Thursday, November 30, 2006
From The New York Daily News…
The hate factory — N-word outburst adds to the denigration that passes as entertainment
By Stanley Crouch
When “Seinfeld” comedian Michael Richards lost his cool and began a racist rant at some noisy customers in a Hollywood comedy club, it seemed to surprise a number of people. It shouldn’t. What is actually surprising is that it has taken this long for some airhead made famous by a very popular but insipid television series to flip out within the context of today’s minstrel entertainments.
Naturally, a lawyer representing the affronted audience members did not feel that it was enough for Richards to apologize on television; he still needs to pay them some money for what they had to suffer at his hands.
The question, however, is what exactly did the patrons suffer?
What they actually suffered, if anything, was an unintended caricature of a redneck in heated rage, expressing conventional disdain for black people. Richards said that 50 years ago, the black members of the noisy group of comedy club customers would have been hanged, and stabbed in the backside with a pitchfork. Before leaving the stage, Richards reminded the assembled that when it was all over, he would still be wealthy and the black people would still be, well, N-words.
The painfully unfunny comedian Paul Rodriguez performed on the same stage that evening and told the press that if one uses the N-word and is not African-American, a lot of explaining will have to be made.
In the interest of equality, no black comedian should get a pass when using insulting and denigrating words in the middle of an act. It all seems very simple to me. We do not need to accept the conventions of insult and denigration that have been established by black comedians and rappers.
And I do not feel that there should be a freedom of speech issue raised either. Nor do I feel that any laws need to be passed.
This was another moment to question what the ongoing vulgarization of our popular culture has actually come to mean. Two groups — women and black people — are disdainfully addressed and demeaned constantly. Only one has made any protest against being the constant butt of overstated vulgarity. White women have stood up against the misogyny in popular entertainment, but black people have not had much to say about the denigration.
Rap producers and others in the business of selling anything that gives a little spice to the minstrel content of our popular culture have been known to claim that the N-word has become a common means of expression and has taken on a universal understanding through rap. We can now be treated to young people of all ethnic groups referring to each other when using the word.
Does that prove anything? I think not. When Richard Pryor first made liberal use of the N-word, he could not have imagined what emerged in the wake of his performances. But when Pryor himself took a position against minstrel updates, no one listened to him. He had passed out the right of irresponsibility and could not take it back.
So what remains before us is the issue of coming to terms with a popular culture in which the N-word, bitches and hos have become no more than condiments in a particularly unappetizing meal. We need not ban their use, but we do need to face the fact that we have been hustled far more often than not.
Political News in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• U.S. Sen. Barack Obama teamed with rapper Ludacris to hype AIDS awareness. “I talk a lot about sex in my music, but you don’t ever hear me talk about condoms,” said Ludacris. “I can’t speak for other rappers, but I think it’s important that I let you know to be safe when you’re having sex. Young people need to know about HIV/AIDS before it is too late, so it’s extremely important that we talk about it.” Wow, a rapper promoting safe sex. What’s next, a Black man becoming president?
• The Los Angeles City Council decided to back the mayor’s veto of a proposed settlement in the case involving a Black firefighter who was served dog food by coworkers (see Essay 1379). “All I have to say is that I look forward to trying the case,” said the firefighter’s lawyer. “I think it will come back to haunt the mayor and the city,” said a City Councilman who opposed the mayor’s veto. “The greater message is you can be dehumanized, and nobody cares. I think it was a very poor [decision] that will send shock waves through a community … that will sit back and say, ‘The same old thing.’”
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
The New York Times published a story on the issues surrounding law firms hiring and retaining Black lawyers. While recruiting efforts and pressure from clients has boosted the number of Black associates, they’re less likely to remain or make partner versus White peers. A controversial new study found law firms have hired Blacks with much lower grades than Whites, potentially setting them up to fail. “If everyone in the law firms knows you’re hiring according to a double standard, you actually may end up compromising the confidence that partners and others have in the ability of people hired on the basis of preference,” said the president of the Center for Equal Opportunity. “It actually reinforces stereotypes.”
Click on the essay title above to read the full story.
Kibbles N’ News Bits in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The case involving the Los Angeles Black firefighter who was served dog food by his coworkers continues to boil (see Essay 1303). The firefighter originally received a $2.7 million settlement offer from the city. However, the mayor vetoed the action after public complaints. Now the City Council is divided over the incident. “Whatever anyone says about me, I’ve always tried to do what’s right,” said the firefighter. “This is wrong. If four Black firemen did it to a White fireman, I would stand up [with] the White fireman and say it was wrong.” The City Council is scheduled to make a decision today. Then everyone’s getting together at the firehouse for a spaghetti dinner.
• Snoop Dogg is in the doghouse, getting arrested for felony drug- and weapons-related charges. The arrest was connected to an investigation after Mr. Dogg was apprehended last month at a Burbank airport for allegedly packing a handgun and marijuana. This time, the cops searched the rapper, his ride and his home, ultimately charging him with packing a firearm, cocaine and marijuana. Plus, the man had a false compartment in his vehicle. Not sure why Snoop bothers — he ought to simply install a gun rack and greenhouse in his ride.
• Michael Richards continues to cause cultural controversy. When it was revealed Richards incorporated anti-Semitic rants in a recent comedy routine, publicist Howard Rubenstein said Richards “is Jewish. He’s not anti-Semitic at all. He was role-playing.” However, Jewish organizations said Richards has not converted to Judaism; plus, his parents are not Jewish. “Technically, not having been born by blood as Jewish and not formally going into a conversion, it was purely his interpretation of having adopted Judaism as his religion,” explained Rubenstein. “He told me, ‘I’m Jewish,’ when I asked him. … He said there were two mentors who raised him and who had a big influence on his life, and they were Jewish. He said, ‘I agree with the concepts and the religious beliefs of Judaism and I’ve adopted Judaism as my religion.’ … He really thinks of himself as Jewish.” Hey, he also thinks he’s not a racist.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
In 2004, Advertising Age published the following news item (the story actually ran with the prophetic typo in its headline).
Fudge attacks death of diversity.
Young & Rubicam Brands management will review a “very comprehensive diversity plan” in coming weeks, said Ann Fudge, chairman-CEO of the WPP Group network. In a speech about her career before members of the Advertising Club of New York City, she mentioned her surprise, upon taking her current job, at the advertising industry’s “dearth of diversity.” She emphasized that the challenge is not unique to the advertising industry, but it “has a way to go.” Since joining in May 2003, Ms. Fudge has undertaken a thorough evaluation of the agency’s workforce, including minorities. She didn’t divulge details on the plan, but said that “it is not just about getting the numbers.”
Today, Advertising Age reported that Fudge is retiring from Young & Rubicam (see Essay 1375).
Quick — somebody ask her about the success of the “very comprehensive diversity plan” before she jets.
Chances are, Fudge’s departure will cut the agency’s Black executive total by roughly, um, 100 percent.
According to AdAge, Fudge hopes to focus on nonprofit work. Although one could argue that’s essentially what she did while trying to right the unprofitable Y&R.
However, there is another volunteer effort Fudge ought to consider: Dealing with the advertising industry’s diversity dilemma.
Imagine the clout and credibility she’d bring to the party. Fudge would make a formidable partner with Patricia Gatling, Commissioner and Chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Add Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook and Sanford Moore, and it’s the most amazing Black-dominated Dream Team since the 1992 USA Olympic Basketball squad.
So what do you say, Ms. Fudge? Here’s your opportunity to accomplish something truly groundbreaking on Madison Avenue.
From The Associated Press…
Entertainers urged to end use of race slur
By Greg Risling
LOS ANGELES -- Black leaders on Monday challenged the entertainment industry, including rap artists, actors and major studios, to stop using the racial slur that triggered the Michael Richards furor.
