for the black consumer. “If advertising is a strong persuader and a reflector of
our culture, it has both the power and the responsibility to provide a means by
which blacks can be accepted and acknowledged in the mainstream of life” (Cohen 1970: 10–11). Advertising firms must recognize that African Americans and
other non-white Americans respond to advertisements which appeal to them and
take their interests into account. Corporate America would have made a colossal
error had they not comprehended the necessity of incorporating African Americans in advertisements; corporate America would have forfeited copious respect
and business. In this vein, Karie L. Hollerbach makes a case:
Companies and advertising agencies gradually began to demonstrate what appeared to be
a newly awakened social consciousness which translated to less overt stereotyping of racial
minority characters in advertising and the first tenuous steps taken toward the inclusion
of more diverse types of people (Hollerbach 2009: 600).
The brute fact is that advertising firms viewed African Americans as one entity,
all with the same aptitude of lack of ability to purchase products and the lack of
potential to contribute meaningfully to the companies. Advertising industry fail
to accept the fact that African Americans possess the ability and willingness to buy
products, however they simply want to be treated equally. In the words of Terence
H. Qualter,
But the gradual realization of the enormous economic potential of of the black consumer
market, combined with a much more militant, and effective, black political pressure,
brought about change. Blacks now appear quite often in commercials, although not in
the same proportion as in the total population. Class discrimination, however, has proved
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Edward Lama Wonkeryor
a stronger barrier than race by itself. Blacks in commercials ‘are usually shown as part of a
group of typical, happily consuming, middle-class Americans in some salubrious environment (Qualter 1991: 71).
Qualter expands that the reaction of advertising industry to minority movements
has been to present advertisements in which minorities are integrated into the
mainstream of middleclass status seekers. This gives rise to a new dilemma, frequently blacks are introduced into middle-class prosperity in both commercials
and regular television programming. Evidently, the vast majority of the black
populations in the industrialized societies are excluded from just such a life (71).
African Americans disavow their domination or marginalization by the advertising industry; rather, they want to become an integral part of it and to lessen
existing stereotypes and misconceptions about them. If advertising firms limit
opportunities for African Americans, they are conveying subliminal messages to
their African American and other non-white American consumers. Consumers
focus on products that are advertised, but advertising agencies always portray
much more than they appeal products in their advertisements. For example, when
the white characters are flashy and wealthy and the African American characters
are hardly illustrated or are depicted in a stereotypical manner, consumers can
pick up on this, whether resolutely or not (Hollerbach 2009). Such depictions
of African Americans in particular and other non-white Americans in general in
advertising, resonate into existing degrading stereotypes. As Julia M. Bristor et al
assert,
Media can communicate racial prejudice in number of ways, including omission, stereotyping, and showing African Americans in a disproportionate number of “bad” or low
status roles. Such portrayals can reveal subtle assumption and attitudes about minorities.
Precisely because assumptions and attitudes are frequently neither consciously articulated
nor intentional, identifying and questioning them is a necessary step towards redressing
race-based inequalities (Bristor et al. 1995: 49).
Among much else, marketers must be aware of how information on individual
characteristics affects the sending, receiving, and processing of communication is
critical for them to communicate and provide services for consumers in the not
distant future in an increasingly diverse marketplace. Advertising has also been
accredited with creating higher levels of materialism and consumption in society,
as well as with encouraging people to seek happiness from products as opposed
to family and friends. Advertising “has also been charged with perpetuating stereotypes, particularly for minority groups” (Lee and La Ferle 2004: 4). Given
America’s diversity and the purchasing power of its multicultural and multiracial populations, marketers and advertising firms must become conscious of their
Chapter 5 Diversity in Advertising in the Twenty-First Century
77
needs and sensitivities, in order to earn their business. Arguably, Wei-Na Lee,
Jerome D. Williams, and Carrie La Ferle elucidate that,
Reports from the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia indicate
that African Americans accounted for $646 billion in buying power in 2002, followed
by Hispanic Americans at $581 billion and Asian Americans at $296 billion (Gardyn &
Fetto, 2003). These numbers have more than doubled in size from those reported across
the three groups in 1990 (Raymond, 2001). Furthermore, although the size of the White
non-Hispanic population is decreasing and is expected to drop from approximately 70%
of the population today to close to 50% by 2050 (Gardyn & Fetto, 2003; U.S. Census,
2000). In contrast, the Hispanic population is estimated to grow and account for 20%
of the population by 2020 (U.S. Census, 2000). Asian Americans are also predicted to
continue growing and to account for just over 5% of the U.S. population by 2010 (U.S.
