Saturday, December 31, 2005

Essay 316

Counting down the final MultiCultClassics Minutes for 2005…

• Drug dealer Pfizer has been running advertising for Viagra with a headline that reads, “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?” An AIDS activist group is protesting, insisting the ads promote unsafe intercourse on a typically sex-filled night. Additionally, the group claims Pfizer is hyping Viagra as a recreational drug. “It’s not a recreational drug,” said the group’s president. “It’s irresponsible for the company to advertise it this way.” Regarding the New Year’s ad, he added, “We’re marketing a drug that’s supposed to treat a disease because it’s a holiday?” Pfizer should have presented celebrity endorsements from Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest.

• The University of Michigan is joining other schools fighting against Colombian coke dealers. Actually, it’s the Coca-Cola Company, and the schools are reacting to an investigation of working conditions with Columbian bottlers. The protests include banning Coca-Cola products from campuses. Can’t beat the real thing — but you can ban it.

• The African-American Film Critics Association named Crash as the top film for 2005. Other films receiving honors included The Constant Gardener, Good Night, Good Luck, Brokeback Mountain, Syriana, Walk the Line, Hustle & Flow, Capote, Batman Begins and North Country. Holy Questionable Voting! How did Batman Begins nab a mention?

• A new brand of Swedish jeans is sparking controversy for its logo and religious viewpoints. Cheap Monday features a skull with an upside-down cross on its forehead. “It is an active statement against Christianity,” the designer confessed. “I’m not a Satanist myself, but I have a great dislike for organized religion.” Sales are heavenly, and there are plans for distribution to the U.S. What would Jesus wear?

• The Washington Post reported an increase in the number of women fighting back against workplace pregnancy discrimination. Claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rose 33% in the past decade. An EEOC official believes it doesn’t reflect greater discrimination; rather, it shows a greater willingness from women to file complaints. An official with the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings, added, “You have this volatile combination of Generation X and Y women feeling entitled to be in the workplace and live up to widely held ideals of motherhood…And employers who simply appear not to know that it’s gender discrimination to push them out.” Don’t mess with 21st century June Cleavers.

• The Washington Post also reported a decrease of sexy imagery in male-targeted advertising. “[Men] think with a multiplicity of organs, not just the one below the belt. They want to be respected, admired, entertained, to be part of a community,” said ad executive and alleged trend guru Marian Salzman. “They don’t want to be patronized like they’re a bunch of morons.” Not sure what planet Salzman is on, but it’s definitely nowhere near Mars or Venus. Bacardi and Axe are just two advertisers disproving Salzman’s theories. Moron continues to be a title men proudly accept.

• Tiger Woods is moving on up, if it’s even possible for someone of his stature to do so. The sports superstar plunked down $40 million for a 10-acre estate on Jupiter Island in Florida. But joining the golfers at the ultra-exclusive Jupiter Island Club may prove problematic. “There is a huge waiting list [to join the club], and no one supersedes the line to be considered,” said an anonymous neighbor. Woods will probably just buy the damned club too.

• Happy New Year to Everyone!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Essay 315

On the one hand, advertisers who support HBCUs deserve appreciation. But Honda may be guilty of patronizing with this ad. The image features a law student standing behind a judge’s bench. The headline reads, “Meet Hasahan Morgan. The next great Supreme Court Justice.” Damn, let’s not put too much pressure on the young brother. Why do advertisers feel the need to hype their own humanitarian efforts like this?

Essay 314

MultiCultClassics Minutes for Final Friday…

• The Boy Scouts in Connecticut are giving a local Indian tribe a big boulder. Technically, they’re giving it back to the Mohegan tribe, given that European settlers “claimed” the land over 350 years ago. The site may have served as an early meeting place for tribal councils. Although the Boy Scouts were willing to relinquish the land for free, the Mohegan tribe will pay $50,000. A family had given the Boy Scouts control of the land in 1963. Hopefully, the Boy Scouts won’t turn out to be Indian givers, especially since others have been Indian takers on so many past events.

• Two female students in California were suspected of being lesbians, and their Lutheran high school expelled them. Now the students are suing the school for discrimination and invasion of privacy. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Especially when they’re in love with each other.

• Rikers Island plans to shut down a special dormitory that housed gay and transgender inmates. Supporters claimed the exclusive accommodations served as a necessary safe haven. But officials stated the special dormitory would be replaced by a new system to house at-risk prisoners, regardless of their sexual orientation. Maybe the Queer Eye team could design the alternative jail space.

• In case folks didn’t notice, there’s a new record in the NFL this year: Six head coaches who happen to be Black. And hey, a few even have their teams in the playoffs. Imagine that.

• The family of John Demjanjuk plans to continue fighting for the man. Demjanjuk, accused of having been a Nazi concentration camp guard, was ordered to leave the country. “You can’t blame a family that rallies around their father and wants to believe the best about him,” said a spokesman from an international Jewish rights organization. “But the rest of society needs to reserve their sympathy for those who suffered in camps like Sobibor and Trawniki. This is a person who volunteered to enter a genocidal system.”

• Sony continues to draw criticism for its graffiti-inspired Playstation campaign. The company had commissioned artists to tag buildings with images — allegedly even getting legal approval to paint the ads. But graffiti enthusiasts have panned the garbage, defacing the work in some markets. Now community groups are joining the protests. Can’t believe Sony is surprised by the reaction. If the agency that suggested the idea didn’t warn their client about the potential backlash, it would only verify more cultural cluelessness in our industry.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Essay 313

Here’s a dubious tribute from Toyota, appearing in various January 2006 Black publications.

An image of Martin Luther King, Jr. appears in a car’s rear view mirror. The headline (printed on the mirror’s surface) reads, “OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE FURTHER THAN THEY APPEAR.”

Huh? Not sure what the intended message is here. Maybe Toyota is saying that MLK’s vision is still far from reach. Based on the Black-targeted advertising Toyota produces, that would certainly be an accurate statement.

The body copy reads, “As you move forward in your life, take a minute to reflect and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man whose dream you continue to get to live every day.” Damn, that’s some patronizing bullshit. And why is everything addressed to YOU? Shouldn’t it really be WE? After all, the man’s dream was supposed to benefit everyone.

This garbage hardly reflects the Toyota position of “moving forward.”

Essay 312

More miserable MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• A University of Chicago study showed Americans are becoming more miserable. The researchers discovered an increase in folks experiencing “negative life events” — like getting fired or divorced. Folks averaged 4.3 negative events in 2004 versus 3.8 in 1991. The research director claimed, “We’re somewhat more troubled.” No shit, Sherlock. Wonder if the sponsors who paid $300,000 for the study are feeling miserable right now.

• Not everyone feels miserable about getting fired. The Mattel executive credited with letting iconic Barbie fall to Bratz dolls is receiving a $5.43 million payoff to take a hike — plus a $1.5 million fee to work as a consultant for two years. He also keeps a number of perks, including limo services and a country club membership. And to further relieve any potential misery, he still owns stock options worth over $30 million.

• Related to the last point, let’s recognize that the Bratz dolls gaining popularity at Barbie’s expense are multicultural and really hip.

• Alabama may demand that drivers speak English. A state judge will soon decide if driver’s license tests should only be given in English (the state currently offers the test in 12 other languages). Although anyone who’s ever visited Alabama will attest that even the citizens who speak English don’t really speak English.

• Don’t tell officials in Alabama, but folks in South Carolina translated the Bible into Gullah — the rich language of slaves who worked for hundreds of years off the Carolina coast. “De Nyew Testament” is the 26-year project of descendants of slaves collaborating with traveling missionaries. The book opens with, “De Lawd me shephud. A hab ebryting wa A need.” Amen.

• Florida recorded a 21.5% increase in hate crimes from 2003 to 2004. Florida enacted hate-crime laws in 1989 following a series of vandalisms at Jewish temples. But even law officials question the effectiveness of the measures. “I don’t think [the laws are] used to prosecute people efficiently enough to change things,” one cop said. “You’re not going to change people from being idiots and bigots. There’s always going to be people who hate because they are different.”

• The retired auto worker who allegedly worked as a Nazi concentration camp guard is closer to being shipped out of the U.S. 85-year-old John Demjanjuk has been fighting the courts for about 30 years. Demjanjuk and his lawyer argue that he might face torture if returned to Ukraine. An official from a Jewish group insisted, “Justice in this case is long delayed…No one should confuse anything happening to John Demjanjuk as anything but justice. It’s not vengeance.”

• About 3,000 Holocaust survivors will get compensation from an Austrian fund — a $210 million fund established in 2001 to compensate folks who lost businesses, property, bank accounts and insurance policies thanks to the Third Reich. An additional 3,000 survivors are expected to receive compensation too. Hey, reparations systems can work after all.

• Austria has spent the last few weeks sanctimoniously blasting native son Arnold Schwarzenegger for his refusal to grant clemency to Stanley Tookie Williams. Now comes news of an Austrian art exhibit featuring images of President Bush and Jacques Chirac engaged in sex acts with Queen Elizabeth II. And the artists responsible enjoyed $1.2 million in government subsidies. The works, which were being broadcast on electronic billboards, have been officially pulled down like Schwarzenegger’s name on a soccer stadium.

• Women and men are now nearly equally using the Web. However, women and men tend to use the Internet differently. Women are into things like email, while men are big on downloading. Most likely, women are on the Web communicating and connecting. And men are collecting porn.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Essay 311

Overreaction of the Month Award.

This pathetic ad from Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion appeared in the January 2006 issue of Essence.

The headline reads, “Nothing keeps you from handling your business.” Hey, nothing keeps some advertisers from producing corny messages that insult the professionalism of Black women everywhere. While the meeting participants focus on the presenter, our heroine strikes a completely oblivious, oh-so-seductive pose — even throwing her perfect legs up on the table. It’s a classic depiction of the Black woman as a sexual object. You go, girl!

Let’s also note this garbage comes from Unilever, the parent company of Dove. Guess the celebration of real beauty is restricted to a single brand. All other campaigns continue to employ glamorized images with hot models. Typical. Or in this case, stereotypical.

Essay 310

A busy Wednesday with MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• Now reports claim Oprah’s plane wasn’t hit by a bird after all. Rather, it appeared to be simple wear and tear that cracked the windshield of the media queen’s jet. This is great news for all concerned Audubon enthusiasts.