Jesse Jackson and others said they will meet with TV networks, film companies and musicians to discuss the “n-word.” They also sought an effort by the public to stop using the term.
“We want to give our ancestors a Christmas present,” Jackson said at a news conference. “Dignity over degradation.”
Jackson also urged consumers to not buy a DVD box set of the seventh season of the TV show “Seinfeld” that was released last week.
Richards, who played the wacky neighbor Kramer on “Seinfeld,” triggered outrage with a Nov. 17 racial tirade against two black men when he was heckled during a comedy routine at the Laugh Factory nightclub in West Hollywood. A patron recorded the outburst with a video camera phone.
Richards has made several apologies, including one Sunday on Jackson’s syndicated radio program, in which he has said he is not a racist and was motivated by anger.
At the news conference, comedian Paul Mooney said he has used the “n-word” numerous times during performances but will no longer do so after watching Richards’ rant.
“He’s my Dr. Phil,” the black comedian said. “He’s cured me.”
Asked about free-speech issues, Jackson said the word is “unprotected.”
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) charged that only situations such as the Richards incident turn mainstream media attention to issues involving the black community.
“This is not simply about whether or not the black community forgives or forgets; this is about understanding that this is pervasive, that this happens in all of our institutions, one way or the other,” Waters said.
Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada extended an invitation to Richards to perform on Dec. 4 at the club to apologize to the guests who attended the Nov. 17 performance.
“He has no intention of going back there and performing right now,” Richards’ publicist Howard Rubenstein said.
Ann Fudge Retires From Young & Rubicam Brands
Groundbreaking Chairman-CEO Leaves After Three Years
By Lisa Sanders
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ann Fudge, the embattled former Kraft Foods executive who took the helm of Young & Rubicam Brands in May 2003, is retiring at year’s end, the company announced today.
While her appointment was groundbreaking, Ann Fudge’s performance at the company’s helm was largely regarded as underwhelming.
No immediate successor is planned.
When she was named to succeed Michael Dolan three years ago as chairman-CEO, Ms. Fudge immediately made headlines for becoming the top-ranking African-American female in the advertising industry. A graduate of Harvard Business School who built a career in marketing at General Foods and then Kraft, Ms. Fudge brought a history of client-side experience to her job heading one of the world’s largest global marketing communications companies.
While her appointment was groundbreaking, her performance at the company’s helm was largely regarded as underwhelming. She was widely criticized for focusing initially on the internal operations of Y&R, the advertising agency and most well-known unit of Young & Rubicam Brands, rather than diving into client relationships and luring new business.
By late 2005, the agency’s North American offices lost major accounts -- Ford Motor Cos.’ Jaguar, Computer Associates and Sony Consumer Electronics, most significantly -- and Ms. Fudge announced the launch of a search to for an executive to lead the Y&R network. Earlier this year, Hamish McLennan took over that role.
Mr. McLennan, a 40-year-old Australian, was appointed CEO of Y&R in June. He earned a reputation as an energetic and no-nonsense leader running the Australian and New Zealand operations of Young & Rubicam Brands, which he helped to revive after joining in 2002 by focusing on winning new business; he has brought the same goal to the Y&R network.
Ms. Fudge intends to devote more time to nonprofit activities. She currently sits on the boards of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as General Electric Co.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Unfunny tirade opens old wounds
BY JESSE JACKSON
“Kramer” is sorry -- in both senses of that word. After unleashing a hateful racial assault on two customers whom he thought were disrupting his act, Michael Richards apologizes. “I’m not a racist,” he says. He seeks counseling for his rage. He asks forgiveness -- or at least hopes that we’ll forget.
But Richards is not alone. His rage reopened an old wound, but there is much glass -- much of it cutting and fresh -- in that wound. He acts in a context -- and the context is a coarsening of racial division.
Consider: Faced with a close Senate race in Tennessee, the Republican National Committee abandoned its self-professed desire to “reach out” and ponied up for an ugly ad designed to appeal to the ugliest of racial fears: that African Americans will take white women. Referring to Harold Ford’s making a serious run for the Senate, the ad features a young, white model, nude from the shoulder up, who closes saying, “Harold, call me.” Clever, effective and one of the ugliest appeals to racial fears since Willy Horton in the 1988 presidential campaign.
Republican conservatives also launched vitriolic campaigns against immigrants -- read Latinos. “They” would take your jobs, would bankrupt Medicaid, and were overcrowding our schools. Latino immigrants became the equivalent of Ronald Reagan’s fictional “welfare queen” living high off of welfare.
Republicans in the Senate then returned Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott to a leadership post. Lott lost the post when he suggested that the nation would be far better off if the apartheid candidate Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948. Nina Simone used to sing a refrain that “Everybody knows about Mississippi.” Mississippi has grown a lot since then. But Republicans in search of election clearly have not.
Consider the media. There were no African-American regulars on “Seinfeld,” even though it was set in New York City. TV is no longer a completely white ghetto. Oprah Winfrey remains a remarkable phenomenon. But look at the talk show hosts from the news hour to midnight: There is not an African American or Latino among them. Tavis Smiley is the sole notable exception -- and he’s on the educational channel, PBS.
This has an impact. Lott’s ascension to leadership is treated with kid gloves. The survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans are described as refugees, not citizens. And too little attention is paid to the “urban removal” program that has been the centerpiece of the administration’s response to the crisis in New Orleans.
The use of the hate word -- n----- -- has become too culturally acceptable. Some of this comes from black culture and the informal use of the word in teasing mode. In fact, this is hate language. It’s a punch in the groin disguised as a word.
Our forefathers created the First Amendment to ensure a robust public debate and to prohibit the government from making laws to squelch political speech, even speech critical of our leaders. But obscenity has never enjoyed that protection, nor should it. Yelling “fire” in a crowded theater does not have protection. Similarly, hate speech -- like that wielded by Richards -- has and should be illegal.
All this makes people testy. Most Americans want to put segregation and racism behind us. In California, minorities are moving into the majority. Affirmative action and civil rights have opened doors and smashed through glass ceilings. Yet at the same time, Americans pump billions into a prison industrial complex that is built on a racially discriminatory justice system, where African Americans are more likely to be stopped by police, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged with a serious crime, more likely to do time. The administration has essentially gutted enforcement of the civil rights laws. The assault on affirmative action continues.
Richards opened an old wound, but one that is inflamed with new glass and new cuts. We can’t pretend the wound is healed when the bleeding is getting worse.
Monday, November 27, 2006
More comments from Michael Richards’ radio interview with the Rev. Jesse Jackson…
“That’s why I’m shattered by it. The way this came through me was like a freight train.”
“After it was over, when I went to look for them, they had gone. … And I’ve tried to meet them, to talk to them, to get to some healing … because, um, of the hate. The hate that came … on all sides.”
“I was brought up in a Black neighborhood till I was 11 years old. My best friends were African Americans.”
“This rage has no color. I know that what I said hurt an African American. … I will take full responsibility for this and promote apology and go for healing.”
“I was in a place of humiliation, and I came out with uh, a tirade to humiliate. … There’s no justification for the things that I said.”
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Last September, MultiCultClassics published a column by Stanley Crouch that spotlighted Callie Herd, a woman dedicated to providing college scholarship information for Black and Latino students.
Herd said, “What I’m doing is trying to educate them. It’s not that Blacks and Latinos don’t want to go to college or need scholarship money; they just don’t know what is going on. At the advice of my son, I started a blog to get past writing individual letters. That just about wore me out. But the blog reaches so many.”
“It is located at www.ctherd.blogspot.com. There are millions of dollars available, just waiting for those who know how to ask for them. … It’s all about knowing, and that’s all I’m trying to provide. Well-used knowledge is part of the solution.”