Census, 2000) (Lee, Williams, & La Ferle 2004: 5).
The second half of the twentieth century saw the evolution of a research that assesses the images of ethnic minorities, including African Americans in advertising.
There are two salient reasons for the advertising industry to take undying interests in assessing the images of ethnic minorities in advertising. First, marketers,
because of financial reasons, would like to understand and adequately represent
the various consumer groups. Second, considering that advertising is a form of
social communication, advertising firms and marketers want to present what is
familiar so that consumers can embrace their messages and they can interact with
each other (Bush, Smith, & Martin 1999 as cited in Lee, Williams, & La Ferle
2004: 6, 7). Contrary to these core assessments of how ethnic minority consumer
groups perceive their images and receive and utilize messages about products that
are advertised in the communications media, advertising firms design advertisements that try to define the positions and interests of ethnic minority groups
as sub-standardized as compared to the positions and interests of members of
mainstream America. Such characterizations of stereotypical advertisements that
are directed at African Americans and other minority racial groups contradict the
view that the United States is a melting pot. “The United States has been called
a melting pot, referring to people of different races, cultures, and religions that
have come to blend and assimilate into one nation, often by shedding their traditional cultural identities” (Orndoff 2003; Tharp 2001 as cited in Williams, Lee,
& Haugtvedt 2004: 7).
On the one hand, it is believed that the melting pot has muffled diversity
(Carr—Ruffino, 1996) and for possessing numerous negative implications for
people who have attempted to assimilate and either were not accepted or who
ended being ashamed of their heritage (Simmons, Vasquez, & Harris 1993 as
cited in Lee, Williams, & La Ferle 2004: 7). Arguably, diversity in the presentday United States means the total inclusion of all peoples, including “all citizens,
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White, Black, old, young, Christian, Muslim, gay, heterosexual, and so on. Advertisers as well as other major institutions in society must recognize that diversity
includes everyone” (Williams, Lee, & Haugtvedt 2004: 8).
In the overall context of the prevailing discourse that advertising firms and
other institutions in the United should acknowledge that diversity must incorporate multicultural, multiracial, and diverse religious groups, diverse political and
social organizations, and ideological orientations into their fold; therefore, it can
be argued that the appreciation and sensitization of these diverse groups and organizations must become a matter of centrality. Consumers usually buy goods when
they recognized that advertising campaigns acknowledge their identity as members of a given racial and social group, because as Williams, Lee, and Haugtvedt
(2004: 14) have stated, “advertising becomes an important role for legitimizing
and publicizing the existence of target groups.” Like this,
Advertising influences identity formation and identity enhancement in two important
ways. First, advertising acknowledges individuals by rendering them identifiable and intelligible in the mass media. Second, advertising recognizes consumers as members of a
discernible social group, with which they identify. Therefore, advertising may function to
bring the marginalized population groups into public being (Lee & Callcott 1994 as cited
in Williams, Lee, & Haugtvedt 2004: 14).
In America in this millennium, diversity in advertising can be promoted by advertising firms and those that wield the political, cultural and economic power
by identifying and respecting the ethnic, racial, and cultural spaces of multiracial
groups. All things being equal, if peoples from diverse ethnic and racial persuasions in the United States are recognized and communicated to in a respectable
manner as integral members of multiracial and multicultural America, a holistic
American humanity will be appropriated. Such efforts will reduce the transmission of prejudice, institutionalized racism and bigotry as well as the stereotypical
portrayal of images of African Americans and other non-white groups in advertising.
