Thursday, September 21, 2006
The Letter to the Editor below was published in the latest issue of Advertising Age (Essay 1057 presented an abridged version that originally appeared on Adage.com). A MultiCultClassics rebuttal immediately follows…
This whole so-called issue is simply ridiculous! Any agency, no matter how big or small, as a private company operating in a free market, should have the solemn right to select and hire its employees based on talent, skills and qualification and not on skin color!
Actually, what the commission requests is much more racist in its core—as it will mean that, for example, a white copywriter or creative director with a better portfolio or more appropriate experience should be neglected in favor of a black candidate just because of a “minority quota.” Such a quota would be understandable for government and city jobs, but for the private sector? How about Wall Street then? How about Silicon Valley?
And how about the percentage of black students in Ivy League colleges? Or how about a “white-player quota” on NBA basketball teams?
I, for example, am Bulgarian—or, to put it another way, an “East-European American.” English is not even my native language. Despite my background, portfolio and references, I found it extremely difficult to land a job in the American advertising industry until a small Chicago agency came out brave and decided to give me a try.
But according to the approved labeling system, I must be labeled “white/Caucasian” and not a minority “Bulgarian-American.” Now is that fair?
By the way, do you ever wonder how many white vs. black candidates apply for each top agency position? Of course, when 90% or more are white, the end result would be quite obvious. And nobody should complain about it.
Graziano, Krafft and Zale
It’s always disturbing to see such stereotypical and clichéd thinking coming from someone claiming to be a creative director.
The letter is thoroughly unoriginal, littered with the standard reasoning that routinely surfaces during diversity debates. To complete the tired discussion, here are the standard counterpoints:
• Yes, most agencies have the “solemn right” to hire anyone for any reason. But this simply ridiculous so-called issue is actually focused on doing the right thing.
Additionally, it is illegal for bosses to discriminate based on such things as skin color. Like it or not, our industry’s ethnic percentages seem to indicate biased behavior is taking place. That is, it appears people have been hiring based on skin color — with a strong preference for White skin. That’s a no-no.
Finally, most big agencies service accounts with non-private components (e.g., Lottery, Tourism, Anti-Drug PSAs, etc.). So it could be argued these companies have responsibilities similar to governmental institutions.
• The commission is definitely not pushing racist requests. In fact, the commission is determined to battle racism. At no time has the commission recommended hiring less qualified minorities over White folks. The belief that White folks will suddenly face discrimination is just too stupid to consider. Then again, it’s said that turnaround is fair play.
Keep in mind that the commission is ultimately demanding that Madison Avenue keep its promises. Advertising agencies pledged to change back in 1978. The old Chinese proverb says, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” The commission is probably tired of being played for fools.
• Ivy League schools have shown concern about the percentages of Black students on their campuses, and many are executing initiatives to address the matter. Maybe it’s time for Madison Avenue to follow suit.
• Why do so many folks point to the NBA as The Great Equalizer? It wasn’t long ago that Blacks faced tremendous difficulty being allowed on the hardcourts. Ditto for breaking into the coaching ranks. If anything, the NBA demonstrates that once minorities receive opportunities, they succeed and thrive. Perhaps some folks are afraid a similar result would take place in the advertising industry.
• For a minority “Bulgarian-American” to be labeled “White/Caucasian” is possibly an amazing benefit with a host of advantages. Milk it for all it’s worth, Milko.
• Hey, lots of folks wonder why over 90 percent of top agency candidates are White. That’s one major point inspiring the commission’s actions. And everyone should complain about it.