Herd has updated her blog with new internships, summer programs, scholarships, etc. Some of the deadlines are approaching.
Spread the word. Click on the essay title above to visit Herd’s blog.
Raining on Parades with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The New York Times reported on controversy surrounding traditional Sunday parading in New Orleans. While parade organizers insist the events help heal the community from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, police argue the crowds can spark violence. As a result, law officials have beefed up security, ultimately charging hefty fees to parade organizers. Talk about raining on someone’s parade. Click on the essay title above to read the full story.
• Michael Richards appeared with the Rev. Jesse Jackson on a Sunday radio program. Richards claimed he had never used such racist language before. “That’s why I’m shattered by it. The way this came through me was like a freight train. After it was over, when I went to look for [the alleged hecklers], they had gone. And I’ve tried to meet them, to talk to them, to get some healing,” said Richards, insisting his words were fueled by anger versus racism. Regarding the incident, Jackson remarked, “We must not return hate with hate. We want to assess the impact of what he said, and what Mel Gibson said. … The Richards incident is like the Katrina crisis that lifted the face off of poverty in America and opened up old wounds for new examination and debate. His meltdown is historically rooted in a disturbing trend.” Additionally, Richards’ new publicist Howard Rubenstein reported his client is seeking professional help. Which also continues the disturbing trend of Hollywood bigots needing to have their heads examined (see Mel Gibson).
• Despite national Black Friday sales reports indicating a 6 percent rise over last year’s figures across the board, Wal-Mart showed disappointing results for the early holiday shopping season. In fact, the mega-retailer expects to record a 0.1 percent decline in sales versus last year’s figures. It should be interesting to see if new advertising agency Draft FCB can restore the smiley faces to Wal-Mart officials.
Slurs merit ire, not laws
By Clarence Page
Until his racist rant at a Los Angeles comedy club threw his faltering stand-up comedy career onto a bonfire of insanity, Michael Richards was best known to millions as The Guy Who Used to Play Cosmo Kramer on “Seinfeld,” one of the most popular shows in TV history. Now he’s known as the mixed-up weirdo who gave us something besides sports and the midterm elections to talk about over Thanksgiving dinners.
By now you know the story: A raging Richards was caught on video camera spewing the N-word and making obscene lynching references at some black hecklers in the audience.
When the remorseful Richards later apologized (“I’m very, very sorry”) on CBS’ “The Late Show With David Letterman,” even he seemed to disbelieve his own denials of racism. “I’m not a racist, that’s what [is] so insane about this,” he said in a rambling satellite interview. “And yet it is said. It comes through, it fires out of me and even now in the passion that’s here as I confront myself.” His passive voice (“… It is said …”) sounded as unconvincing as President Ronald Reagan’s saying “mistakes were made” to disassociate himself from the Iran-contra fiasco. Richards sounded like a man trying desperately to disconnect himself from something that he, and only he, stands accountable for.
His apology to “Afro-Americans,” a term I have not heard much since the 1960s, revealed a man oddly out of touch with cultural currents, especially for an aspiring stand-up comedian. Yet, if being out of touch on race were a crime, the world would not have enough jails to hold all of the offenders.
With that in mind, one hopes that Richards will not be alone in using this incident as a learning experience, although I am not expecting miracles. The progress we have made from the era of lynchings to the era of racial bridge-builders, like Bill Cosby, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Oprah Winfrey, fools too many people into thinking our racial divide has been closed--until an ugly surprise like Richards’ toxic tirade erupts.
Instead of helping us to learn, celebrities caught in such eruptions tend to do what Richards has done: They hire a spin doctor.
Richards hired Howard Rubinstein, a big-time crisis manager aptly described by The Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes as “The go-to guy for celebrities who have really stepped in it.” Rubinstein, in turn, helped arrange apologetic phone calls by Richards to the go-to guys for big-time black rage, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Jackson has been talking to members of Congress about prohibiting the use of hate language in mass media, according to a WBBM-Ch. 2 news report. If so, let us hope those talks don’t get far. It is easy to agree with Jackson that hate speech divides society and can lead to violence, but if we let Congress decide which speech is and isn’t hateful, a lot of comedy clubs would be out of business.
And that’s not all. Everything offends somebody. Imagine the repercussions for TV shows like BET’s “Comic View” or HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” that feature black stand-up comedians. I’ve heard from readers, for example, who are offended when black comics on TV poke fun at whites, Hispanics or Asians in their audiences. From the black cultural point of view, such a good-natured call-out can defuse racial tensions. But, to some white folks and others viewing at home, it’s hate speech.
The same caution should greet the looming legal actions that the two black male targets of Richards’ wrath might take. They’ve hired celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, the go-to woman for newsmakers with an actionable gripe. In a CNN appearance with her clients, Allred said they deserve compensation for the emotional pain they suffered. If so, I shudder to think where that could end. Current hate-crime laws add penalties to assault and other serious crimes if the offender’s speech indicates it was motivated by hate. But, if abusive speech without physical damage is grounds for a lawsuit, the biggest laughs will be coming from lawyers.
Richards is living with his own punishment, properly condemned by the court of public opinion. Even his hip and edgy comrades in comedy are acknowledging that there still are lines of decency that none of us should cross.
Among the offended is the real Kenny Kramer, on whom Richard’s character was based. “Use some of that ‘Seinfeld’ money to buy yourself an act!” he advised.
Right. Try some anger-management therapy too.
The mid-September search at Borders for The Houdini Solution by Ernie Schenck initially failed to secure a copy.
But only because we presumed it would be in the Sales and Marketing section. And why not? Ernie Schenck is a career adman: winner of a gazillion advertising awards, leader of top-flight advertising agencies, writer/editor of the advertising column for Communication Arts magazine and overlord of a blog titled, “Ernie Schenck Calls This Advertising?” Yep, it made all the sense in the world to believe the guy’s first book would be shelved alongside the advertising-related selections.
As it turns out, Borders stocks The Houdini Solution in the Management area. Additionally, the back cover labels the work as “Business/Self-Help.”
Like the magician who inspired the book, The Houdini Solution categorically refuses to remain shackled in any single box.
That’s also the key premise Schenck presents through roughly 220 pages. The author basically proposes that people reject the typical creative goal of thinking outside the box, opting instead to embrace the constraints inside the box.
While advertising enthusiasts will discover much to love about The Houdini Solution, the book ventures beyond the general vicinity of Madison Avenue, ultimately appealing to anyone who exercises their grey matter for a living.
In many respects, Schenck celebrates the creative process in a 21st century style. The Houdini Solution is a contemporary companion to classics like Conceptual Blockbusting by James Adams, Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono and A Whack On The Side Of The Head by Roger von Oech.
To be clear, Schenck’s “thinking inside the box” theory is not a cop-out, offering excuses for substandard responses to challenges. Rather, readers are coached to maximize their problem-solving skills and generate extraordinary results — within the box.
In other words, brainstorm like the NASA staffers who triumphed against life-threatening, overwhelming odds during the Apollo 13 flight. Or foil the opposition by emulating the tactics of MacGyver. Rejigger the tools at your disposal and re-envision the perceived restrictions to concoct a wow-factor invention — that’s what The Houdini Solution is preaching.
The author proves his points with cool case studies and anecdotes. He counters the clichéd obstacles with razor-sharp strategies. And Professor Schenck wraps everything up with a series of 50 instructional devices introduced as homework.
The “glass-is-half-full” spirit — and Schenck would contend there’s no reason you can’t use the limited liquid and container to build the next big thing — puts The Houdini Solution in the Self-Help arena with The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale and Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins. Hey, some might argue the book could comfortably stand in the Philosophy aisle.