Dimensionality of Diversity in Advertising in the 21st Century
Advertising in the twenty-first century sums up the concept of advertising democracy as long as the representational images of African Americans and other
non-white Americans are vividly and equally depicted in it, because these groups
also constitute, like white Americans, active consumers. What is more, the U.S.
population looks remarkably different in the twenty-first century, considering
the higher percentages of non-white Americans, including Hispanics and African Americans, among others. See Table 1 which characterizes racial and ethnic
groups in the United States.
Chapter 5 Diversity in Advertising in the Twenty-First Century
79
TABLE 1 Racial and Ethnic Groups in the United States
Number in
Thousands
Percentage of
Total Population
194,553
63.0
34,658
11.2
2,476
0.8
14,229
4.6
Chinese
3,106
1.0
Filipinos
2,476
0.8
Asian Indians
2,602
0.8
Vietnamese
1,482
0.5
Koreans
1,336
0.4
Japanese
767
0.2
2,460
0.8
Germans
50,708
16.5
Irish
36,915
12.0
English
27,658
9.0
Italians
18,085
5.9
Poles
10,091
3.3
French
9,412
3.1
Scottish and Scotch-Irish
9,417
3.1
Jews
6,452
2.1
Hispanics (or Latinos)
50,478
16.3
Mexican Americans
31,798
10.3
Puerto Ricans
4,624
1.5
Cubans
1,785
0.6
Salvadorans
1,648
0.5
Dominicans
1,415
0.5
Classification
RACIAL GROUPS
Whites (non-Hispanic)
Blacks/African Americans
Native Americans, Alaskan Natives
Asian Americans
Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians, other Asian
Americans
ETHNIC GROUPS
White ancestry (single or mixed, non-Hispanic)
Continued on next page
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Edward Lama Wonkeryor
TABLE 1 (Continued)
ETHNIC GROUPS (continued)
Hispanics (or Latinos) (continued)
Guatemalans
1,044
0.3
Other Hispanics
8,164
2.6
TOTAL (ALL GROUPS)
308,746
Note: All data for 2009 except three racial groups listed at top, Hispanic total and subgroups, and
total population figure, which are for 2010. Percentages do not total 100 percent, and subheads
do not add up to totals in major heads because of overlap between groups (e.g., Polish American
Jews or people of mixed ancestry such as Irish and Italian).
Sources: 2009 data from American Community Survey 2010: Tables B03001, C04006; 2010 data
from Davidson and Pyle 2011: 117;Ennis et al. 2011; Humes et al. 2011; Richard T. Schaefer
2012. Racial and Ethnic Groups Thirteenth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
African American and other minority groups in the United States make up the
subordinate groups. According to Schaefer (2010), this subordinate group has
the following characteristics: “unequal treatment, distinguishing physical or cultural traits, involuntary membership, awareness of subordination, and in-group
marriage” (7). Aware of these characteristics that are attributable to subordinate
groups, advertising agencies are striving their best to diversify their advertising
campaigns.
To recollect an historical note, African Americans, because of their racial
background, have been marginalized in America since slavery. Herbert Blummer
(1958 as cited in Johnson, Rush & Feagin 2000: 99) clarify “that racial prejudice
and stereotyping are more than a matter of negative feelings possessed by members of one group for another, for they are rooted in power relations and group
positions.” Blummer illuminates that a high priority in dominant groups is to
create ideologies and images that legitimate privilege and rationalize their discriminatory behavior. Clearly, dominated groups do not have the same power to
set the terms of categorization, and are viewed by those who dominate in terms of
stereotypical representations (Moscovici 1981). The biological and social myths
about African Americans and other people of color make negative racist stereotypes ready tools for maintaining status and privilege, as in the account above.
The racialized thinking and emotions of the white-racist system are much more
than a matter of how whites view people of color. They are also about – and
perhaps are principally about—how whites see themselves as individuals and a
racial group (Gallagher 1999). They view themselves as virtuous, highly civilized,
racially superior, hardworking, intelligent, and freedom-loving, thereby justifying
their privilege and power. Out-groups of color are viewed as less than virtuous,
Chapter 5 Diversity in Advertising in the Twenty-First Century
81
even as sub-human, and thus deserving of their many social disadvantages. Such
structural appropriation of whiteness has been prevalent in the United States from
colonial times to the present-day (Johnson et al. 2000: 99).