• Time to make the funeral arrangements. Michael Vale, the terrific comic actor who portrayed the baker in Dunkin’ Donuts commercials, died Saturday at age 83. Vale’s career included stints on Broadway, films, television and over 1,300 commercials.

• There’s a growing initiative in the auto industry based on the growing asses of consumers. Carmakers are making car seats larger to accommodate the ever-fattening American public. Does anyone see a connection between this trend and the popularity of drive-thru service at fast food restaurants?

• A story in The Miami Herald says, “María Elvira Salazar changed the nature of South Florida’s prime-time Spanish-language television.” But the popular talk show host is leaving the air, as her program will end on Saturday. A change in station ownership resulted in a total format change. For now, Salazar can still be heard on her daily radio show — and she is currently working on new TV opportunities. Hasta la vista, baby.

• In Mexico, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are feeling the heat from a competitor with no big-budget advertising, fancy trucks or sweeping product lines. In fact, the competitor is ridiculously and literally cheap. Ajegroup’s flagship soft drink Big Cola sells for as low as 86¢ for 3.3 liters. “Half the population of Mexico is poor,” said an Ajegroup spokesman. “For us, that was an opportunity.” For Coca-Cola and Pepsi, that was incentive for lowering prices to compete. Can’t beat the real cheap thing.

• Marriott Hotels is announcing to over 200,000 people that their personal data is missing from the hotel chain’s computer files. The people include employees, timeshare owners and specific timeshare customers. Marriott’s rate guarantee program is titled, “Look No Further.” Hope somebody starts looking a lot further for that damned personal data.

• Disabled commuters in Maryland settled a federal lawsuit against the state’s public transportation system (Maryland Transit Administration). The suit was not seeking monetary damages; rather, folks simply demanded service improvements. The settlement includes having the MTA hire a consultant to review services and draft recommendations. The consultant will also confer with a committee of disable riders. The MTA has managed to show marked improvements since the lawsuit was filed in 2003 — with rider complaints being cut nearly in half. So maybe they’re halfway there already.

• The New York Times reported the city’s teachers’ union has charged the Department of Education with age bias. The union accused officials of a “discriminatory pattern and practice of coercing, threatening and harassing teachers over 40 years of age to ‘encourage’ those teachers to leave their assigned schools.” Welcome back, Kotter — unless you’re a Baby Boomer.

• MacArthur Airport on Long Island evacuated a terminal when a security screener mistook an Xbox 360 for a bomb. Yo, it’s da bomb — but it’s not a threat to passengers.

• Two men were arrested for trying to extort Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony for $1 million — for the couple’s stolen wedding video. The video had been on Marc Anthony’s laptop, which was lifted last October. The alleged extortionists threatened to sell the video to Access Hollywood. Can’t even think of a smart-ass remark for this one.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Essay 309

Late-breaking MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• General Motors is assembling a committee to figure out why its Black-owned dealerships are less successful than other minority dealerships. About 70% of GM’s Black-owned dealerships are profitable versus nearly 82% of GM’s other dealerships. Wonder why the automaker isn’t more concerned that nearly 20% of its dealerships are not profitable. Regardless, here’s a thought that might make the new committee unnecessary: Black folks realize GM cars are inferior pieces of shit.

• Movie theaters are mulling over new tactics to deal with annoying cell phones and cell phone conversations. Initial concepts include ushers that are more intimidating and technology to block cell phone signals. Heaven forbid anyone might consider producing films that don’t inspire folks to hold phone conversations in the first place. Also, if the theaters insist on running the annoying cell phone ads — including other really dull commercials — can they at least lower ticket prices or sell a box of Jujubes for under $20? Then again, if the signal blocker idea flies, it would be cool to shoot a commercial where the Verizon guy walks into a theater and says, “Can you hear me now? Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? Yoo-hooo! Can you hear me now, dammit?!”

• Celebrity couple Tony Parker and Eva Longoria created a controversy during a recent traffic stop. As the officer wrote citations, Ms. Longoria allegedly threw a tantrum and hollered, “He’s just a Mexican bike cop. He only wants your autograph.” Longoria denied making the remark and stated, “It’s a shame that one officer conducted himself in such an inappropriate and disorderly manner. I never made any sort of racial slurs, let alone made any comments about the officer being Mexican, as a Mexican myself.” Nah, can’t imagine Diva — uh, Eva — would ever make such a comment.

Essay 308

Just to keep things kosher, Chanukah fans are invited to click on the essay title to join the festivities.

Essay 307

It’s the first day of Kwanzaa.

Whether you reverently celebrate or you think the event involves figure skater Michelle Kwan, click on the essay title to join the festivities.

MultiCultClassics FAQ

MultiCultClassics FAQ

Q. Where the hell am I?
A. Welcome to As the subtitle states, you’re viewing “Musings on Multiculturalism in the Ad Industry and Beyond.”

Q. What’s the point?
A. There are multiple points. The advertising industry continues to struggle with exclusivity and discrimination. No need to elaborate on the whys. But there is a tremendous need to consider what we can all do about it — and even why we must do something about it. MultiCultClassics presents a stage for discussions, debates, strategies and more. Additionally, the blog offers everyone the chance to step outside of your own cultural comfort zone and experience broader perspectives. In short, MultiCultClassics delivers the recommended daily allowance of multiculturalism. There are other points, but you’ll discover them eventually.

Q. Who’s writing all this crap?
A. Technically, lots of folks. The essays are a combination of musings, editorials, news briefs, collected articles/columns and more.

Q. Then who’s HighJive?
A. Technically, lots of folks. Sometimes HighJive is the editor-in-chief. Sometimes HighJive is writing personal viewpoints and observations. Sometimes HighJive is a guest writer. Sometimes HighJive is relaying information and anecdotal essays from associates. Sometimes HighJive is swiping stories from a variety of sources.

Q. Does HighJive have experience in the ad industry?
A. Lots of folks comprising the HighJive persona have lots of experience in the business. The primary HighJive has worked at numerous mass market and multicultural agencies, producing award-winning work for major brands.

Q. Why the anonymity?
A. Lots of reasons. Avoiding the political retaliation that often accompanies speaking the truth is one motive. But more importantly, a desire to focus on issues versus individuals remains the ultimate goal. Again, this forum allows lots of folks to voice their opinions freely. There are additional reasons, but they’re not important.

Q. Why are the essays numbered versus titled?
A. The essays are intended to be read sequentially. In some respects, this is a social experiment and a continuing conversation. Visitors should stop by regularly to keep up with the latest and immerse themselves in our multicultural world.

Q. Who’s paying for this?
A. It’s totally pro-bono. There are no advertisers or sponsors. There are no hidden agendas. It’s a 100% volunteer venture, so don’t send applications seeking a salaried position.

Q. Who should visit MultiCultClassics?
A. Everyone. What’s more, everyone should share the site with everyone they know. This blog works best with an inclusive and inquisitive spirit. Please visit often. Admission is free. Open to the public 24 hours a day.

Q. Where do I begin?
A. Start by reading Essay One. It sets the tone for everything that follows. Click on the essay title above to go directly to the kick-off entry.

Essay 306

Traveling by ground and air with MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• Schools in Arizona and Massachusetts have discovered a new source of revenue — advertising on buses. Michigan and Colorado are poised to follow the trend. “This will spread across the nation, because there’s so much money that will come into schools as a result of doing this,” said an official at the Scottsdale Unified School District. Coming soon: Crossing guards with reflective sandwich boards hawking the local Wal-Mart.

• Airlines have discovered a new source of revenue — immigrant travelers. Traditionally taken for granted as a minor segment, carriers are now desperately seeking to woo the audience. From hiring multilingual staffers to revising carry-on restrictions to accommodate folks that often have extra luggage, the airlines are adapting to meet the needs. Coming soon: Dora The Explorer Frequent Flier Program.

• Oprah’s private jet collided with a bird, cracking the windshield and requiring an emergency landing. Oprah will probably refer to it as another “Crash” moment.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Essay 305

Avoiding the post-Christmas shopping frenzy with MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• The Los Angeles Times reported another wrinkle in the issues surrounding illegal immigration: romances between immigrants and Border Patrol agents. “The absurdity of it gets played out in the day-to-day lives of Border Patrol agents,” said the director of an immigrant rights group. “Everybody knows somebody [in the U.S. illegally] who has some kind of relationship with a Border Patrol agent. Either someone in their family is married to one, or they’re sleeping with one. People’s lives are very complicated and intertwined and they’re not very clear-cut.” Well, it certainly explains why so many guys volunteer for the Minuteman Project.

• Up to 100,000 illegal immigrants may be eligible for green cards thanks to technicalities from a 1986 amnesty program. The original rules disqualified anyone who left the country, even for a brief trip, between 1982 and 1987. But settlements in two class-action lawsuits changed things, creating the opportunity for people to reapply for legal residency. The new deadline is December 31. After that, your best chance is to date a Border Patrol agent.

• Perfusia-SR, a dietary supplement billed as an alternative treatment for heart disease, is targeting Blacks via an ad in Jet magazine. One controversial point involves the comparison between Perfusia and BiDil, a drug approved earlier this year by the FDA offering similar benefits for Blacks. The NAACP is partnering with pharmaceutical company NitroMed to support BiDil. “To market [Perfusia-SR] as an alternative to BiDil is, frankly speaking, ridiculous,” said Mandeep Mehra, head of cardiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. We’re not doctors — and we don’t play one on TV — so definitely check with your physician before responding to any advertising.

• reported on a story from The Chicago Defender regarding a Howard Stern billboard. The posting features an illustrated graphic of a Black fist with the headline: “Let Freedom Ring. And Let It Be Rung By A Stripper.” Community leaders are protesting the billboard, which appears near a predominately Black neighborhood. “To take this phrase made popular by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for freedom and justice, and trivialize it in such a way is both disrespectful and unacceptable,” Rev. Michael Pfleger said. “As we prepare to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, we will not tolerate this kind of brazen disrespect. Howard Stern may have managed to push his craziness on cable, but we should not have to tolerate it in our communities.” It was clearly a bad media buy, given Stern’s low popularity among Black audiences. Plus, it’s just a bad idea overall.