Readers familiar with Ernie Schenck’s writing have come to expect passionate, provocative and compelling perspectives, served with entertaining flair. Rest assured, The Houdini Solution performs amazing feats for fans and newbies alike.
Those who wish to avoid scouring the local bookstores’ Sales and Marketing, Management, Self-Help, Philosophy and Creative Cookbooks sections can make The Houdini Solution magically appear inside the mailbox via online sellers BarnesAndNoble.com and Amazon.com.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Kramer vs. Kramer in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The real Kramer is speaking out. Kenny Kramer, the man who inspired the Kramer character from the Seinfeld show, has been doing interviews ever since the infamous tirade. “I did at least 15 to 20 interviews,” said the true Kramer. “All hell broke loose. There were lots of e-mails. They were about 9-1 positive. … I know the guy. … He’s not this outgoing ball of fun that people would expect Kramer to be. They think [he’d] be exciting, lovable, laughable. But he’s quiet, introspective, even paranoid. He’s a very wound-up guy. But I don’t think he’s a racist.” Based on the depictions of the character in Seinfeld episodes, it’s probably a good idea to question the credibility and intelligence of the real Kramer.
• No surprise, the audience members on the receiving end of Michael Richards’ racist rant want an apology and cash. “To have him do what he did to me … I can’t even explain it,” said one of the two men. “I was humiliated, even scared at one point.” The dissed duo hired a lawyer, who hopes to bring the matter before a judge. Howard Rubenstein, representing Richards, insists his client wants to express remorse but has been unable to find the club goers. Right, Richards tracked down Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, but he can’t locate two dudes who have already appeared on national entertainment programs to tell their side of the story.
• Comedian Tom Green has come to Richards’ defense. “Anybody in that room … would have had just cause to have gotten up onstage that night and punched Michael Richards right in the [bleep]ing face … [Bleep], dude. Kramer [bleep]ing lost it. But at the end of the day, I don’t think Michael Richards is a racist,” wrote Green in his blog. “Unlike Mel Gibson, who probably does hold racist attitudes, I don’t think Michael Richards doesn’t like black people. I think he was just trying to say the craziest and most vile thing in that room he could possibly muster. And I think he dug deep, into the darkest corners of his mind, to say those evil things to those men. But he did it in a small room, in an exchange, during a performance, and it wasn’t meant for us. It was just meant for that room. So why don’t we just let them settle it? … Let’s leave Michael Richards alone.” Note to Howard Rubenstein: You do not want Tom Green as a character witness.
• A town manager from Golden Beach, Florida, sparked controversy when she referred to her Black assistant as a “mammy.” The White town manager then tried to apologize by saying she “loved Aunt Jemima.” No word yet if Howard Rubenstein has been contacted.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Celebrating Anti-Black Friday in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The Rev. Jesse Jackson had more to say regarding his conversation with Michael Richards. “Clearly, he needs some race-sensibility training and some psychiatric help. His anger is volatile and dangerous to himself and others,” said Jackson. “I hope he gets the help he needs. But the culture that’s producing this kind of animosity toward Blacks must be addressed. We’re increasingly facing cultural isolation in Hollywood, in the movies and in TV. … We have to evaluate the use of the n-word and categorize it as hate speech, no matter who uses it.” Wonder if Richards might ultimately be charged with a hate crime.
• A Mexican drug gang known for violence ran a half-page newspaper ad, declaring itself as being anti-crime. The gang had claimed responsibility for a September attack where gunmen left five human heads in a local bar. The ad read, “Our only reason for being is that we love our state, and we are not willing to allow the dignity of our people to be trampled on.” And if you don’t believe them, they’ll chop off your head.
The final issue of Marketing y Medios greets readers with a letter (depicted above) from publisher Wright Ferguson, Jr. The message speaks with all the warmth and sincerity of an eviction notice — and for subscribers and fans, that’s essentially what it is.
Ferguson unveils the plot to fold Marketing y Medios, while literally trying to sell subscriptions to VNU trade magazines (Exclusively available for a limited time at special discounted rates of just $79! Plus, act now and VNU will toss in a Best Hispanic Spots 2006 DVD — a $95 value — absolutely FREE! Hurry, operators are standing by!).
The letter opens by proclaiming, “With the changing face of America, it’s now more important than ever to understand who your audience is and have the ability to meet its diverse needs.” It’s always peculiar to hear such revelations from key figures of an industry constantly demonstrating cultural cluelessness on nearly every level imaginable.
Ferguson then announces the strategy to seed Marketing y Medios content as Special Reports within sister titles Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek. According to Ferguson, “Research shows this concept will better serve the Hispanic marketplace, and many of you have applauded this decision.”
Yes, the spirited and rowdy ovations have been deafening.
And, gee whiz, we all know how research ultimately inspires the wisest course of action — although it would be nice to peruse the PowerPoint summary report supporting Ferguson’s case. Additionally, it’s semi-ironic that multicultural advertising agencies are often handcuffed with insufficient resources for research, yet VNU uncovered insights to validate eliminating one of the few multicultural marketing publications in existence.
Ferguson’s ramblings about expanded visibility and increased circulation are undoubtedly rooted in bottom-line thinking. The motivations appear to be focused on offering extra ad space and consolidating subscription dollars. While reaching a broader audience aids VNU’s multicultural efforts, Ferguson fails to exhibit a tangible benefit for current readers. Now we have the convenience of purchasing up to three magazines at higher prices to enjoy condensed versions of Marketing y Medios. Gracias, Señor Ferguson!
To confirm the questionable nature of this entire fiasco, Marketing y Medios.com will keep running, with schemes to enhance the overall design and e-mail newsletters. If blending the magazine content is such a breakthrough idea, why not employ a similar tactic with the online components?
Ferguson argues, “If we increase the flow of general market money into the Hispanic marketplace, everybody wins, Hispanic marketers and consumers alike. By highlighting smart marketers, agencies and media who are leading the way in bridging the markets, you will profit from this change we are implementing.”
Who is Ferguson really addressing here? Can we expect VNU profit checks in our mailboxes soon?
The attempt to season VNU’s corporate-based maneuver with a “do the right thing” flavor is downright distasteful.
Stating that the allegedly improved format means “Marketing y Medios will educate the general marketplace on what’s vitally important in the Hispanic marketplace” is bizarre too.
No one would deny exposing the general market audience to the wonders of the Hispanic marketplace is cool. Especially since the general market audience generally remains narrow-minded and ignorant on “the changing face of America.” Besides, Hispanic marketing deserves a bigger spotlight. But there’s so much about this VNU affair that simply stinks.
The ballyhooed mutual rewards of the grand rearrangement seem imbalanced. The Hispanic marketing community loses a premier publication. The general marketing community gains a complimentary monthly insert.
Pardon the overreaction, but it feels like — as opposed to more strongly inviting the general market audience to join the Marketing y Medios fiesta — the Hispanics are being forced to assimilate into the outdated majority arena.
The Hispanic marketplace is growing at an incredible rate. The attention it warrants should be proportionately amplified. Slipping Marketing y Medios excerpts into general market publications did not necessitate erasing the magazine. Hell, providing samples to a larger audience might have fueled greater interest in experiencing the whole enchilada.
Ferguson and his cronies aren’t doing anyone a favor with this direction. Technically, Hispanic editorial coverage should have been inflated to establish VNU’s journalistic credibility and responsibilities.
There are minimal indications that the industry is moving towards legitimate integration. There are less signs of general market money flowing into the Hispanic marketplace. Advertising agencies remain separate and unequal. These are critical issues demanding thoughtful, proactive deliberation and measurable executions.
Launching Marketing y Medios in 2004 looked like a thoughtful, proactive venture. Killing it in 2006 is a miserable execution.