Because of this, “advertising has developed into a constant, sometimes annoying, element in their lives. Advertising has affected our buying habits, altered
our language, changed our fashions, and always strived to attract our attention. It
has also woven its way into the culture not only of Americans but of consumers
in virtually every country of the world” (Cappo 2003: 212). By the same token,
marketing implications for the diverse minority racial groups as well as African
Americans will undoubtedly be taken seriously by advertising firms and marketers. Even the fundamental question of defining African immigrant groups and
addressing gender inequality and other related issues in advertising campaigns will
be addressed by advertising firms and marketers in order to bring about advertising democracy. As Jamie Snider, Ronald Paul Hill, and Diane Martin noted in
the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) construct they developed, “The ethical
component is their responsibility to respect the rights of others and to meet the
obligations placed on them by society that ensure these rights,” (Snider, Hill, &
Martin 2003: 176).
In this millennium, the United States has become a multiracial and multiethnic society; as a result, advertising agencies are specially addressing multiracial
consumers’ interests and appealing to their values. Although previously, the values
and interests of multiracial consumers, including African Americans, Hispanic
Americans, and other Americans of color were largely ignored or not always adequately portrayed in advertising campaigns. For example, the Hispanic population in the United States is a quickly growing demographic—estimated at about
16.3% of the total population, in spite of that, advertising firms have poorly portrayed the Hispanic culture and traditions (Lind 2012: 172; Schaefer 2012: 5; &
U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). This 16.3% “is, in fact, a gold-mine of barely tapped
potential consumers whom many advertising agencies are beginning to target.
Because of such a large percentage, we can assume that the goal of any advertising
agency is to maximize profitably” (Lind 2012: 172; Schaefer 2012: 5).
Lind asserts that, in order to make the most profit, advertising firms may
perhaps examine data about the particular consumers and ask the following questions: “What is important to a Hispanic family? To a Hispanic individual? What
do Hispanics eat? Wear? What are the most important tenets in Hispanic culture?
What types of television, radio, and Web sites do Hispanics turn to?” (Lind 2012:
172). She said that when the former questions have been proffered, they then
recognize and consider some of the main media outlets for advertising, including
“television, the Internet, radio, and print. Specific methods may then be devised
for compiling data which in turn can help construct specific advertisements tar-
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Edward Lama Wonkeryor
geting Hispanics” (Lind 2012: 172–173). If we cautiously examined the Hispanic-targeted advertising strategies, we can safely argue that advertising campaigns
targeting Hispanics have been stereotypical and offensive. According to Lind,
In fact, during the Great Depression, campaigns were launched by states that resulted in
the deportation and forced repatriation of Mexicans back to their native lands. A name
synonymous with anti-Hispanic fervor during this era was Harry J. Anslinger, who said,
“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races” (Lurigio,
Rabinowitz, & Lenik, 2009). This marketing diatribe was directed toward people of color: African Americans, Asians, and especially Hispanics from Mexico. This anti-Hispanic
campaign stated that Mexicans would bring cannabis across the border and “infect” white
women with their satanic drug (Yaroschuk, 2000) (Lind 2012: 174).
Advertising can be used for both negative and positive promotion as illustrated
in this early anti-Hispanic advertising above. Diversity and multiculturalism were
not regarded as top priority by the advertising industry. In present-day America,
advertising campaigns appeal to diverse audiences for products from firms such as
McDonalds, Taco Bell, State Farm, and Microsoft. In point of fact, many television commercials use one tenet of the Hispanics’ triptych: language. Let us consider this example, in the State Farm ad titled “Barista,” a Hispanic man uses
the term “la familia.” Other examples include the “I’m loving it” campaign by
McDonald’s (family and food), the “Yo quiero Taco Bell?” commercials (language
and food), and some advertising advice given out by Microsoft (2009) aimed at
helping companies hoping to target Latinos/Hispanics (Lind 2012: 174–175).