• Afro-In-Books & Things, a Black cultural bookstore in Liberty City, Florida, is closing December 31. It’s been serving the community with cultural and literary activism since 1978. Originally launched by retired Miami-Dade County Public Schools administrators Earl and Eursla Wells, Afro-In-Books & Things offered customers access to stuff not easily accessible via mainstream bookstores. William “DC” and Stephana Clark continued the husband-and-wife owner tradition when they bought the business from the Wells in 1993. William Clark is committed to political activism, having co-founded International African Movement, a.k.a. IAM Miami, in 1984. The group met regularly at Afro-In-Books & Things. But the pressures of competing with the mega-bookstores, as well as the challenges of reviving business in Liberty City, forced the decision to shut down the landmark. Afro-In-Books & Things highlights include visits from Winnie Mandela, Maya Angelou, Will and Jada Smith and Malcolm Jamal Warner — plus organizing a bus trip to the first Million Man March in 1995. “It has been about making a difference, not just making money. That’s it in a nutshell,” William Clark said. Anyone in the Miami area can visit the store at 5575 NW Seventh Avenue, Liberty City. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For more information, call 305-756-6107 or visit

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Essay 304

The following holiday message from Maya Angelou appeared in Parade magazine…


The greatest gifts are the blessings of the past.
Let’s Thank Those Who Came Before Us

By Maya Angelou

Published: December 25, 2005

[On the eve of this holiday season, PARADE asked the poet Maya Angelou to write about the gifts she values most. Angelou—who has prevailed over childhood hardship with extraordinary vitality, love and optimism as a writer, an actress and a teacher—has been an inspiration to millions. She recently took part in the opening ceremonies of the White House Christmas Pageant of Peace, the 82nd lighting of the national Christmas tree.]

While the carolers are tuning up their voices and last year’s Christmas bells are being dusted off so that they can chime brightly, I realize there is no time like the holidays in which to give thanks.

People live in direct relation to the heroes they have, keep and admire. If a people have no one to respect or to hold in high regard, they will find little inside themselves to glory and to honor.

In the 1930s, agreeing to disagree, my parents separated and divorced. My brother Bailey, at 5 years old, and I, at 3, were sent from Los Angeles to a hamlet in Arkansas. We had no adult companion for the 2,000-mile journey, but we did have tags on our arms, which informed anyone interested in our destination that “these children should be passed over to Mrs. Annie Henderson.”

Thanks to the good offices of Pullman car porters and dining car waiters, we actually arrived in Stamps, Ark.

Mrs. Henderson was our paternal grandmother and the daughter of a former slave. She had the only black-owned store in the village and had completed only the fourth grade in school.

With that rudimentary education, she taught herself arithmetic and some of the intricacies of English. Thus, she spoke and understood a language far removed from the plantation dialect.

She taught me and Bailey to value English. She said, “Listen to how people talk and, more important, listen to yourself. You must speak so your neighbor can hear you, understand you and maybe come to your defense in a time of trouble.”

Over the years, I have found myself needing to use my grandmother’s advice—so much that in critical moments, although she’s been dead almost 50 years, I will speak to her directly.

I am proud to have received many honorary doctorates from prestigious institutions of higher education in our country. Plaques, honors and keys to cities also have come to me, for which I am grateful. At each gift, I think of my grandmother, who had the foresight and courage to love me, to advise me and to encourage me.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, Jewish Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Islamic Ramadan, Chinese New Year and Vietnamese Tet, we have the opportunity to lift our eyes and our hands heavenward and give thanks to our Creator that we had ancestors who cared for us without knowing our names or what mad personalities we would have.

Each of us needs to realize the enormity of the debt we owe to the past, so that we can be proud of who we are in the present and can work for a better life for our children who are yet to come.

I say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to every soul in our needy world and to all those who went before.

Essay 303

The following appeared in The Chicago Tribune…


Q&A with Sen. Barack Obama

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) sat down with the Tribune in his Washington office on Dec. 16. Here is an excerpt from the interview.

By Jeff Zeleny
Tribune national correspondent
Published December 24, 2005

Q. What have you learned about the country?

A. It’s reinforced my sense that there is a mismatch between the priorities of Washington and the priorities of folks back home. It’s something that I understood in the abstract as I was campaigning. It’s something that you feel much more acutely when you’re here. We’ve had weeklong debates on shielding gun manufacturers from liability. We’ve had debates about a bankruptcy bill that actually worsened the options of hard-strapped families. We haven’t had a debate about health care in any meaningful way. I can’t recall a serious conversation on the floor of the Senate about education.

Q. Were you cautious or risk-averse this year?

A. It’s not that I’ve ducked questions, but I don’t have to be the guy who comments on everything. There are a lot of capable people around here who can give a blow-by-blow commentary.

The few times I’ve heard people say I was cautious, what they really meant was they didn’t agree with my position and they assumed that I had taken that position for political reasons. The assumption from some corners on the left is: Barack is being cautious because he doesn’t want to expose himself to attack from the Republicans or he’s moving to the center because he’s positioning himself for higher office. That’s just not the case.

Q. How do you decide when to use the megaphone that you’ve been given?

A. If I don’t think what needs to be said is being said. I think Katrina was a good example of where I felt the way the issue was being discussed and framed wasn’t moving the ball forward.

Let’s take an issue like the Patriot Act. I felt very strongly on this and I have for a long time, but Sen. Russ Feingold [D-Wis.] and others have done a terrific job in projecting the issue. I feel no need to elbow my way up to the front of that parade.

Q. Are you more confident now than a year ago?

A. I definitely still have stuff to learn, particularly when it comes to procedural matters. There is no real handbook for it. It’s all on-the-job experience. But I came here confident that I could play ball in the big leagues. At the end of the year, I think I’ve shown that I can.

Q. How will you decide what happens next in your career?

A. I rely on good advice from people whose judgment I trust--my wife, who I trust deeply and I think has really good instincts about these things. But ultimately, I tend to rely on my own inner compass. Whenever I make good judgments, it’s usually because I say to myself: “Can I be useful here?” As opposed to: “This is something I want.”

Q. Is the Senate the best place to fulfill political ambitions?

A. I think it’s very possible to have a Senate career here that is not particularly useful. And the minute I’m in the Senate and I’m just mailing it in, then I want people to tell me it’s time to get out.

Q. Could anything make you change your mind about running for president in 2008?

A. I’m not going to speculate on that. You know, like what? It’s speculation. Go ahead, next question.

Q. Have you ruled out running for another office before your term is up?

A. It is not something I anticipate doing.

Q. Are there regions of the country you feel you need to know more about?

A. It’s only been in the last year or year and a half that I’ve traveled at all in the South. The more I travel there, the more I think I’d like to know. Particularly, I think, because the Democrats have made a mistake not going after the South more aggressively, especially in presidential elections.

Q. What’s the best aspect of being a senator?

A. Everybody takes your phone calls. If there is a topic I’m interested in, I can call the smartest people in the world on that topic and talk to them about it. Sometimes they’ll come into my office. And that is just a huge luxury. If I’m interested in finance, I can call Warren Buffett. If I’m interested in technology, I can call Bill Gates. If I’m interested in health care, I can call the top administrators or health-care experts in the country. If I’m interested in foreign policy, I can not only call experts here, but I can call experts overseas. That’s fun.

Q. Of the people you’ve met, who are most intriguing?

A. Meeting Nelson Mandela was a powerful moment. Meeting the Dalai Lama, who was fascinating, just as warm and wise as you’d want the Dalai Lama to be. And Dr. J, Julius Erving. I was a big Dr. J fan as a kid. He called me up about stem cell research.

Q. How is your next book coming; are you writing it?

A. It’s not coming as fast as I would like. It needs to be done by March. I feel like I do have to write myself. I would feel very uncomfortable putting my name to something that was written by somebody else or co-written or dictated. If my name is on it, it belongs to me.

--Jeff Zeleny Tribune

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Essay 302

Season’s greetings with MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• A Spanish radio station in Madrid wound up apologizing for an on-air comedy routine. The gag involved a fake phone call by a jokester acting like Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero phoning Bolivia’s new president to congratulate him on his election win. The impersonator of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero invited the impersonator of Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales to visit Madrid and added, “I imagine the only one not to have called you was George Bush. I’ve been here two years and he still hasn’t called me.” Sounds like the folks in Madrid are overly sensitive. The U.S. broadcasts a lot worse material — from radio personalities who aren’t trying to be funny.

• A lingerie store in Maine sparked controversy with its window displays featuring live models wearing the store’s sexy offerings. “It doesn’t come close to nudity,” according to Mayor William E. Dowling. “I talked to the police chief and others, and they basically said no laws are being violated.” Can’t be much worse than the signage at a typical Abercrombie & Fitch store.

• There’s a dramatic increase for using anti-aging products — among twentysomethings, believe it or not. The social pressures to maintain youthful appearances are driving youthful customers to treatments typically geared toward folks in their 40s and beyond. It’s popular to say, “40 is the new 30” or even “50 is the new 30” — but from an attitudinal standpoint, it looks like 20 is the new 30.

• Add Germany to the growing list of countries struggling with immigration. Turkish immigrants face 40 percent unemployment and 30 percent high school dropout rates. Can’t imagine there’s high participation in Oktoberfest either.

• Happy holidays to everyone — all the best in the New Year and beyond.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Essay 301

‘Twas The MultiCultClassics Minutes Before Christmas…

• Now New Yorkers can spend Christmas with Jesus Christ. Literally. A judge approved for a Manhattan man to officially change his name. The former José Luis Espinal said, “This was not done for any reason other than I am that person. You’re dealing with the real deal.” Mr. Christ claimed he’s spent the last 15 years “doing investigative work — criminal fraud and stuff of that nature,” plus “investigating evil.” Wonder if this guy ever asks, “What would Jesus do?”

• Osama bin Laden’s niece appears in racy photos in the latest issue of GQ. “I want to be accepted here, but I feel that everybody’s judging me and rejecting me,” said the niece. “Come on, where’s the American spirit? Accept me. I want to be embraced, because my values are like yours.” Right, we all aspire to appearing in racy photos in men’s magazines.