Ferguson closes the letter by writing, “And we plan to continue delivering on our promise to all of you.” All of you can reread the letter forever — you’ll find zero references to any promise.
Unfortunately, empty promises are status quo in the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
Visitors are invited to review the eulogy for Marketing y Medios by clicking on the essay title above.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Explanations, apologies and assorted mea culpas in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Michael Richards hired New York publicist Howard Rubenstein, who arranged conferences with Black leaders. Jesse Jackson received a phone call and reported that Richards expressed “his remorse and his confusion. … He’s embarrassed. He got caught on tape. That’s a big part of his anxiety now.” Rubenstein proclaimed, “Michael apologized profusely. … He wants to heal the tremendous wound that he’s inflicted on the American public and on the African-American community. … I think it was a positive discussion.” Yes, Richards undoubtedly communicated his sincere remorse to all Afro-Americans.
• O.J. Simpson admitted, “I did it” — for the money. “It’s all blood money and unfortunately I had to join the jackals,” said Simpson, referring to authors of books about him. “[Payments from the cancelled book and TV program] helped me get out of debt and secure my homestead.” Simpson showed little remorse and insisted, “I’ve been pimped for 12 years. Everyone’s made money on me.” Not sure Fred Goldman would agree with that, although Simpson had words for him too. “[The Goldmans] have become professional victims. America, you’re being duped by these people.” Well, there’s no argument that Simpson is an expert on duplicity.
• The Los Angeles City Council voted to settle another discrimination lawsuit involving the Fire Department. This time, a former firefighter accused the organization of age discrimination. Charges included being subjected to derogatory remarks; plus, a superior once instructed other station members to “make sure that you vacuum up all that dead skin around the [plaintiff’s and other older firefighters’] beds.” Los Angeles will pay the former firefighter $350,000. Maybe Michael Richards should consider a career switch to firefighting.
From the final issue of Marketing y Medios…
Diversity Advertising Fades Giving New Face to Print
By Jaime Mejía-Mazuera
In their quest for engaging consumers in more aggressive ways, corporations have steadily abandoned diversity ads — those ads that deliver a message about their commitment to the community, highlighting efforts to recruit a diverse workforce or hire minority suppliers — in favor of more direct-to-consumer messages. But the shift of those corporate dollars has hit some Hispanic magazines in the process.
“Corporations are pulling back budgets in what we call diversity advertising and putting more in hardcore advertising,” says David Taggart, general manager and group publisher of leading Hispanic publishing company Editorial Televisa, based in Miami. Instead, promoting products and services to Hispanics is becoming a preferred way to reach out. Editorial Televisa has been particularly hit by the trend, as close to 20 percent of the advertising budget of English-language magazines Hispanic and Hispanic Trends depends on so-called diversity dollars.
According to Media Economics Group, the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based agency that monitors multicultural ad spending, Hispanic magazine reported ad revenue of $7.5 million in 2005, about 14 percent less than the previous year. Those figures are shy of the $31 million the magazine reaped in 2001.
The decline in diversity ads is not good news for some Hispanic business titles that also have suffered from an overall decline in spend by automakers, the consolidation in the telecom industry and the entry of new magazine players, along with several new media options available to advertisers. Taggart, however, is optimistic because as magazines break into new ad categories, consumer advertising overall is growing.
In fact, print advertising in Hispanic-targeted magazines is growing overall. Ad spend actually grew 27.4 percent from August 2005 to August 2006 for an estimated total of $22.7 million, per Media Economics Group.
And while the decline in diversity ads might be sore for some, Hispanic advertising agencies and media buyers say this is actually a good sign of evolution in the market.
“In the past it was all [advertisers] did,” says Alex López Negrete, president and CEO of Houston-based Lopez Negrete Communications. “Now corporations are becoming more sophisticated about what they are doing to reach the Hispanic community. So the budgets are being used in new and more diverse ways. Corporations also have a lot of new media options.”
López Negrete notes that diversity advertising belongs to a previous era, in which “the ads were in English and were mostly developed by general-market agencies.”
One Lopez Negrete client, Wal-Mart, is among those that still conduct diversity advertising in some magazines, but the retailer also has stepped up efforts to reach out with a more direct pitch.
“The message has to change at the consumer level. It is nice to know what you are doing with the community, but corporations have to invest in educating Hispanics on their products and services,” says Ricardo López Valencia, senior vice president for diversity markets at ING, one of the top 25 financial services advertisers in Hispanic magazines.
Not everyone is cutting back. Aetna, the health services company based in Hartford, Conn., says its budget is growing close to 10 percent to reach Hispanics through a message of supporting diversity.
“The big difference now is we are exploring many different avenues to reach the Hispanic community,” says Raymond Arroyo, Aetna’s head of diversity.
He says diversity ads are only one option for Aetna, which also, for example, has formed an alliance with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities to support education among Hispanics.
The Washington Post continues its series titled, “Being a Black Man,” with an installment detailing a young man’s job hunt. On November 20, Post Staff Writer David Finkel was online answering questions about the story. The questions and comments cover a host of viewpoints — it’s all definitely worth reading. Click on the essay title above to check it out.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Here’s the final Editor’s Note from Marketing y Medios…
La Última y Nos Vamos
Popular wisdom tells us you should never trust a Mexican when he or she tells you “La última y nos vamos” (the last one and we’re outta here). But as I write this note and prepare to send this issue to the printer, I can assure you this is indeed my última, the last I write … at least here at Marketing y Medios.
Trust me. These past 29 months have been some of the most intense and interesting of my career. Not only because I was given the opportunity to craft a totally new magazine from scratch, but because I always enjoyed the editorial freedom and resources that very few publishing companies allow these days. And as if all that were not enough, I was able to meet and work with some of the smartest and fun people I have ever met.
Twenty-three issues later, and as Marketing y Medios enters a new era, I have decided it was time for me to do the same. Leaving, though, will not be easy. Giving birth to these pages reminded me that business journalism can be a lot of fun, but most importantly, that it can make a difference in the way corporations and executives go about their work. Call me a romantic, but if at least one of you thought differently about Hispanic marketing after reading an article in these pages, I could say my stint here was not in vain.
So here’s to an amazing journey covering — and uncovering — the myths and wonders of the business.
Laura Martínez Ruiz-Velasco
Take No Offense — It’s Just A MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The New York Post published a story featuring friends and foes trying to explain Michael Richards’ racist rant (see Essay 1354). Folks paint a portrait of a demanding and abusive individual. One person said Richards is a punctuality freak who “gets very upset if he doesn’t go up [on stage] when he’s scheduled to go up. He’s very tightly wound.” Another former associate claims the comic gets pissed off “when someone disagrees with his point of view.” A comedienne related a run-in with Richards after she accidentally knocked over his tape recorder while on set at a comedy club. “You will never work in this town again. I’ll make sure of that, you little cunt,” quoted the comedienne. “You’re a cunt, cunt, cunt, dirty little cunt, on and on, and I starting thinking to myself, you know, I only accept those kinds of terms of endearment from my dad or grandma, not from some prick who is using his fame to be a dick!” Even the Rev. Al Sharpton weighed in, calling Richards’ apology on David Letterman’s show “unacceptable.” Sharpton said, “[He] should apologize to the people to whom his remarks were directed and most offended. … In all due respect to David Letterman, it seems strange that one would insult African-Americans in a long tirade and then go on a white television show with a mostly white studio and viewing audience to make a statement of apology.” Note to Sharpton: When confronting Richards, make sure not to interrupt him or knock over any tape recorders.