Diversity is unique in advertising in view of the general characteristics of
the current diverse U.S. population. This is to argue, in the words of Geraldine
Fennell and Joel Saegert that, “the recent perception of increasing numbers and
prominence of individuals from non-Caucasian backgrounds and of enhanced
readiness, compared with earlier times, of individuals to seek recognition for respects in which they view themselves as different from others” (Fennell & Saegert
2004: 302). Marketers and advertising firms should identify and appreciate the
character of diversity in a given market, in order to allow them to communicate
effectively to the target audience about the importance of a product. Their mode
of communicating to the target audience—diverse population—should be “first,
using special-interest rather than general media; second, employing ethnically diverse actors or settings in ads; and third, using language other than English in
marketing communications” (Fennell & Saegert 2004: 310). By using these approaches in communicating a product’s advertisement to the diverse population,
including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and other
Americans, advertising agencies will be able to make a sale.
Chapter 5 Diversity in Advertising in the Twenty-First Century
83
Conclusion
In this chapter, I have examined diversity in advertising in the twenty-first century. To accomplish this, I explored the history of racism in advertising. As its
main thesis, I accentuated that the painful history of racism in advertising from
the period of enslavement to the present-day, has created an enduring legacy that
American society finds it difficult to overcome. I also provided a conceptual analysis of the theme based on existing literature of how promoting ethnic diversity
within the advertising industry is not just an important regulatory issue to address
historical failures, but is essential for multicultural marketing in order to characterize and portray representational images of diverse ethnicities. I concluded by
looking at the dimensionality of diversity in advertising and its impact on the
marketing of brands to a diverse-targeted audience in this millennium.
Chapter 6 Lessons and Conclusion
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
The history of racism in advertising from the period of enslavement to recent
times has created an enduring legacy. To assert the lessons and conclusion, we
have, in this volume, scrutinized the history of race—an overt discrimination—
in advertising and the development of African American identity as it relates to
media. Further, we examined the unique role and responsibility of the advertising
industry as both a mirror of society and an extraordinary influence on popular culture and social norms. We also critically looked at actual advertisements
as a representation of discrimination in employment practices. In the end, our
conclusion support the theory that fostering ethnic diversity among advertising
personnel is not just an important regulatory issue to address historical failures,
but is essential for multicultural marketing efforts to positively portray diverse
ethnicities.
We also explicated the new role for advertising in telling a story about race
in America. It is the story of the development of white group consciousness and
the importance of the emerging “free market” mass media. Ultimately, this new
role for advertising suggests that in a racialized state like America, the market gave
birth to and built some elements of white nationalism. Specifically, we discussed
modern newspapers and the formation of white racial group consciousness. We
provided insight into how the principles of the Enlightenment crossed the Atlantic and conflicted with the developing market economy and the expansion
of rights it afforded white males, while reducing the rights of free blacks and
reinforcing the property status of enslaved blacks. Modern newspapers, the Penny
Press, were formed in this conundrum. Their commercial reliance on advertising
defined them as modern. Thus, the audience they attracted to sell to advertisers
did not represent a general audience.
We explained the racism-political advertisement nexus, especially its use as an
instrument for priming and conditioning white voting behavior in presidential
elections. In other words, how did racist political advertisement seek to shape voting preferences of white voters in past American presidential elections? We also
assessed the impact of the election of Barack Obama as the first African American
U.S. president on the use of racist political advertisements in future presidential
elections. Concomitantly, we elucidated advertising in the twenty-first century.
Our main thesis argued that the painful history of racism in advertising from the
period of enslavement to contemporary time has, as previously stated, created an
enduring legacy that American society finds it difficult to overcome. At last, we
offered a conceptual analysis based on existing literature of how promoting ethnic
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Edward Lama Wonkeryor
diversity within the advertising industry is not just an important regulatory issue
to address historical failures, but is essential for multicultural marketing in order
to characterize and portray representational images of diverse ethnicities.