• Foxy Brown probably wishes she could be facing Judge Joe Brown. Instead she wound up dealing with — and ultimately irking — a judge in Manhattan Criminal Court. Ms. Brown was in court working out a plea bargain for her infamous cell-phone bashing of nail salon workers over a manicure gone awry. When the judge accused the hip hop diva of chewing gum, Ms. Brown stuck out her tongue to prove her innocence. The judge viewed the response as disrespect, and ordered her to be handcuffed to a bench. Foxy even scuffled with court officers before being shackled. Ms. Brown apologized, but only after being threatened with additional fines and jail time. The trial date is set for January 23. Note to Foxy Brown: 4 out of 5 dentists recommend NOT chewing gum in courtrooms.

• Hip hop star Sadat X staged a pre-Xmas rant, brandishing a loaded pistol at a group of teens in Harlem. After he threatened “to kill everybody,” the rapper was eventually subdued and arrested by cops. Probably just hoping to boost holiday sales of his latest album.

• Representative Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado, has spent the past ten years hollering about immigration — dissing his own party and president along the way. But as the issues continue to grow with the number of illegal immigrants, Tancredo has gone from lunatic to leader. The New York Times spotlights the man who fuels politics with paranoia. Click on the essay title to view the full story.

Essay 300

Here’s the opening of an interesting paper examining racial imagery in advertising:

Within a business that depends entirely on an individual’s association with representations of a group, there is bound to be material burdened with implicit and explicit stereotypes, generalizations and assumptions. Advertising, by its nature, looks to reach as many consumers as possible and present them with versions of their existence (or desired existence) in order to appeal to them. The results are imagined and somewhat empirically substantiated visual depictions of a group of people. However, the success of these depictions requires the intended audience to associate themselves with these portrayals and place themselves within the narrative of the text. When advertisers attempt to depict ethnic minorities something interesting occurs. Suddenly the same racist stereotypes that permeate the American society find themselves on magazines pages, television screens and radio airwaves, only in much subtler and innocent ways. Strategies that attempt to flatter or appease minorities often alienate and insult them with the visible social and cultural ideologies that they represent. As the advertisements attempt to reflect society, they simultaneously create and confirm societal views and continue a cyclical trend.


While lengthy, the paper is definitely worth checking out. Click on the essay title to view the entire work.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Essay 299

Pre-Holiday Cheer from MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• Stealing someone’s lunch money can really backfire on you. Wal-Mart got hit for $172 million from a lawsuit claiming the company denied lunch breaks to employees. Now Wal-Mart plans to appeal the ruling. In the meantime, the retailer’s lawyers will probably be brown bagging for a while.

• A Catholic magazine apologized for running an ad featuring a Virgin Mary statue covered with a condom. The magazine publishers claimed the condom was not visible in the early proofing stages. An artist protesting the Vatican’s opposition to condoms is the culprit behind the ad. The copy read, “Unique Contemporary Religious Art Work for Sale…a stunning 22 cm high statue of the Virgin Mary standing atop a serpent wearing a delicate veil of latex.” Just in time for the holidays.

• The Ohio kids who slept in cages will remain in foster care for now, separated from their adoptive parents. A judge ruled the couple abused some of the children by making them sleep in the wood-and-wire compartments. The parents continue to fight for the kids’ return. “We love our children very much and we will continue to do everything possible to get them home,” the parents’ lawyer read from a prepared statement. He also remarked, “I would expect that if the children come home there would have to be some accommodations made to the enclosures.” Now there’s a keen legal mind at work.

• Lil’ Kim sent holiday greetings from her cage in Philadelphia. A note posted on the rapper’s Web site reads, “I thank all of you for your heartfelt, overwhelming, tremendous love and support…I wanna wish you all a Merry X-Mas and a Happy New Year. May God bless all of you and your families with Happy Holidays and the best times of your life.” Lil’ Kim is doing time for perjury.

• The Boys Choir of Harlem was evicted from its public school home by the city Department of Education. A letter instructed the choir to vacate the premises by January 31. Hey, there are some special sleeping quarters available in Ohio.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Essay 298

Interesting story from The New York Times…


White House Door Opens for Some Black Critics


WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 - Relations between President Bush and the N.A.A.C.P. have been rough from the moment Mr. Bush came to Washington. The civil rights organization was among his toughest critics, and Mr. Bush was the first president in 80 years to go a full term without once attending its annual convention.

But on Wednesday, the new president of the N.A.A.C.P., Bruce S. Gordon, and another prominent black leader - Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s campaign for president in 2000 against Mr. Bush - joined 30 people at the White House to talk with Mr. Bush about the rebuilding effort in New Orleans.

For Mr. Gordon, the meeting was the third with Mr. Bush in just three months, starting with a private one-on-one session in the Oval Office in September and then a smaller meeting with other black leaders earlier this month.

This emerging relationship between the president of the United States and the president of the N.A.A.C.P. signals that Mr. Bush is seeking a rapprochement with one of his more prominent critics at this troubled time for his administration, Republicans said.

But it also suggests that the White House has not abandoned its political goal of trying to draw black voters from Democratic ranks, notwithstanding what even some Republicans described as relations that had been nearly hopelessly damaged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Bush’s refusal to deal with the N.A.A.C.P. and some other major black groups during his first term, because he was peeved at what he considered unfair criticism, has been a major element of contention, and several black leaders argued that it was something Mr. Bush needed to deal with. The effort was encouraged by Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state and the senior African-American in the administration, who Mr. Gordon said was the first administration official to call and congratulate him on his selection as N.A.A.C.P. president.

“It’s second term,” Mr. Gordon said in an interview, “and I got to think that at some point a president and anybody else who’s running out of time, they start to think about legacy. And nothing wrong with that. We’ll all do that at some point in time: How will I be remembered? And right now, he’s not going to be well remembered from the standpoint of how this administration has addressed our community, and so there’s an opportunity to get that right.”

“I think that you can’t be in the administration and not talk to the N.A.A.C.P.,” Mr. Gordon said.

Ken Mehlman, the Republican national chairman, who has made the recruitment of black support a hallmark of his tenure, said he did not believe that his party had suffered lasting damage among African-American voters because of Hurricane Katrina, though he acknowledged the importance of building a relationship between Mr. Bush and black leaders like Mr. Gordon that the president had previously ignored.

“The key going forward,” Mr. Mehlman said, “is to say, ‘Are we going to be able to work together and do folks recognize that not only is the party of Lincoln not well served when 90 percent vote for Democrats, but African-Americans are not served well either.’”

Part of this changed climate reflects what the White House sees as an opportunity provided by the new leadership of the N.A.A.C.P. Mr. Gordon is a product of the corporate world, and is, in demeanor and tenor, notably different from some of his harder-hitting predecessors, including Kweisi Mfume, a former member of Congress.

In interviews soon after taking office, Mr. Gordon signaled that he wanted to open up communications with the White House. He was soon invited to meet first with Ms. Rice and then with Mr. Bush.

He is not the only black leader who has found the door cracking open at the White House. The Dec. 7 meeting also included Representative Melvin Watt of North Carolina, who is the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, and William J. Shaw, the president of the National Baptist Convention, who said that until now, he had had virtually no dealings with this White House.

“Wisdom dictates it - politics dictates it,” Dr. Shaw said of Mr. Bush’s decision to sit down with some groups. “I would hope that this does represent a change. He needs to hear the voices that come from that community, and those voices are not always voices of support.”

Mr. Bush clearly seems to have built some good will with at least some of these leaders - in particular with Ms. Brazile, a Democratic consultant and frequent critic of Mr. Bush who is from New Orleans.

“I can’t sell his tax cuts, I can’t sell his war,” Ms. Brazile said. “But on Katrina, if I can establish assistance and help - I mean, forget partisanship, I can be partisan my whole life. This is where I’m from, this is family. And if I have access to the president of the United States and don’t take advantage of it. ...”

“I know some Democrats won’t agree with me,” Ms. Brazile said. “But then again, their families didn’t lose anything.”

She described Mr. Bush as very informed on what had taken place. “He gave me information. Like I didn’t know that prior to Katrina we may have had too many hospital beds instead of enough,” she said. “He put that information into my head.”

In interviews, black leaders declined to offer much speculation on the White House’s political motivation, saying they were grateful for an opportunity to make the case for help for New Orleans to an administration that has from the start seemed slow off the mark in responding.

Asked whether he though the White House was making a genuine effort to repair efforts with black leaders, Mr. Watt said: “I don’t know if it’s real or not. I do think it’s desirable. I don't know if it’s sincere. I haven’t seen anything in their policies that suggest that it is anything but a public relations move.”

Mr. Gordon noted that Mr. Mehlman constantly talked about trying “to create the party of Lincoln - that's his line.”

“He’s a very aggressive pitchman on that story,” Mr. Gordon said. “It’s a good pitch. Can this party be turned into the party of Lincoln? No time soon.”

Essay 297

MultiCultClassics Minutes presents Biggie, Big Easy and Big Al…

• A party celebrating the posthumous release of an album from Notorious B.I.G. went off as if the rapper was still alive. That is, three men were stabbed and another trio got shot — plus, one of the shooting victims was stomped. Quite a tribute.

• The two New Orleans cops who stomped an elderly Black man have been fired. The original incident had been videotaped and broadcast worldwide. A trial against the officers is scheduled for January 11. No word yet if it will play on CourtTV.

• Looks like Rev. Al Sharpton is not ready for primetime after all. Sharpton halted efforts to star in a CBS sitcom, telling the media, “I’m not interested in being Archie Bunker, I’m looking forward to becoming George Bush.” Guess that means he’s interested in a reality show sitcom.

• Sharpton took his comedy act on the road, commenting on the New York transit strike. Apparently, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been using the word “thuggish” in reference to union chiefs. Sharpton took offense, implying the word had racial overtones for the predominately Black transit employees. “These are hardworking people … They get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to drive buses and trains … and now they're thugs?” Sharpton remarked. He then probably sped off in a fancy limousine.

Essay 296

Another piece from The Chicago Tribune…


Yes, we still need Black History Month--and more

By Clarence Page

December 22, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Does Black History Month actually separate us as Americans, as Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman seems to fear it does? Not if it’s done right.

Freeman called the annual observance “ridiculous” on CBS’ “60 Minutes” last Sunday, visibly surprising interviewer Mike Wallace.

“You’re going to relegate my history to a month?” Freeman elaborated. “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”

Morgan’s pronouncement made news, coming as it did from the celebrated 68-year-old who, among other honors, walked away with an Oscar for playing Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris in “Million Dollar Baby.”