• Six Muslims were removed from a Minneapolis flight when fellow passengers expressed concern after the group prayed in the terminal. Additionally, a passenger claimed hearing the group criticizing the U.S. and speaking angrily. Security asked the men to leave the airplane. “The police came and take us off the plane in front of all the passengers in a very humiliating way,” said a group member. “I never felt bad in my life like yesterday. It was the worst moment in my life when I see six imams, six leaders in this community, humiliated.” Let’s hope these guys don’t wind up at a Michael Richards comedy club appearance.
From The Washington Post…
In a Land Bleak in Opportunity, ‘Redskins’ Is One More Barb
By Courtland Milloy
This is the capital of the Omaha Nation, homeland to Jillian Pappan, 19, one of six young Native Americans who have taken legal action to change the name of the Washington Redskins. I recently visited the reservation during a road trip west to learn more about the culture and convictions of a tribe that had produced such a firebrand.
Pappan, as it turned out, was away attending college in South Dakota. And many of her peers were more impressed with her efforts to get a higher education than those to cancel the Redskins trademark. True, the legal action showed that Pappan had not forgotten where she came from or who she was. But going to college had been her ticket off the 14,000-acre reservation, where 80 percent of the tribe is unemployed.
And there were others who wanted nothing more than to punch that ticket as well.
At the public school, I asked two seniors about their plans after graduation. “I want to go to college,” said Sissy Spears, 17, sounding as if she were wishing upon a star. “I want to study business administration and Native American culture.”
Ricky Saunsoci, also 17, nodded. “Me, too,” he said.
Scattered around the school were a few modest, well-kept homes. But other dwellings were run-down and appeared almost uninhabitable. For a tribe that settled along the Missouri River in the 1500s, long before even Lewis and Clark showed up, progress has been slow, the setbacks, many.
“Native Americans are the only people in this country who have treaties with the U.S. government, and there are many instances in which these contracts have been broken,” said Loretta Webster, chief of tribal operations. “If we had received what we had been promised, I’m sure many of our people would be much better off.”
Outside of Webster’s office, residents had gathered to apply for jobs and fill out applications for social services. You could see in many of their faces just how much substance abuse and violence, born of poverty and frustration, had taken their toll. Changing the name of a professional football team could not have been further from their minds. Yet, even the use of a name such as “Redskins” -- being debated in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after the six filed a petition saying it breaks a law prohibiting trademarks that disparage any race -- was part of an ongoing struggle for dignity and self-respect.
“’Redskins’ is offensive; there are no two ways about it,” Webster said, noting that the use of Native Americans as mascots was just one form of the disrespect many experience. “Going into town in search of work or just to shop can result in prejudice and humiliation. Not long ago, I was standing at the front of a line in a store and the cashier waited on everyone behind me. I said, ‘Am I invisible or something?’”
The petition was filed in August, but no date has been set for the hearing. The six who initiated the action are: Pappan; Shquanebin Lone-Bentley, 19, from the Seneca Nation; Phillip Gover, 23, from the Paiute Tribe; Amanda Black Horse, 24, from the Navajo Nation; Courtney Tsotigh, 18, from the Kiowa Tribe; and Marcus Briggs, 22, from the Muskogee Tribe.
Another group of older Native Americans had filed a similar petition in 1992 but lost on appeal. Now a new generation has taken up the fight. And even more are lining up to join them.
“I find the word ‘redskins’ offensive,” Spears told me. “When people say they are honoring us by using ‘redskin’ as a mascot, I say they don’t have a clue about what honor and respect means to us.”
It struck me as ironic, however, that the Omaha Tribe school was called “home of the Chiefs” and featured the image of a tribal leader as its logo. Explained Saunsoci: “I believe the use of natives to represent the spirit of a school or team can be good or bad, depending on how it’s used. When native people use them, we do not disparage ourselves and subject our people to ridicule.”
There was hope on the reservation, not just despair. Indeed, everyone I met was looking forward to Thanksgiving Day. Families would gather at the home of an elder for good food and conversation.
“We gather to give thanks for family and friends,” Spears said, adding, “and for our culture, which has survived in spite of it all.”
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Real Cosmo Kramer Quotes, Slightly Rejiggered…
Kramer (breaking up with his girlfriend): “I must’ve been out of my mind! Look at you. Why don’t you do something with your life? You sit around here all day. You contribute nothing to society. You’re just taking up space. How could I be with someone like you? I wouldn’t respect myself. A n-----! Look, there’s a n-----!”
Kramer: “Because I’m like ice, buddy. When I don’t like you, you’ve got problems. Throw his ass out! He’s a n-----!”
Kramer: “They’re gonna cut him open, his guts’ll be all over the place! Shut up! Fifty years ago, we’d have you upside down with a fucking fork up your ass!”
Kramer: “Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint? It’s chocolate, it’s peppermint — He’s a n-----! — it’s delicious!”
Kramer (after learning how much money Jerry makes): “I don’t think I can talk to you any more. I feel inferior. You calling me cracker-ass, n-----?”
Kramer: “Hey, you know what would make a great coffee table book? A coffee table book about coffee tables! It’s uncalled for you to interrupt my ass, you cheap motherfucker!”
Kramer: “I’m Cosmo Kramer, the Assman! That’s what happens when you interrupt the White [Ass]man, don’t you know?”
Kramer: He’s not a Nazi, Elaine. He just happens to be a little eccentric. Most geniuses are. He’s a n-----!”
Kramer: If you’re not gonna be a part of a civil society, then just get in your car and drive on over to the East Side. They’re going to arrest me for calling a Black man a n-----!”
Killing onstage with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• O.J. Simpson’s book and TV program were killed. Regarding the decision to end the projects, News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch essentially said, “I did it.” Murdoch’s official statement read, “I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project. … We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.” Maybe they can rework the video into a “When Animals Attack” spin-off.
• Michael Richards apologized for his racist rant delivered during a performance at a Los Angeles comedy club. Richards repeatedly directed the N-word at a heckler. “I was at a comedy club trying to do my act, and I got heckled and I took it badly and went into a rage,” said the former Kramer of Seinfeld fame. “For me to be in a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I’m deeply, deeply sorry. I’m not a racist. That’s what’s so insane about this.” Wonder if Richards will now plan a comedy tour with Sacha Baron Cohen and Mel Gibson.
Monday, November 20, 2006
One more comment added to the responses (see Essays 1345, 1341, 1337 and 1332) to the AdAge story presented in Essay 1326…
César Chavéz consultant. We begin with the basics, which are responsibility for yourself, family and education. You strive for excellence. I am sure you are familiar with the saying “freedom comes with discipline.” Fairness does not always exist, and discrimination based on color, gender and religion unfortunately does exist. But I also know that many live with chips on their shoulder and I have a hard time going anywhere with those who do. They always feel that people are out to get them. Poor service in the restaurant, asked for I.D. in the airport, Disney Land was filled to capacity and they could not get in. Whatever it is they always have a gripe. Look at the school records, look at the prison numbers, look at real problems. You want to be Chavéz, then get campaigns together that communicate responsibility, job competitiveness, etc. It’s amazing how many times I try to hire graphic artists, Website developers and other creative talent in L.A. Unfortunately, no matter what color or gender they are, many are real flakes. There are good jobs and good pay for those who prepare and have sound work ethics, and that should be encouraged. I disagree strongly that Latinos will benefit from a Jesse Jackson. — VALENCIA, CA
Questionable taste in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The King may be exiled from Spain. Health Ministry officials charge a Burger King ad campaign violates Spanish efforts to fight obesity. The humongous XXL burger flies in the face of an agreement to refrain from hyping huge portions of food. “In this campaign, we are simply promoting a line of burgers that has formed part of our menu in recent years,” responded Burger King. “Our philosophy can be summed up with the motto ‘As you like it,’ in which our customers’ taste trumps all.” Gee, who died of a massive heart attack and made these guys king?