We contend that racism in the United States is the thing of the past; however,
we must deal with it in the present-day. From the second half of the twentieth
century up to-to-date, advertising industry has regarded and continues to appreciate the purchasing power of multiracial consumers. Disallowing the forfeiture
of multicultural consumers’ dollars and taking cues from marketers, advertising
agencies have designed and continually framed advertising campaigns with multiracial groups as their prime commercial target. In practice, these advertising campaigns appeal to the multicultural markets because they invoke their unflinching
desire for the advertised products. What is interesting, though, is the propensity
of advertisers to structure advertisements that are untruthful in content and alluring to the unguarded minds and wishful appetite of African Americans and
other non-white consumers. Apart from puffery in current advertisements that
are directed at African Americans and other racial groups by advertising agencies,
stereotypical characterizations of African Americans and the misappropriation of
African American identity in the mass media systems are also stridently used.
For instance, “advertising treated African American citizens as though they were
invisible for many years, and then included them, grudgingly, for a long time almost exclusively, in massive advertising of unhealthy products such as fast foods,
tobacco, and alcoholic beverages” (dates 1993: 461). The lesson to be learned
from such distasteful advertisements is the disinterest shown in purchasing the
advertised product by the African American and nonwhite American consumers.
Premised on the lessons learned from the dimensionality of racism in advertisement, it is credibly reasonable for advertising agencies in twenty-first century
America to frame African American images in advertising in a positive way. Contemporary America promotes racial harmony and market enterprise by embracing
diversity, if the images of African Americans and other non-white Americans are
not stereotypically characterized in advertising.
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Contributors
Natalie P. Byfield is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and
Anthropology at St. John’s University. She has taught in the fields of sociology
and communications. Her research focuses on the role of language in society and
how the powerful and those with less influence use language to shape their world.
George Klay Kieh, Jr., is a professor of Political Science and African Studies
at the University of West Georgia. He has served as a dean at Grand Valley State
University and at University of West Georgia. His research interests are peace and
conflict studies, security studies, democratization, the state, foreign policy, political economy, and international cooperation.
Dana Saewitz is interim department chair and an associate professor of Advertising in the School of Media and Communication at Temple University. She is
also co-director of SMC Plus, an online certificate program in Digital Advertising
and Strategic Communication.
Edward Lama Wonkeryor is provost and vice president for academic affairs
and professor of Media and Communication and African Studies at Cuttington
University. He also taught courses in African studies, African American studies,
and Mass Communication at Temple University from 2003 to 2013. His research
interests are mass communication, race/ and ethnic relations, security studies,
African political history, military, globalization, and democratic governance.
Index
A
abolitionist media. See abolitionist press
abolitionist movement 39, 41, 47
abolitionist press 40, 41, 42
AdAge.com poll 17
advertisements 1, 6, 19, 44–45, 71
African Americans and blacks 5, 9, 10,
12, 18, 19, 25–30
images of black unity and Afrocentric
identity 30
positive images of 29, 86
African American target marketing
31–32
alcohol 31–32, 86
derogatory caricatures and idealized