He made news beyond CBS, even though Freeman is hardly the first African-American to register a gripe about Black History Month. An uncle of mine used to complain for years: “Why do we get the shortest month?”

Why, indeed? It was Carter G. Woodson, a great black historian educated at Harvard and the University of Chicago, who initiated Black History Month as “Negro History Week” in 1926. I hear that he used to complain about it too. He hoped the event would eventually put itself out of business by promoting the respectful integration of black history with everyone else's history. In many ways, black history studies have made a lot of progress since then. In many other ways, we’re still waiting.

Woodson chose the second week in February so the big week would coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. If Douglass, who escaped slavery to become a pioneer journalist, author, diplomat and adviser to Lincoln, were anywhere near as well integrated into American history studies as Lincoln was, there would be no need for Black History Month.

Freeman seemed to sense that reality as he toyed around with Wallace: “Which month is White History Month?” he asked Wallace, who looked befuddled. Had Freeman asked me, I would have spoken right up: “Every month!”

But, thank you, Brother Morgan, for reminding us that black Americans are a diverse people. Many of us feel that our history has been marginalized. So do many women, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and gays and lesbians, who also hold commemorative months of their own.

When Wallace started to ask “How are we going to get rid of racism” without Black History Month, Freeman cut in: “Stop talking about it! I am going to stop calling you a white man and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You wouldn’t say, ‘Well, I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.’ You know what I’m saying?”

Not quite. How, I would ask, are you going to solve a problem unless we talk about it? The French tried that. They swept their race problems under “le tapis” (the rug, carpet) in the spirit of “liberty, equality, fraternity.” They refused as a matter of French law to recognize that different races exist, which made it hard, if not impossible, for the law to deal with racial discrimination. The result, after decades of long-standing racial and ethnic grievances, are the recent riots by poor, largely unemployed Arab and African youths in towns across France.

Back here in the good ol’ USA, I have often thought that African-Americans would have preferred to be “just American” from the time the first 20 of us arrived in Jamestown Colony in 1619, but that choice never has been left up to us.

Instead, we add our own cultural flavor to the great American gumbo of ethnic and racial groups. From St. Patrick’s Day to Cinco de Mayo to Columbus Day and beyond, we’re all “just American” except for one day a year when we allow our ethnic identity, whatever it may be, to express itself.

We Americans need not run from our own racial past. It is very much a part of our turbulent history, from the great debate the framers of the Constitution staged over how to count the slaves for purposes of reapportionment (“three-fifths of a person”) to today’s first black female secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

The bad old days of separatism tried to erase black folks from American history. Black History Month puts us back in. It is not “ridiculous” to study the tragedies and triumphs of the many people who made this country what it is. They have a lot to teach us. We need Black History Month. We don’t need to limit it to blacks only--or to a month.


Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Essay 295

The following appeared in The Chicago Tribune…


Diversity spreading but continues to lack altitude
By Carol Kleiman

December 22, 2005

Diversity. That’s a term used to describe the equal hiring and promoting of women, minorities, disabled and gay employees in the workplace. But is it a buzzword or a real factor in corporate hiring practices today?

According to Susan R. Holland, president of HollandRusk & Associates, an executive search firm based in Chicago, diversity is an “evolving” term. And Holland, who has been in the search profession since 1976, has observed the evolution firsthand.

“Today, diversity means looking at ways of answering business needs,” said the recruiter, who is a generalist and handles searches for positions of director and above with salaries starting at $125,000 annually. “In a perfect world, diversity is something positive that drives companies to hire someone other than only the white male majority.”

Looking at diversity in this manner, Holland says, “it takes the idea beyond color, gender, disability or lifestyle to being a way of thinking and operating a successful business.” She points out that diversity was called affirmative action in the l970s. “The real breakthrough comes when a company sees a bottom line need to service a marketplace that is diverse.”

Too often, however, at the very top levels--which remain almost overwhelmingly white and male in the U.S.--the term diversity is just window dressing.

And that’s despite the fact that having a diverse workforce, from top to bottom, is an absolute need. “Studies over the years show diverse teams come to solutions faster and are better able to meet the needs of consumers,” Holland said. Her concept of diversity gives hiring officers a “positive approach, not a negative one.”

Today, compliance with anti-discrimination laws usually only is enforced at lower levels of the company, where numbers are counted, Holland says. And, too often, a company’s “mantra” about diversity at the executive level is this: “Admit weakness, get sympathy and still do nothing about changing it--and therefore, when it comes to explaining the lack of diversity at senior levels, to continue with the smokescreen and keep the country club private.”

Employers still have plenty of excuses to explain why senior managers are usually white men.

“They often say the minority not promoted hasn’t been with the company long enough, or that they can’t hire an outsider because they have to promote from within, or the candidate doesn’t understand the culture,” she said.

“And they also often fear that diverse candidates are going to bring problems with them, such as possible litigation.”

Companies that are sincere about having an all-inclusive workforce can take several steps to ensure it, according to Holland. “Build a database of potential people of diverse backgrounds to hire, so then when you have an opening that needs to be filled quickly, you will have women or minorities available,” advises the recruiter.

“Have real mentoring programs, outside the golf course, with structured ways of allowing senior people to help develop the younger talent. And have a proactive work/family program that acknowledges that a diverse population also values personal and family time.”

As much as Holland values diversity--and equal opportunity for everyone, including white men—she’d like to see a new evolution of the word.

“It should be replaced with, ‘We hire the best.’”


Carol Kleiman’s columns also appear in Monday’s and Tuesday’s Business sections. Watch her “Career Coach” segments on CLTV.

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Welcome, New and Old Readers.

Welcome to

The blog launched in March 2005. The initial goal was to spark discussions and debates about multiculturalism in the advertising industry — including all the good, bad and ugly complexities and contradictions.

Admittedly, there wasn’t a master plan or long-term strategy. Just decided to begin typing and see where it might go.

Many essays and months later, the plan is no clearer. The strategy is being reworked daily too.

Nonetheless, the conversation continues — despite the fact that it’s more of a monologue versus dialogue.

Here’s what offers you:

If you’re deep into the multicultural advertising scene, this is the place for relatable, relevant insights and more. It’s all the stuff you’d toss around the virtual water cooler.

If you’re semi-clueless to the world outside of your personal universe, this is the place for you as well. One deliberate tactic here is to expose the masses to progressive, 21st century diversity. It’s not something exclusive to the human resources department. Think of the blog as delivering a recommended daily allowance of culture.

Please read the blog starting at Essay One (click on the essay title). You’re encouraged to agree or disagree with anything posted.

Please visit often. Admission is free. Open to the public 24 hours a day.

Finally, please share the blog with everyone you know. It works best with an inclusive spirit.

Click on the essay title and join the revolution.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Essay 294

Hollywood Moments from MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• From Desperate Housewives to just plain desperate. Page Kennedy, who was fired from the popular ABC show for unknown reasons, is releasing a rap tune to defend himself. Rumors include the actor exposed himself to cast members, although Kennedy insists the cast never saw his member. Nonetheless, he’s seeking to vindicate his reputation through rhyme. Can’t think of a better way to establish credibility.

• Jerry Springer announced he will not run in the Ohio governor's race. Springer had considered entering, but he wanted to see which candidates would emerge. Ultimately, the talk-show host said it would “be irresponsible, divisive, and a betrayal of principle for me to jump into the race at this late stage.” Since when did this moron ever worry about being irresponsible, divisive and betraying principles?

• The funeral for Stanley Tookie Williams was a star-studded event, featuring celebrities like Snoop Dogg and motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Not sure what Robbins was doing there — probably hoping to establish some street cred. God help us all if he starts to work rap into his routines. Police presence was heavy too, as mourners included many gang members.

• Crime in Los Angeles has dropped for the third consecutive year. The city may wind up with a 10 percent decline for 2005. While many are taking credit, few can pinpoint the true reasons. Police Chief William J. Bratton praises improved policing. Social experts cite the gentrification of previously rough neighborhoods. Others point to a stronger economy that provides more jobs. And California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger probably boasts his plan to invent a squadron of terminator cyborgs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Essay 293

Monotonous MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• Another aspiring rapper was shot and killed. Jason Jackson, a.k.a. Brooklyn Hooks, took two bullets in the head. The young rapper and his partner boasted they would “bring back that raw, creative and street essence to the game.” Game over.

• Although the brothers in the recent Murder Inc. trial were acquitted, company bookkeeper Cynthia Brent was sentenced to two years’ probation and six months under house arrest — Yo, Cynthia is in the house!

• Terminated Boeing employees are suing the company for age discrimination, seeking to get their jobs back with at least $1.5 billion in damages. “We believe age was a motivating factor in decisions made,” the ex-employees’ lawyer said. Or just good OLD-fashioned greed. Guess everyone doesn’t get a golden parachute at an aeronautics company.

• California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to take heat for his refusal to spare Stanley Tookie Williams. His native country of Austria has been especially critical — mostly because capital punishment is illegal there. But Schwarzenegger fired back, instructing officials at his hometown of Graz to remove his name from its soccer stadium. “In the future, the use of my name to advertise or promote the city of Graz in any way is not allowed,” proclaimed Schwarzenegger. Gee, tourism is bound to suffer now.

• California is also ending its policies of segregating by race — at least in its prison system. For 25 years, the state has segregated inmates for at least their first 60 days. No other state has a similar way of operating. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in February that things must change. A lawyer involved with the proceedings said, “We will start to create an environment where it will be less dangerous in prison for everyone because racism will start to dissipate … the power of racial classification and racism will start to die.” Wonder if the same can be applied to the law-abiding part of society.

• The creator of “Girls Gone Wild” faced a criminal gone wild — and there’s a videotape to prove it. In January 2004, Joe Francis encountered a gun-wielding fiend who forced the filmmaker to partially disrobe and make sexual comments while being videotaped. The violating videographer then threatened to distribute the recording unless Francis coughed up $300,000 to $500,000. It’s all being revealed in the court trial taking place now. Wonder if Snoop Dogg produced a version too.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Essay 292

Monday Mini MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• Mexican President Vicente Fox spoke out against U.S. plans to erect a fence on the border to prevent illegal immigration. “This wall is shameful…When we look at their roots, the immense majority are migrants, migrants that have arrived from all over the world,” Fox griped. Not sure why the man is complaining. The U.S. will probably employ Mexican immigrants to build the damned fence.