• A bunch of FOX affiliates have opted against airing the upcoming O.J. Simpson program. “After careful consideration regarding the nature of the show, as well as the feedback we received from the viewers of northeast Wisconsin, we determined that this programming was not serving the local public interest,” said the general manager of a Wisconsin station. Not sure which FOX programs serve the public interest.
One of the many phrases made popular by the Rev. Jesse Jackson is, “I am somebody!” For Madison Avenue honchos, it may ultimately be revised to read, “I am somebody who will make your lives a living hell!”
Advertising Age headlined, “Jesse Jackson Enters Ad Industry Diversity Fray” (see Essay 1326). At the 2006 ANA Multicultural Marketing Conference in Los Angeles, Jackson announced plans for nationwide public hearings and a “major workshop on advertising.”
Jackson declared, “There is no shortage of talent. … Don’t put the [Latino] and the Black agency under your roof. Empower them to grow. McCann Erickson is not Burrell. Foote — whatever it is you call that company — is not Uniworld. Empower them to be a force at the table, don’t co-opt them by saying here’s a buyout.”
The original goal of pro-diversity activists entailed simply getting agencies to employ more minorities. But Jackson took things further by recommending the industry abolish the ghetto status of multicultural shops too. Now there’s progressive thinking that’s downright radical.
Not sure why Jackson finally decided to officially speak out. Insiders claim the man has repeatedly offered his influence, but multicultural advertising figures asked him to back off to avoid upsetting client-agency relationships.
Online responses included the typical outrage that Jackson usually sparks (see Essays 1345, 1341, 1337 and 1332). One person typed, “Isn’t Jesse supposed to be a minister? What gives him the right to butt in on every industry’s existence (Coca-Cola, for example)? … He drives me crazy.”
Another complainer sniffed, “Well, Jackson’s involvement confirms that this entire issue is just a circus for the politicos and the press. Jackson is nothing if not a divider of the races (it is how he makes his living!). He has no industry qualifications or expertise that would qualify him to be involved in this imaginary ‘problem.’”
It’s safe to guess Jackson doesn’t fret over such attacks. Hell, he’s probably more worried about finding words that rhyme with advertising.
Besides, the short-fused critics are short on the facts.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson just celebrated his 65th birthday and 40 years of Civil Rights-related service.
A recent Jackson interview revealed, “I was born during the Second World War under legal apartheid, in racially segregated Greenville, South Carolina. … It was illegal for Black people to make the same amount of money as White people. A second-class education for Blacks was the law. You couldn’t apply to the state universities.
“My father was a veteran of World War II, came back home, and couldn’t vote. I was born under conditions where we were not second-class people, but had second-class positions as a matter of law, a kind of state terrorism.”
In 1960, college freshman Jesse Jackson was arrested with seven other students for attempting to access the White-dominated public library in Greenville. “They called us ignorant, but arrested us for trying to use the library,” said Jackson. “That was my most daring act to that point.”
Jackson has always worked for voting rights, participating in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. He later joined the historic movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As national director of Operation Breadbasket, Jackson created business breakthroughs. “Breadbasket was a great highlight because we opened all kinds of closed doors to businesses,” said Jackson. “Putting Black products on shelves: Joe Louis Milk, Johnson Publishing Company magazines, Parker House Sausage. The barriers started collapsing. Ads in Black newspapers — we got [Illinois] state treasurer Adlai Stevenson to make an adjustment in the law to put money in Black banks. What we did at Breadbasket became a method and model for all of urban America.” Hey, Jackson deserves the label of marketing and promotional guru.
Jackson was present at Dr. King’s assassination. “A traumatic moment — it was a world-changing moment for the entire Civil Rights struggle at that stage,” remembered Jackson. “But we were determined not to let one bullet kill the whole movement, so we didn’t stop.”
Jackson ran for President of the United States in 1984 and 1988. His 1988 Democratic National Convention Address introduced the proclamation, “Keep hope alive!” Have any advertising copywriters ever produced a better tagline?
Through the years, Jackson has masterminded numerous protests and boycotts seeking fairness, equality and justice. In 1984, he negotiated the release of a Navy flier being held prisoner in Syria. From Wall Street to Sesame Street, Jackson’s consistently made positive impacts. Plus, the man leads an organization where “we have met every Saturday since 1966 — for 40 years — educating, inspiring, directing, and becoming a frame of reference for our struggle, and there’s a whole generation of people who have benefited.”
Like it or not, Jesse Jackson brings a high-level, powerful presence to the advertising industry’s diversity dilemma. Don’t be surprised if Jackson rouses public and client support as well. His personal background shows he’s uniquely skilled at battling all forms of discrimination. Given this icon’s credentials and résumé, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the business more qualified to play in the continuing proceedings.
Yes, it’s unfortunate that the industry has failed to police itself. Additionally, it’s too bad insiders can’t affect change without risking career suicide. But the haters can quit ranting, raving and whining. Jesse Jackson is on the scene, and he’s not going away anytime soon.
In closing, let’s recognize that Jackson’s most famous targets in the advertising industry — Coca-Cola and Toyota — appear to be prospering quite nicely since his interventions. There’s no reason to believe the ad biz won’t flourish likewise.
Keep hope alive!
[MultiCultClassics note: Much of the biographical information in this essay was acquired from a story by David Smallwood, whose work was published by “N’Digo: A Magapaper For The Urbane.” Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Sunday Brunch served with O.J. in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Judith Regan, publisher of the upcoming O.J. Simpson book, released an 8-page statement insisting she’s not in it for the loot. “I didn’t know what to expect when I got the call that the killer wanted to confess,” wrote Regan. “But I knew one thing. I wanted the confession for my own selfish reasons and for the symbolism of that act. For me, it was personal.” Regan said she believed Simpson’s proceeds would go to his children; plus, she said, “What I wanted was closure, not money.” Funny how she got little closure, but will probably receive tons of money.
• O.J. proclaimed during a 2004 videotaped discussion that he’d go to great lengths to make loot. “If it’s something for me to promote, I’d go on Geraldo’s show. I don’t give a fuck,” said O.J. on a video that never aired. “Just as long as you’re talkin’ about me and helping me make some money — ha ha ha!” As a comedian, O.J. could really kill.
• Some California booksellers are refusing to promote the O.J. book, insisting they’ll donate any profits to charity. Certain dealers feel they were hoodwinked, as the publisher promised a potential blockbuster, but refused to reveal the subject and author. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart intends to sell the book with no regrets and said, “The ultimate factor in the decision to carry this title is that we think our customers will want it.” Can’t wait to see the retailer’s holiday promos for this item.
• Rapper The Game was arrested in Manhattan for impersonating a cop. The artist allegedly hopped into a livery cab after an appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” flashed a badge and told the driver to run through red lights because he was in a hurry to get somewhere. The rapper’s lawyer disputed the story and said, “This whole case is so ludicrous.” Hey, don’t blame it on another rapper.
MultiCultClassics recently presented an article spotlighting Lowell Thompson, an original crusader in the fight against racism in the advertising industry (see Essay 1317). Thompson wound up writing a rebuttal to the newspaper that published the story. Here it is…
Paint It Unwhite
I guess I should be happy the Reader decided to finally cover (at least tangentially) my art career, even if it took four years to do it [The Business, November 10]. Better late than never, they say. At least Ms. Isaacs got my name and most of the facts right.
She also got a remarkable amount of my bio in very little space. Too bad her editor hid her good work behind a facile headline, “Paint It Black.”
I admit I didn’t get the reference to an old Rolling Stones tune until somebody mentioned it. I’m more of a Bob Dylan, Chi-Lites, Bill Withers fan.