views 3, 23–24
fast food 31, 86
multicultural marketing 3
racist political
use in presidential elections 13, 62–69
runaway slaves 5, 23, 25
stereotypes
racial and ethnic 1, 7, 9, 11–12,
25–29, 30, 32, 33, 58, 61, 64, 65,
67, 69, 72, 74–77, 78, 82
tobacco 31, 32, 86
advertisers 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 18, 19, 22,
25, 26, 30, 31, 40, 43, 46, 52, 72,
78, 85, 86
African American 13
advertising
blacks and other minorities
dehumanization of 3, 25
colonial era 23, 35, 72
creators 22
definition of 1
latent references to race 44
runaway slave advertisements 3, 5, 23,
25
advertising agencies 8, 19, 21, 26, 32, 33,
75, 76, 80, 81, 82, 86
black employees 15–17, 20
code of ethics 23
corporate 3
government monitoring 16
hiring, promotion and retention statistics 16
minority-staffed 16
training and recruitment programs to
increase black employees 21
advertising employment 20–21
advertising executives
minority 15, 16
advertising industry 1, 3, 8, 9, 12, 15, 17,
18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 33, 34, 71,
72, 75–77, 82–86
employment discrimination 15–21
employment ratios of African Americans
16–22
executive roles
minority underrepresentation 15
overt racism and discrimination 16–19
affirmative action policies and programs
64–65
African American identity 1, 4, 5, 8–13,
30, 85, 86
African American images
as product logos 25–28, 86
African Americans 1
advertisers and advertising industries 13
buying power 10, 29, 32, 77
conspicuous consumption of goods usually associated with wealth 32
cultural, economic, and political disenfranchisement 2
income, 1990 10
African American youth
96
exposure to alcohol advertising 32
Africans 3, 5, 8, 24, 25, 48, 51, 52, 71,
74
enslaved 3
Aikens, A. J. 6
alcohol advertising
prevalence of in black print and broadcast media 9, 29, 31
Allen, William G. 41
Alton Observer 41
American Association for Advertising
Agencies (AAAA) 21
American capitalist political economy
59–60, 63, 68–69
racism 57
American Colonization Society 41,
45–46
American Independent Party 62
American Indians. See Native Americans
American Jews 3, 80
American presidential elections 57
racist political advertisements, use of
13, 61–69
role of racism in 59
white voting behavior 57, 85
Annenberg School of Communication 23
anti-Hispanic advertising 82
Arab Americans 3
Asian Americans 3, 71, 73, 77, 79, 82
Atwater, Lee 58
Aunt Jemima 7, 25
B
bigotry 2, 24, 78
black
lower class 30, 32
middle-class 9, 29
poor 10
upper-income 10, 30
black advertising executives 21
black advertising specialist 1
black and white abolitionists 3
press 42
dimensions of racism
black collectibles
value of 8
black communities 3, 33, 40
derogatory or comical images of 11
poor urban 9, 29
black families
quality of life 9
black media stereotypes 11
black-owned newspapers 40
Colored American 41
Freedom’s Journal 41
Mirror of Liberty 41
National Watchman 41
North Star 41
Rights of All 41
Weekly Advocate 41
black political power 37
black press 40–41
black print and broadcast media 9. See
also black press
blanket sheet 46
Bulletin of the Business Historical Society
44
Bush, George 65–66
C
Carter, Jimmy 64–65
Chase, Salmon P. 6
Chinese 23
Christian Science Monitor 44
Civil Rights Act (1964) 18, 64, 69
Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts 62
Civil Rights Movement 9, 17, 20, 21, 33
civil rights organizations 19
Civil War 5–7, 25, 37
consumers 5, 20, 22, 72, 76, 77, 78, 81,
86
African Americans and black 1–2, 8–9,
10, 19, 26, 29, 30, 71, 72
diversity of 12, 18
economic power 8
ethnic, multi-ethnic and multi-racial
31, 81, 86
index
low income 31
new (African Americans, Hispanics,
Native Americans, Asian-Pacific
Americans et al.) 3
non-white 74, 76
white and mainstream 8, 10, 26
Cooke, Jay 6
CORE 19
Corker, Bob 57
Cornish, Samuel 41
Cosby, Bill 9
Cosby Show 9
D
Democratic Party 62–63
demographics 1
discrimination 2
patterns of 2
roots of 15
diversity 3, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 33, 51,
72, 76, 77, 78, 82, 83, 85, 86