• Add another name to the growing list of countries with tensions surrounding immigrants: Russia. The nation is seeing immigration-inspired protests from rival groups pushing various agendas. In Russia’s case, many people seeking work are migrating from former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Kazakhstan. And of course, there are plenty of youth hate groups to keep things ugly. Rodina, a nationalist party, ran a particularly controversial TV spot. The commercial presented Central Asian men squatting on a curb, leering at a blond Russian woman with a baby carriage. The men throw a watermelon rind on the ground, as a voiceover asks, “Isn’t it time to clean up Moscow’s streets?”

• A new survey showed the superrich are not super generous. The young, wealthy folks — people under 35 making $500,000 to $10 million — on the average made charitable contributions equal to 0.4 percent of their assets. People in the same age range making $50,000 to $100,000 donated 2.5 percent of their assets. Can’t help but think that the money spent conducting the survey would have been better used if donated to charity.

Essay 291

The following appeared in The New York Times…


North Carolina City Confronts Its Past in Report on White Vigilantes

WILMINGTON, N.C., Dec. 18 - Beneath canopies of moss-draped oaks, on sleepy streets graced by antebellum mansions, tour guides here spin stories of Cape Fear pirates and Civil War blockade-runners for eager tourists.

Only scant mention is made, however, of the bloody rioting more than a century ago during which black residents were killed and survivors banished by white supremacists, who seized control of the city government in what historians say is the only successful overthrow of a local government in United States history.

But last week, Wilmington revisited that painful history with the release of a draft of a 500-page report ordered by the state legislature that not only tells the story of the Nov. 10, 1898, upheaval, but also presents an analysis of its effects on black families that persist to this day.

Culled from newspaper clippings, government records, historical archives and interviews, some previously unexplored, the report explodes oft-repeated local claims that the insurrection was a frantic response to a corrupt and ineffective post-Reconstruction government.

“The ultimate goal was the resurgence of white rule of the city and state for a handful of men through whatever means necessary,” the historian LeRae Umfleet wrote in the report’s introduction.

The report concludes that the rioting and coup fully ended black participation in local government until the civil rights era, and was a catalyst for the development of Jim Crow laws in North Carolina.

“Because Wilmington rioters were able to murder blacks in daylight and overthrow Republican government without penalty or federal intervention, everyone in the state, regardless of race, knew that the white supremacy campaign was victorious on all fronts,” the report said.

In the period immediately after the Civil War, the Democratic Party-ruled government in Wilmington, which was then North Carolina’s largest city, was displaced by a coalition that was largely Republican and included many blacks. The loss of power stirred dissatisfaction among a faction of white civic leaders and business owners.

The tensions came to a head on Election Day, Nov. 9, 1898, when the Democrats regained power, according to historians largely by stuffing ballot boxes and intimidating black voters to keep them from the polls. Not waiting for an orderly transition of government, a group of white vigilantes demanded that power be handed over immediately. When they were rebuffed, in the words of the report, “Hell jolted loose.”

The mob - which the report said grew to as many as 2,000 - forced black leaders out of town, dismantled the printing press of a black-owned newspaper, The Daily Record, fired into the homes of blacks and shot down black men in the streets.

Estimates of the number of black deaths are as high as 100, state officials said, although they add that there is no way of truly knowing.

“No official count of dead can be ascertained due to a paucity of records from the coroner’s office, hospital, or churches,” the report said.

Black women and children fled to swamps on the city’s outskirts made frigid by November’s chill. There are accounts of pregnant women giving birth in the swamps, the babies dying soon after.

No white deaths were verified.

Five years ago, members of the North Carolina General Assembly commissioned a report on the incident that they said would be made part of the state’s official record. The final report is to be presented to lawmakers next year.

The release of the draft report - and its painful conclusions - have been politely, if uncomfortably, received in this city.

“I spend a lot of time looking forward and not a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror,” said Mayor Spence Broadhurst. “But we can use our history to grow on. It was a horrible situation in 1898, and this is 2005. But I think it is good for us to talk about it and to fully understand it.”

Styled after similar efforts to document racial atrocities in Rosewood, Fla., and in Tulsa, Okla., the report begins with a thorough account of Wilmington’s status as the Confederacy’s premier port, and the complex structure of its black society, which included slaves as well as a sizable population of free black craftsmen before Emancipation. Rifts between black tradesmen and white Democrats in the years after Reconstruction are chronicled, along with the growth of black society in prominence and power. In 1897, a year before the race riot, black residents numbered 3,478 or 49 percent of Wilmington’s working population, according to a directory for that year. By 1900 that number had fallen to 2,497, or 44 percent, according to data in the report.

According to the 2000 census, Wilmington had a population of 76,000, and nearly 71 percent of its residents were white and 26 percent were black.

Federal and state authorities did nothing in response to the racial rioting in Wilmington, and according to the report, the revolt became a model of sorts when violence later erupted in other cities.

A 1906 upheaval in Atlanta, the report said, “suggests that the lack of governmental response to the violence in Wilmington gave Southerners implicit license to suppress the black community under the right circumstances.”

In the years after the Wilmington rebellion, blacks and whites alike tended not to speak of it.

“I did not even know it happened until I was a grandmother,” said Lottie Clinton, 68, a lifelong resident of Wilmington who is black and a member of the Riot Commission. “My family thought the more positive things I learned, the better off I would be.”

Another commission member, Anthony Gentile, a Wilmington contractor who is white, said he had questions initially about whether the report should have been done at all.

“We didn’t want to keep open wounds open,” Mr. Gentile said. “There were a lot of emotions, and there was a lot of animosity. I was not in favor of doing it.”

He continued, “Everyone made mistakes 100 years ago, let’s deal with today.”

But, he said, “My opinion changed, and I was surprised to learn the depth of feeling that existed and that it was not that long ago.”

Essay 290

This news is slightly old, but MultiCultClassics Member Hadji Williams inspired another online discussion through his recent TalentZoo column — this time the fun takes place at Adrants.

Click on the essay title to check it out.

Essay 289

Most dictionaries define multicultural like this:

Multicultural (mul´ ti kul cher el), adj. 1. Of, relating to, or including several cultures. 2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.

But multicultural has multi-meanings in the advertising industry.

The majority of folks use the term to label efforts that are anything but multicultural — at least by Webster’s standard. Go figure.

The work produced by Hispanic agencies to target Hispanics is deemed multicultural. The work produced by Black agencies to target Blacks is also considered multicultural. Ditto the work addressing Asians, Poles, Russians, Native Americans and more.

The only work that doesn’t usually receive the adjective, oddly enough, is mass market advertising. You know, the stuff intended to speak to multiple cultures.

Agencies that target consumers based on culture are dubbed multicultural too, even when these shops are focused on a single segment. Guess “monocultural” would sound slightly bizarre.

There are a handful of companies boasting to be truly multicultural, offering services to communicate to a variety of people. But these places are usually nothing more than coalitions of “monocultural” specialists — essentially separate minority practices sharing office space. That is, they don’t produce multicultural campaigns that appeal to multicultural consumers.

Organizations like the American Advertising Federation profess commitment to multiculturalism. The AAF Mosaic Center for Multiculturalism actually has a mission statement and tagline — Differences bring us together. Additionally, the AAF annually hands out multicultural awards. But again, it’s really about saluting minority, segregated marketing and/or pushing (but never enforcing!) diversity initiatives. As one might expect, mass market adpeople have minimal involvement with official multicultural programs.

Advertising Age irregularly devotes an entire page to multicultural editorial. In fact, the page is titled, “Multicultural.” Ironically, the section sits in the back of the bus… er, business publication. And the stories highlight “monocultural” marketing.

Is it important for the advertising industry to clarify the meaning of multicultural? Probably. After all, we do live in a multicultural world. Despite the rampant racism and exclusivity, the United States continues to be an extraordinarily diverse society. The new mass market is actually multicultural. Clients recognize multiculturalism — and they’re even taking things to higher levels with global marketing. But mass market agencies have been unable to capitalize on matters, primarily because their ranks remain “monocultural.”

It’s only a matter of time before agencies must adapt to the forces of nature. A 2004 Hewitt report estimated that by 2008, 70% of new labor entrants will be women and minorities. By 2010, the U.S. workforce will be 34% non-White. How much longer can the advertising industry deny and defy reality?

We may ultimately redefine the business once we define multicultural.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Essay 288

Sundae treats served up by MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• Uncle Sam wants you — especially if you’re fluent in Arabic. Seems the government has lots of spy tapes that need translating, but not enough spy employees. Plus, there are plenty of covert efforts requiring bilingual experts. The pay is good, with five-figure signing bonuses. But the standards are high and complex. Don’t think a weekend listening to Rosetta Stone recordings will do the trick.

• Uncle Sam sort of wants you — especially if you’re willing to work hard for low wages to rebuild New Orleans. Illegal immigrants continue to flock to the decimated city, but the results are a mixed bag of controversies. The pay sucks, and certain employers really suck. Latinos are a prime target for mistreatment and even getting stiffed for wages. These folks would have an easier time and greater success by learning Arabic.

• Protesters continue to harass retailers like Wal-Mart for wishing customers “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas.” Fifty folks marched outside a Wal-Mart superstore in California, trying to stop shoppers and initiate boycotts. “It is insulting that Wal-Mart has chosen to ignore the reason for the season,” one religious fanatic argued. “Taking the word ‘Christmas’ out of the holiday implies there’s something sinful about it. ... This is a part of our culture.” Seems the protesters are being extreme in their interpretations, particularly when insisting it’s all “a part of our culture.” Exclusivity has never been the cornerstone of religions espousing positive values and beliefs. Plus, these protesters need to get a grip on reality. Retailers like Wal-Mart are based on servicing large groups of customers. If Wal-Mart started catering to exclusive audiences, they’d go out of business. Then even the protesters would be forced to stampede elsewhere for cheap plasma TVs and sterling silver jewelry.