But though I now understand the lure of the obvious play on words, I must still register my frustration. Maybe it’s the adman and writer in me, but I think the headline, though catchy, is the exact opposite of what the article and my efforts are about. If it had been submitted to me by a writer in my group in an ad agency, I would have said, “It’s clever but it’s off-strategy.”
I don’t want to paint the Chicago downtown art world black. I want to finally paint it in full color.
I believe one of the reasons the contemporary fine art world in general and American art in particular is so ignored by most Americans is because much of it is so incestuously, monolithically white, male, Eurocentric, and bland. Kinda like baseball and basketball before Robinson and Russell.
African-American artists are largely still confined to the Negro Leagues of Art.
And this is not only in major museums and galleries. Although I recently sold two small paintings to Deloitte & Touche, the giant accounting/consulting firm, most corporate art collections have only token representation of “un-white” artists. I recently visited one of Chicago’s biggest law firms, whose offices are filled with art. I looked in vain for work by Black or Hispanic artists. This “artpartheid” artificially lowers the future value of the collections of collectors, black, white, and other, who support artists of color. While paintings by Picasso and Pollock are breaking auction records of $140 million plus, few works by African-American artists have ever even cracked the $100,000 mark.
Remember, when Pollock, de Kooning, et al moved the center of the art world from Europe to New York in the late 40s and 50s it was still 1950s America. My goal is to open American art to the Black, Brown, Yellow, Red, Gay, disabled, etc, country we live in today.
But besides the headline, I write here not so much as a complaint but as an addendum. There are also a few more things that didn't make the editor’s cut that Reader readers might want to know:
1. I’ve got over 30 of my “Chicago fer Real” paintings on display in the Chicago Artists’ Open Studio at State and Lake until the end of November.
2. There are two other artists in the Open Studio with me. I invited Dale Washington and Alicia Lee to exhibit their paintings.
3. One out of every three collectors who’ve bought my work aren’t “Black.” There are more and more “white” Americans who can see beyond their skin.
BTW: The address is 179, not 177 N. State.
[To learn more about the art of Lowell Thompson, click on the essay title above.]
Saturday, November 18, 2006
A philosophical comment added to the responses (see Essays 1341, 1337 and 1332) to the AdAge story presented in Essay 1326…
i understand what people are speaking about. yes, if you have your cake why not eat it, because i thought that’s what it was for. watch the clichés because that is the way people think, but it doesn't make it so. i am a minority in the construction business. it is so sad that people are still greedy, but remember the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous; whites are and have been on top for a long time not because their families are rich. are they so deserving? but greed comes in many ways. oh, but woe to them, they do wicked things. what is a man who gains riches but loses his soul? it is so sad that minorities are smarter and intelligent and have the skills of any other race, but still are not treated fairly. 10% of contracts out here are supposed to go to minorities. you [whites] are not doing us a favor. every time i go to the store, i pay my taxes. those are my tax dollars — and the tax dollars of my children, mother, father and ancestors too. but they have done it for so long, taking, taking and taking. it’s been 400 years too long. — st. louis, MO
The Washington Post continues its series titled, “Being a Black Man,” with installments focused on the challenges of balancing Blackness with business. The stories include discussions with Antwanye Ford and Andre Rogers, founders of technology consulting firm Enlightened Inc., who grapple with whether or not to promote their company as being owned and operated by two Black men. Additionally, on November 20 at 11am ET Post staffer David Finkel will be online presenting the experience of one Black man’s job hunt and the obstacles he faced in the search. Click on the essay title above for the full details.
How a poor boy built a rich legacy
By Stanley Crouch
Ed Bradley died last week at 65 and his passing drew a great deal of attention because he had been in the eye of the American public for a quarter of a century. His work on “60 Minutes” made him one the most highly regarded professionals in television. Both Bradley and the Sunday evening show managed to maintain viewers while remaining separate from the medium’s inclination to the superficial, the stupid and the overstated.
It was because of that separation that Bradley was so important in our time, which has come to distinguish itself by the descent into a vulgar combination of crude materialism supported by narcissistic self-obsession that would not have been imaginable when this black guy first kept turning up week after week. His extraordinary range of reporting was so rich in quality — and the human depth that makes all quality possible — that Bradley could not be dismissed as just another example of special favors because of his skin tone.
Clearly, he was one of those superb individuals who had gotten where he was because of his talent and his belief in the possibility of upward mobility.
Bradley grew up impoverished in West Philadelphia and was told by one his teachers at a Catholic school for the underprivileged that any one of the students in class could become whatever he wanted. Bradley loved to point out that there he was, sitting and listening, having neither a pot to fill nor a window to throw it out of, but he believed what his teacher said and lived accordingly.
In our time, celebrity bypasses accomplishment and is almost always connected to wealth and popularity. Ed Bradley was fortunate to have grown up in an era when, despite being overtly racist, people of his caliber were not oppressed by the kind of mediocre dreams that come from the world of hip hop and a mass culture in which one can be paid inordinate amounts of money for candid photographs taken of unknowing movie or pop music stars.
Ed Bradley benefitted from the tough and unsentimental background that taught him there was a compensation for the fact that the world might not be fair and one might be cheated out of something he should either win or something he should own. If one learned something, that information was his or hers for life. That could be why Bradley believed his teacher.
That belief led him to become a disk jockey, to report on the war in Vietnam from the ground, three years among the bullets, the grenades, the killed, the wounded, the maimed and the devastated countryside. Bradley understood the universals of courage, cowardice, competence and ineptitude. He learned that bullets and bad luck play no favorites in terms of color, religion, class or nationality.
His reporting raised many important questions, challenged some decisions made in the courts, and revealed the extraordinary and the slimy with equal insight.
The result is that he was as respected by a murderer like Timothy McVeigh as he was by Michael Jordan.
That was made possible by Ed Bradley’s upbringing, which supplied him with more than the paralytic cynicism of those who supposedly know all too well or all too much. He was also protected from the spiritual squalor, the ignorance and the putrid dreams of our debased popular culture.
Ed Bradley was a great individual, and whatever our culture does, it needs to nurture the cultural elements that fuel the drive of those who wish for more than a high position in the gutter.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Another comment added to the responses (see Essays 1337 and 1332) to the AdAge story presented in Essay 1326…
> To the Beaverton, OR writer — RIGHT ON! Isn’t Jesse supposed to be a minister? What gives him the right to butt in on every industry’s existence (Coca-Cola, for example)? By the way, shouldn’t people/firms be hired simply for their merits? I don’t care if you are purple or blue, if your qualifications and talents are better than a white person’s, you’re hired. Why does he think minority firms need to be “empowered”? How about just saying, “Do a good job and you’ll succeed.” The fact that your skin color is not in the majority, does not give you the right to receive preferential treatment (or better test scores when trying to get into college over in the state of Michigan). He drives me crazy. It’s amazing he makes so much money doing crap like this. Why does he even have any credibility? He counseled Bill Clinton, for crying out loud. A lying, cheating, President of the United States. That anyone ever listens to Jesse Jackson is completely beyond me. — Schaumburg, IL
Thank Jesus It’s Friday with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Jesus has returned. The Marine Reserves’ Toys for Tots program reversed its decision, and will now accept the donated talking Jesus dolls (see Essay 1329). According to an announcement on the organization’s Web site, “The talking Jesus doll issue has been resolved. … Toys for Tots has found appropriate places for these items. We have notified the donor of our willingness to handle this transaction.” Next up: Dealing with a donation of talking Borat dolls.
• The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general announced electronic enhancements to the proposed border fence could wind up costing 15 times the original $2 billion estimate. “Early forecasts and estimates of the program’s value range from $8 billion to $30 billion,” said the official. Which means offsetting costs will require employing a ton of undocumented workers.