Douglass, Frederick 41, 42
Dukakis, Michael 65–66
97
G
Gandy, Oscar 23
Gantt, Harvey 57
Garnet, Henry Highland 41
Garrison, William Lloyd 41, 42
Gold Dust 7
H
Hallock, W. W. 6
Hartford Courant 44
Helm, Jesse 57
Hispanics and Latinos 3, 56, 68, 73, 78,
79, 80, 81, 82, 91
historically black colleges and universities
37
H. L. Heinz 7
Hooper, John L. 5
Horton, William J. (Willie Horton)
65–66
I
Irish 23
E
J
Eastman Kodak Company 7
Embree, Elihu 41
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 18
ethnic media 31
Jim Crow laws and segregation 61, 64
F
fast food advertising
prevalence of in black print and broadcast media 31
Fischer, Sheldon 16
Fisk University 37
Ford, Harold 57
Four A’s diversity advisory board recruitment subcommittee 16
Franklin, Benjamin 4
free blacks 3, 13, 25, 40, 41
K
Kellogg, A. N. 6
Kraft Foods 9
Ku Klux Klan 64
L
Levine, Harold 17
Levine, Huntley, Schmidt & Beaver 17
Lindgren, Jack 17
Lovejoy, Elijah P. 41
M
marketing specialists 32
Massachusetts 65–66
mass advertising 44
98
mass media 3, 9, 11, 20, 33, 35, 36, 40,
43, 44, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 72,
78, 85
mass media systems 52, 86
McCain, John 66
McDonalds 82
McGovern, George 64
Meredith, Hugh 4
Microsoft 82
Milwaukee Evening Wisconsin 6
minority-targeted media outlets 31
Mondale, Walter 65
multicultural marketing 1, 3, 4, 8–14, 13,
15, 30–32, 33, 72, 83, 85, 86
liquor, tobacco, and alcohol advertising
31
N
NAACP 19
National Biscuit Company 7
Native Americans 3, 23, 42, 46, 47, 51,
73, 79
Native Hawaiians 79
New Jersey Civil Rights Commission 20
news and entertainment media 1
New York City Human Rights Commission 20, 21
New York Times 44
Nixon, Richard 62–63
North Carolina senatorial race 57
NYCHR. See New York City Human
Rights Commission
NYSHR (New York State Commission for
Human Rights) 19
O
Obama, Barack 57, 66
2004 Democratic National Convention
67
Office of Equal Opportunity of the Department of Housing and Urban
Development 20
Office of Federal Contract Compliance of
dimensions of racism
the Department of Labor 20
Osborn, Charles 41
P
Pacific Islanders 3, 79
Palmer, Volney B. 5
Pennsylvania Gazette 4
Penny Press 40–52, 85
political communication 61, 62
political economy
of advertising 55
post-Civil Rights era 58
post-Revolutionary War laborers 44
Postum Cereal Company 7
print and broadcast ethnic media 31
pro-tobacco advertising 32
Puerto Rican communities 33
Q
Quaker Oats Company 7
R
racism 1–2, 13, 15, 41, 54, 86
American capitalist political economy
contour of 57
definition of 2, 37
history of in advertising 72–73, 83, 85
in 19th-century advertising 23–30
in American presidential elections
59–69
institutionalized 2, 16, 78
repudiation in United States 58
racism-political advertisement nexus 57,
85
Reagan, Ronald 64–65
religious groups 3, 78
Republican Party 61, 62
Ruggles, David 41
runaway white indentured servant 45
Russwurm, John 41
index
S
Saturday Evening Post 5
school desegregation 63
Sears, Roebuck & Co. 7
segregation and discrimination 17, 63
Shattuck, L. F. 5
Shredded Wheat Company 7
State Farm 82
Swain, William 41
Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of
Education (1971) 63
T
Taco Bell 82
tobacco advertising
African American exposure 3, 32
prevalence of in black print and broadcast media 9, 29, 31
U
Uncle Ben 7, 25
United States
Civil War 5–7, 25, 37
colonial era 4–6
ethnic and religious groups 3
immigration 3
Industrial Revolution 5
presidential elections
white voting behavior 57
race relations, history of 1, 68
racial polarization 63–64
Treasury Department 6
World War II 8, 17, 26
Urban League 20, 21
W
Wallace, George 62–63
Wall Street Journal 44
Washington Post 44
white abolitionist newspapers
Emancipator 41
Liberator 41
99
Manumission 41
Patriot 41
Philanthropist 41
white abolitionist press 41
white Americans
perceptions of blacks 8
white voters 13, 57, 58, 61, 63–69, 85
World War II 8, 17, 26
Wright, Jeremiah (Rev.) 67
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