• Protesting the holidays in New Zealand took a new twist. About 40 mostly drunken men in Santa suits stormed Auckland, robbing stores and fighting security guards. It was all part of an effort dubbed “Santarchy,” an alleged worldwide movement to protest Christmas’ commercialization. Santa Claus is coming to town — and he’s a vandalizing, thieving alcoholic.

Essay 287

The following appeared in The New York Times…


Elite French Schools Block the Poor’s Path to Power

PARIS, Dec. 17 - Even as the fires smoldered in France’s working-class suburbs and paramilitary police officers patrolled Paris to guard against attacks by angry minority youths last month, dozens of young men and women dressed in elaborate, old-fashioned parade uniforms marched down the Champs-Élysées to commemorate Armistice Day.

They were students of the grandes écoles, the premier institutions of higher education here, from which the upper echelons of French society draw new blood. Few minority students were among them.

Nothing represents the stratification of French society more than the country’s rigid educational system, which has reinforced the segregation of disadvantaged second-generation immigrant youths by effectively locking them out of the corridors of power.

While French universities are open to all high school graduates, the grandes écoles - great schools - from which many of the country’s leaders emerge, weed out anyone who does not fit a finely honed mold. Of the 350,000 students graduating annually from French high schools, the top few grandes écoles accept only about 1,000, virtually all of whom come from a handful of elite preparatory schools.

Most of the country’s political leaders, on both the right and the left, come from the grandes écoles. President Jacques Chirac and his prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, studied at the National School of Administration, which has produced most of the technocrats who have run France for the last 30 years. Two opposition leaders, François Hollande and Laurent Fabius, did, too.

“It’s as if in the U.S., 80 percent of the heads of major corporations or top government officials came from Harvard Law School,” said François Dubet, a sociologist at the University of Bordeaux.

These schools - officially there are 200 but only a half dozen are the most powerful - have their roots in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire. Just as the SAT’s were meant to give all American students an equal shot at top universities, the examination-based grandes écoles were developed to give the bourgeoisie a means of rising in a society dominated by the aristocracy.

It worked for nearly two centuries. Throughout the 19th century, French administrations drew establishment cadres from the loyal ranks of the grandes écoles, avoiding the universities, which, outside the control of the government establishment, they saw as potential pools of dissent.

Even in the 20th century, the merit-based system allowed young people from modest backgrounds to move up into the corridors of power.

But children of blue-collar workers, who made up as much as 20 percent of the student body of the top grandes écoles 30 years ago, make up, at best, 2 percent today. Few are minority students.

In the 1950’s, only a small proportion of French students pursued higher education, leaving room for a slice of the working classes to get into the schools, said Vincent Tiberj, a sociologist who studies social inequalities in France. Since then, the number of candidates for the schools has expanded far faster than the schools themselves.

At the same time, the channels leading into the schools have narrowed: the vast majority of students entering the grandes écoles today come from special two-year preparatory schools, which draw their students primarily from high schools in the country’s wealthiest neighborhoods. “The top five or six grandes écoles recruit students from fewer than 50 high schools across France,” said Richard Descoings, director of the elite Paris Institute of Political Studies, better known as Sciences Po.

Administrators at the grandes écoles say students who do not follow the focused, specialized curriculum of the preparatory schools have almost no chance of being accepted. And while, theoretically, top students from any high school in the country can apply for the preparatory schools, the system has become so rarefied that few people from working-class neighborhoods are even aware that the opportunity exists.

“There’s a lack of information, no one talked to us about the preparatory schools,” said Alexis Blasselle, 20, the daughter of working-class parents and now a student at the exclusive École Polytechnique. She learned of the preparatory schools by chance the summer after graduating from high school. “The solution isn’t to open up another avenue to get into the grandes écoles, but to make people aware of the possibility.”

Sciences Po (pronounced see-ahns po), alone among the elite schools, has opened a new avenue of entry for students. High schools from disadvantaged neighborhoods nominate students, and Sciences Po then gives them oral examinations for intellectual curiosity and critical thinking. This year, 50 students were admitted through the program, while 200 entered through the normal examination process.

The Conference of Grandes Écoles, an association of the 200 schools, has also started a program that reaches out to top students in working-class neighborhoods to help guide them through their high school years and better their chances of getting into a preparatory school.

But the top half-dozen grandes écoles, those that provide the country’s leaders in politics and business, remain more or less closed.

The barriers for second-generation immigrants are enormous. Schools in poor, often immigrant neighborhoods get the most inexperienced teachers, who usually move on as soon as they have gained enough tenure for a job in a better area.

The initial fork in the lives of many young people comes when they are about 13 and have to choose between a general course of study or vocational training. Many young second-generation immigrants are guided into technical classes or, at best, post-high-school associate degree programs in marketing or business that are of little help in finding a job.

Second-generation immigrants also often “live in an environment that is outside of French culture,” said Mr. Descoings of Sciences Po. “They are not in the proper social network. There isn’t the socialization that exists in a wealthy family in an exclusive neighborhood of Paris.”

Sitting outside Paul Éluard High School in Saint-Denis, one of the poorest suburbs north of Paris, Bélinda Caci, 16, calls the school guidance counselor “the head of disorientation,” saying that the school cares only about making sure that the students graduate, not what happens after that.

“To become part of this crème de la crème, you have to have benefited from a favorable social environment and education,” the sociologist, Mr. Dubet, said, calling graduates of the grandes écoles a sort of state nobility. “It’s like the Olympics; you have to begin very, very early.”

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Essay 286

MultiCultClassics Minutes presents Web-based Weekend News…

• Hip hop radio personality Ed Lover is back on the air after cold-cocking a woman in a trendy Manhattan nightclub (see Essay 280). “His actions were totally justified. He did nothing wrong,” Lover’s lawyer argued. Totally justified? Now this is going to be interesting.

• Six White firefighters in Chicago won $3.5 million after suing for discrimination. The firefighters claimed the city’s affirmative action initiatives denied them promotions. Discrimination in the workplace sucks. But you have to wonder how many minority firefighters were denied promotions prior to the city’s affirmative action plan.

• Workers remodeling an old Arkansas store discovered a blast from the past: the words “White” and “Colored” painted where water fountains used to be. The building is now being reconstructed as loft apartments and retail space. Wonder if the new area will be integrated.

• A billboard in North Carolina has sparked protests from Arab-Americans. The photo image features a man clad in traditional Arab head scarf with a hand grenade and local driver’s license. The headline reads, “Don’t license terrorists, North Carolina.” The group behind the billboard — The Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License — defends the work. “We’re not going after Arab-Americans. We’re going after terrorists,” said the group’s leader. A spokesperson for the Arab American Institute countered, “The message of the ad says that Arabs are dangerous and violent people and that therefore they should not get driver’s licenses and I think it’s bigoted. It’s racist.” A Google search showed supporters of The Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License include an organization called White Revolution.

• Actor Morgan Freeman blasted Black History Month during an interview on CBS 60 Minutes. “You’re going to relegate my history to a month? I don’t want a Black history month. Black history is American history,” Freeman argued. Ironically, countless Black History Month ads sport headlines proclaiming, “Black history is American history.” Freeman also observed there is no “white history month.” Well, technically, every month celebrates White history. Don’t look for Freeman to do voiceovers for Mickey D’s 365 Black campaign. Which is good news for Tom Joyner, since that’s his gig.

Essay 285

The following appeared in The New York Times…


Australia’s Dangerous Fantasy

Adelaide, Australia

LAST Sunday on Cronulla Beach, a suburb of Sydney, thousands of drunken white youths attacked anyone they believed was of Arab descent. Inspired by reports that Lebanese-Australians had assaulted two white lifeguards, text messages calling for a Lebanese “bashing day” appeared on thousands of cellphones. Some of Sunday’s assailants wore T-shirts that proclaimed, “We grew here; you flew here,” or, “Ethnic cleansing unit.”

For many, the Cronulla Beach incident did not come as a surprise. Rather, it was the bubbling up of an undercurrent that is increasingly evident in Australian life.

Newcomers, especially those who form linguistic or ethnically distinct groups, always have a hard time in Australia at first. But Australia is a country that has been created by many streams of immigrants and has come out the better for it. Greeks and Italians are among the largest non-Anglo groups and are fully integrated. Melbourne has the world’s third largest Greek community. Vietnamese immigrants experienced racism and hostility when they first arrived in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but time, and the entry of increasing numbers of Vietnamese-Australians into public life, have eroded that prejudice.

While this country is less diverse than the United States, its minority communities are a core part of its national identity. The notion of an all-white Australia is a fantasy and an anachronism. No dark-haired, dark-eyed Australian would have been safe on Cronulla Beach last Sunday, yet Australia is - has always been - substantially dark-haired and dark-eyed. And the expressed hostility toward “Lebs” as recent intruders belies the history of Australia, where people of Lebanese ancestry have lived for more than a century.

Several recent events have made this latest eruption of racism and xenophobia different from those of the past. While denying even that racism exists, our leaders have given tacit approval and support for it through policy, whether this is policy on refugees, security or Indigenous affairs. The policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers was strongly linked with border protection from 2001, and, as most asylum seekers of recent years have been from the Middle East and Muslim South Asia, “border protection” has become protection from Muslim refugees in the popular imagination.

Like the United States, Australia has new anti-terrorism legislation, first passed in 2002 and significantly strengthened just recently. Such laws have helped to validate broader community mistrust of Arab and Muslim Australians.

Our government has done little to substantively allay fear of Muslim and Middle Eastern Australians generally or to increase public understanding and appreciation of their culture and contribution to Australian life. Arabic is the fourth most commonly used language after English in Australia, and the most commonly used language after English in New South Wales, Sydney’s home state, yet it is taught in only a handful of schools and universities.

In the last five years there has also been evidence of an increase in violence toward people of Arab appearance. An Iraqi writer I know begged his wife and daughter to stop wearing the hijab because of the potential of violence on the street. An Afghan refugee taxi driver in Adelaide said to my partner last night that he thought he would have to quit because his younger passengers were so nasty. In recent years high-profile cases in which Arab-Australian youths were charged with violent crimes generated a storm in the news media, as well as unchecked vilification on talk radio.

Prejudice creates what it fears by curtailing young people’s prospects. Young Arab-Australians are increasingly ghettoized in Sydney’s poor suburbs, where they struggle for education and jobs. Their families are often prejudiced against non-Arab Australians; the racism of the minority and that of the broader society reinforce each other.

I have Muslim friends who used to feel that they were Australians, but now cannot identify themselves in the negative space created for them in our community. I have non-Muslim friends who are furious at being mistaken for Muslims because of their Middle Eastern background; they are doing all they can to differentiate themselves from people they too are starting to openly dismiss. It has become fashionable, perhaps, to be racist, although none of us, not even our prime minister, is willing to call it what it is.

What happened on Cronulla Beach warns us that our self-inflicted wounds are festering. A volatile part of our community is deeply alienated, unable to belong, and another volatile part has retreated to an irretrievable past and a mythical notion of racial purity. If contemporary Australians are to live at ease with ourselves, we need more education, less fear mongering and, not least, greater honesty about the culture of racism that is so damaging us.

Eva Sallis is the author of six books, including “Mahjar,” a collection of short stories.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Essay 284

Thank [insert politically-correct deity here] It’s Friday with MultiCultClassics Minutes…

• In light of the recent rioting, Australian leaders continue to ponder whether the country is racist. Let’s see. 92 percent Caucasian population. Official “Whites only” policies through the 1970s. No official apology to the nation’s Aborigines for generations of bad treatment. Crikey, they’re crackers.

• Atlanta is the first U.S. city with an official hip hop anthem — The ATL. Like all things hip hop-related, the tune has its critics and controversies. The ATL was written by Dallas Austin, a music producer based in Atlanta — and it was commissioned by Mayor Shirley Franklin. The lyrics include, “Get ‘em up, get ‘em up, get ‘em up, get ‘em up, get ‘em up, let’s go…” A local TV personality griped, “Not a good line for a city with a high crime rate.”

• The American Family Association is threatening to restart its boycott of Ford Motor Company now that the automaker has renewed its commitment to advertise in gay publications. “We had an agreement with Ford, worked out in good faith. Unfortunately, some Ford Motor Co. officials made the decision to violate the good faith agreement," AFA Chairman Don Wildmon stated. “We are now considering our response to the violation and expect to reach a decision very soon.” This guy needs a visit from the Queer Eye team riding in a Land Rover.

• Chicago is launching Park Boulevard, the first new mixed-income housing development. “We’re the only city in the nation attacking this problem. If they don’t attack the problem and do something about it…You keep reading all about Paris, outside of Paris. Isolation of the poor, what has taken place there. That could come very quickly to the United States,” Mayor Richard Daley said. Um, you mean like South Central or New Orleans?

• Rev. Al Sharpton will repay over $100,000 in public matching funds he received during the 2004 presidential race. Critics reported Sharpton led a swanky lifestyle on the campaign trail, staying at expensive hotels. At the same time, it’s unlikely other candidates were bunking at the Red Roof Inn. Plus, Sharpton is the first candidate since 1976 to give back all matching funds to the FEC. “They found no impropriety…There were no fines. There was no violation,” Sharpton proclaimed. Yeah, but he’s probably got suitcases filled with hotel toiletries and plastic shower caps.

• Now for sale: The home and log cabin referenced in the classic book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Seems like the perfect getaway place for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

• Donald Trump hired Randal Pinkett on the fourth season of The Apprentice. Pinkett becomes the first Black candidate to win the prize. However, it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever match the success of first season loser Omarosa.

Essay 283

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb always seems to face extraordinary criticism. It’s bad enough that he plays for a franchise whose fans are notoriously ruthless and unforgiving. And the local press is pretty brutal too. In recent months, the man has also taken heat from his own teammates. Despite helping to make the Eagles a consistent force in the league — and even a Super Bowl contender — McNabb still finds himself the target of professional and personal abuse.

Now comes the latest attack from J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP. Mondesire brought a new level of ugliness to it all with a racially charged rant against McNabb. “This has nothing to do with the NAACP. It’s my opinion,” Mondesire insisted. Mondesire is either extremely naïve or ignorant. Probably both.

NAACP CEO Bruce Gordon appeared to be irked by the incident. And with good reason. Since taking the top position this past year, Gordon has strived to bring new passion and professionalism to the organization. Gordon has weighed in on Supreme Court nominees, the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, the Stanley Tookie Williams execution and more. “The NAACP has many civil rights issues that require our attention,” Gordon declared. “Criticizing Donovan McNabb is not one of them.” Gordon intended to apologize to McNabb. Not sure what his intentions might be regarding Mondesire.

Below is Mondesire’s published critique.


Donovan McNabb: Mediocre at best

By J. Whyatt Mondesire

Hey McNabb!

Yo--Donny! I’m calling you man.

Hey, soup guy, over here!

Donovan E. McNabb, you hear me callin’ you. Will you please pay attention?

For a whole lot of years now, we’ve heard you crying aloud about being taken seriously as a black quarterback who can camp out in the pocket and deliver rifle shots across midfield right into the fingertips of the fleetest of wideouts and tight ends. Say, like a Doug Williams, the brilliant Grambling star quarterback of a generation ago who went on to break a Super Bowl record for touchdown passes in 1988.

Well....well...I’ve seen you Donovan E. McNabb--in your formative years as well as your mid-career development--and one thing is certain. Donovan E. McNabb you’re no Doug Williams.

(The Grambling all-star completed 18 of 29 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns, capping it off with 35 points in the fourth quarter alone. He followed that performance with three conference championships in 2000, ‘01 and ‘02.

Your record is another matter entirely. In fact this whole dismal season so far has really been a testament of fallen dreams and lost opportunities most of which belongs at your feet (or should I say hands) and that of your coach, Andy Reid who has allowed you to perpetuate a fraud on the field while hiding behind excuses dripping in make-believe racial stereotypes.

Normally this column talks very little about sports because the games that grown men play pale in comparison to the great issues of racism, politics, social calamities, health crisis’s, war and peace, etc.; which gives us plenty of fertile territory to explore and pontificate about.

However, this week I felt compelled to offer some personal thoughts about your horrific on-field performances this season because at their core, there is a lie you have tried to use to hide the fact that in reality you actually are not that good. In essence Donny, you are mediocre at best. And trying to disguise that fact behind some concocted reasoning that African American quarterbacks who can scramble and who can run the ball are somehow lesser field generals than one who can summon up dead-on passes at a whim, is more insulting off the field than on.

Your athleticism and unpredictability to sometimes run with the ball earlier in your career not only confused defenses, it also thrilled Eagles fans. At last, said many of us, now we have a multifaceted offensive threat whose talents threaten to not just dominate the NFC East Division, but maybe the whole NFL for several years. We were elated. We were in awe.

We celebrated the boss’s giving you that huge lifetime salary deal which meant we’d have you around until it was time for you to join the other retired stars in television’s broadcast booth.

But then you played the race card and practically all of us fell for your hustle. You scammed us man and there’s no way any longer to refrain from “keepin’ it real.”

We could have remained silent too, if you had found another way to remain effective and a winner. But when your mediocre talent becomes so apparent it’s time to call it out.

Through the first four games, you completed 110 of 174 passes (63.2 percent) for a league-leading 1,333 yards and 11 touchdowns.

However, in your last five games, you connected on just 101 of 183 passes (55.2 percent) for 1,174 yards and five touchdowns, while throwing six interceptions, two of which clearly were game losers.

The sports hernia you suffered after the team’s Week 3 win over Oakland clearly is a mega factor in the latter numbers.

But who can forget your mind numbing fourth-quarter collapse in last year’s Super Bowl against New England.

Andy Reid may not have seen it. Owner Jeff Lurie may have missed it on the videotaped replay. But Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder “saw” it. You choked brother.

The brash and bombastic Terrell Owens may have committed the unpardonable sin of going public with his put down, but was he fundamentally wrong? The pressure, the hype, the clock--they all just converged and your nerve collapsed under their combined weight. Mediocre isn’t horrible in and of itself. Most of us don’t live up to our dreams. It’s when we fake it that most of the rest of us get irritated.

So, for you to continue to deny we fans (as well as yourself) one of the strongest elements of your game by claiming that “everybody expects black quarterbacks to scramble” not only amounts to a breach of faith but also belittles the real struggles of black athletes who’ve had to overcome real racial stereotypcasting in addition to downright segregation.

College football in the South didn’t drop its White Only wall until 1966 four years after James Meredith, while trying to enroll at Ole Miss, which went 10-0 that year, even as its practice field was covered federal troops who had bivouacked there.

Earlier this month Sports Illustrated reporting pioneering black players in the vaunted SEC had to endure serious hardships, such as “Fritz Pollard, the black all-America at Brown during World War I, (who) had learned to spin on his back and thrust his cleats in the air when tackled, to protect himself from late hits; how Iowa State’s Jack Trice was trampled to death during a 1923 game against Minnesota; and how in 1951, on the first play from scrimmage, an Oklahoma A&M player broke the jaw of Drake running back Johnny Bright, forcing him to abandon football and causing the school to withdraw in protest from the Missouri Valley Conference.”

Hey Donny, see any difference yet in your trumped up racial views and those pioneers?

Taken together, your pretty decent arm, strong desire to win, and your instinctive ability to scramble in the backfield gave you an awesome package. Take away any one of the legs from this tripod, and whole thing falls flat as you are right now as you recuperate from the surgery that was long overdue the day you entered the hospital.

Finally, your failure as a team leader off the field to my mind did as much as anything to exacerbate the debacle that has become synonymous with T.O.’s full name.

Professional football is really more about money that sport. The fans know it. The players signs contracts for it. And, of course the owners know it, since they are first and last ones to count it when the season ends.

Just think how the whole media circus could have been avoided had you had the courage to offer only a tiny fraction of your bonus this year to Owens and running back, Brian Westbrook.

The gesture alone would have prompted these guys to run through walls for you. The rest of the team would have praised you. And what the heck were Lurie and team president Joe Banner going to do publicly if they objected or thought you had reach out-of-bounds. Fire you?

Yeah right. Let’s really do “keep it real.”

Leaders who make sacrifices are the stuff of legends. Who remembers a hoarder except for maybe Midas?

Hey Donny...soup guy! Pull your head out of your million-dollar Campbell’s soup bowl for a moment ask which current quarterback in fact made a gesture like that for members of his squad.

Does the name Tom Brady ring a bell? Isn’t he the guy who took home last year’s Super Bowl ring while you standing in the soup line?