Friday, March 31, 2006
Model behavior in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Supermodel and diva extraordinaire Naomi Campbell (pictured above) has been charged with assaulting her housekeeper with a telephone. It’s the second time Campbell has been accused of violently reaching out and touching someone with a phone — it was her weapon of choice on an assistant in 1998. Maybe Naomi should consider Ear Bud technology.
• A new study found that praying for heart-bypass patients has no effect on their recovery. Unless your prayers for a really good surgeon are answered.
• Recent studies indicate Blacks are making progress in bridging The Digital Divide. A Pew national survey indicated 61 percent of Blacks use the Internet today — versus only 23 percent in 1998. Then again, many folks contend The Digital Divide is really just The Poverty Divide.
• A Rastafarian charged that UPS wouldn’t hire him because of his beard, although the shipping company denies the accusations. What Can Brown Do For You? Probably not much if you’re a bearded Black.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Acting cagey with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The Ohio couple accused of locking their 11 adoptive children in cages filed an appeal to regain custody of the kids (see Essay 488). The couple’s lawyer said, “Even if the court upholds the abuse finding, we are claiming that the grant of permanent custody (to Huron County) was improper and that the judge could have and should have considered a wider range of remedies other than stripping the Gravelles of all if their parental rights.” Yeah, the judge could have designated the Gravelles home as a petting zoo.
• General Motors Corp. held Black Tuesday after all, firing hundreds of white-collar executives. The automaker wouldn’t release specifics, but reports claim nearly 500 people were laid off. “It’s critical for GM to get through the reductions as quickly as possible. This has been a distraction to the employees since November,” one management expert said. “The longer this gets dragged out, the greater the chance there is that the most valued employees will walk out the door on their own and GM will have difficulties attracting new employees.” Oh, it seems like GM offers plenty of other incentives for prospective candidates to stay the hell away.
• A former diversity manager for Honda is suing after being fired for allegedly complaining about racial discrimination at the company. She had protested repeatedly over instances she deemed discriminatory, until the company fired her. Guess Honda believes in firing a diverse group of employees.
• Referring to the issues of immigration, President Bush recently remarked, “There are people doing jobs Americans will not do. … Many people who have come into our country are helping our economy grow. That’s just a fact of life.” Which is essentially what Mexican President Vicente Fox said months ago — although Bush avoided the unflattering references to Blacks.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Busted, busters and broke with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Victor Willis, the original Village People cop, was arrested Sunday after being on the run for five months (see Essay 361). He was charged with drug possession and providing false identification to the arresting officer. An ex-fake cop giving bogus ID to a real cop is such a twisted paradox.
• The Prime Minister of Italy declared he wants to prevent his homeland from becoming a “multiethnic, multicultural country. ... We want to open [our borders] to foreigners who flee countries where their lives or liberties are at risk.” He also said, “We don’t want to welcome all those who come here to bring about damage and danger to Italian citizens.” Guess Victor Willis should stay away.
• The National Urban League released a survey showing Blacks are failing to make economic progress in numerous areas versus Whites. “The economic status of African-Americans is getting worse,” Urban League President Marc Morial said. “If things are stagnant in a growing economy ... then we’ve got to say that progress is seriously lacking. ... America is not America when millions of our citizens are still viewed as a fraction of a person.” And it’s not like folks could just pack up and move to Italy.
• A recent poll of legal immigrants showed the majority “believe anti-immigration sentiment is growing and [they] are alarmed by the tone of the debate over reform.” Another example of science stating the painfully obvious.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Bikers, borders and boogie on a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The NAACP settled their lawsuit with a restaurant chain that closed down during a Black biker rally three years ago in Myrtle Beach (see Essay 49). The suit charged that Black bikers were treated differently than White bikers who had held another rally a week earlier. The restaurant will pay $125,000 and agree to remain open during future rallies. The restaurant’s management should also be forced to watch Biker Boyz.
• The New York Times reported that immigration continues to grow as an election issue. The government has offered solutions like work permits and other programs. Others argue illegal immigrants should be arrested versus coddled. During a debate, one candidate snapped, “You cannot need the workers during the day, then go and hunt them at night.” A typical day in the U.S.? Actually, the story was detailing the situation in Italy.
• Dancing in the streets is not always a good thing. Philadelphia Eagles player Dhani Makalani Jones was arrested in Miami Beach for doing just that. The starting linebacker and a female companion were obstructing traffic with their moves, according to police. Maybe Jones hopes to replace NFL great Jerry Rice on “Dancing With The Stars.”
Monday, March 27, 2006
Hooray for a Hollywood MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Robert Blake recently claimed he wanted to act and even dance (see Essay 483). Now he says he can’t pay up to $1.7 million in taxes he owes. Sounds like a lot of song and dance.
• Boxer James “The Harlem Hammer” Butler will allegedly admit to killing sportswriter Sam Kellerman — but Butler insists it wasn’t murder. Kellerman was bludgeoned to death with a hammer last October. Guess it was a home improvement chore gone horribly awry.
• Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker behind “Super Size Me,” came off like a Super Size moron while speaking at a high school health fair. Spurlock dissed McDonald's employees, cracked about the “retarded kids in the back wearing helmets” and remarked on teachers smoking weed. Spurlock proclaimed, “The greatest lesson those kids learned today was the importance of free speech.” Plus, award-winning filmmakers are sometimes assholes.
Borderline confusion with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The Christian Science Monitor reported on the paradoxes of immigration facing officials in the U.S. Senate. An 18-member Senate Judiciary Committee is stumbling toward consensus over new tactics for immigration reform. “Today’s immigration policy is almost founded on lies,” said the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “It presupposes lying by almost everyone involved.” In that case, our elected officials are the perfect lying experts to handle the situation.
• The Washington Post broke down some of the key legislation and proposals relating to immigration.
> Requires employers to verify the legal status of employees. It subjects employers to criminal penalties of a year or more in prison. It also sets civil fines of up to $50,000 for each illegal hire.
> Does not include a guest-worker program.
Proposal of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)
> Requires employers to verify legal status of employees. An employer who has knowingly hired more than 10 illegal workers in one year could face up to 10 years in prison.
> Expands guest-worker program, authorizing immigrants to work for three years. They may reapply for another three years, then must return home for a year before again applying to the program.
Proposal of Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.)
> Allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the country for six years under temporary work visas if they pay a $1,000 fine and pass background checks. They can later apply for permanent residence and citizenship if they pay an additional $1,000, are proficient in English and civics, and pay all back taxes.
> Allows 400,000 new guest workers into the country each year. It permits immigrants to stay in the country for up to six years under temporary work visas. Applicants would have to pass criminal and security background checks, pay a $500 application fee, and undergo a medical examination.
Still awaiting proposals from The Minuteman Project.
• Hispanic companies in the U.S. are growing at three times the national rate. Reports show Hispanic-owned businesses hit about 1.6 million in 2002, up 31 percent from five years earlier. “The Hispanic consumer market is exploding,” said Michael Barrera, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “That means that a lot of Hispanic businesses are going to benefit from that.” And a lot of Minutemen are going to be really pissed off.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
A ground-breaking MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Wesley Brown (pictured above) entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1945 and ultimately became the first Black graduate. Now 60 years later, Brown attended a ground-breaking ceremony for a building bearing his name. “Somebody asked me once, did I ever think of quitting,” Brown recalled. “I said, ‘Yes. Every day.’” Fortunately, he persevered to stand as an icon deserving praise and respect. Every day.
• Folks continue the nationwide marches to protest immigration issues. Los Angeles saw over 500,000 marchers on Saturday. Denver drew 50,000 on Saturday too, while Phoenix witnessed 20,000 on Friday. “We construct your schools. We cook your food,” rapper Jorge Ruiz said at a Dallas rally. “We are the motor of this nation, but people don’t see us. Blacks and Whites, they had their revolution. They had their Martin Luther King. Now it is time for us.” Not sure anyone wants a rapper cooking our food.
• The Los Angeles Times reported the snack business supplying movie theatres has been suffering in recent years. Industry experts blame the declining moviegoer crowds. “Our sales are going down pretty directly with attendance,” said one company executive. Or maybe customers are tired of paying $20 for a box of Gummi Bears.
The following appeared in The Chicago Sun-Times…
Black Power talked revolution
March 26, 2006
BY CHRISTOPHER BENSON AND CLARENCE LANG
‘Black power’ has always been a sort of socio-political Rorschach. We have seen in it what we have wanted to see. That is apparent from recent headlines that show many detractors still associate the black power movement with unfocused rage, lawlessness and urban rebellion.
As the Chicago City Council wrestles with a proposal to rename a portion of West Monroe “Chairman Fred Hampton Way,” there are significant points that are not likely to be made. Cut through the defiant poses and the fiery rhetoric, and you find something truly surprising. Black power might have spoken the language of revolution, but for the most part pursued a strategy of reform.
Yet, despite two generations of thoughtful analysis and scholarship, many commentators still draw sharp contrasts between black power and what was presumed to be a nonviolent, largely Southern civil rights struggle led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Oversimplifying black power in this way obscures the common ground that both periods of the civil rights movement occupy. It ignores the actual content of black power programs and overlooks the way in which black power, in fact, grew out of the successes and failures of civil rights activism itself.
Born of disillusionment
In a way, the civil rights movement prepared the ground upon which the black power movement was built. In a way, the civil rights movement was always about black power.
What is the true meaning of black power? What did it accomplish? How does it challenge us in moving forward, together? These are among the issues to be considered this week at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where scholars, writers and activists are assembling for a national conference on black power.
The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom had powerfully articulated black demands for full citizenship. By 1965, the movement had yielded remarkable victories, notably the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts.
But arrests, beatings, church bombings and murders had created restlessness among young activists. And they became more vocal in their criticism of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, at best unreliable allies. Meanwhile, industrial flight, black youth unemployment, police abuses and other urban crises had sparked black rebellions.
Thus, when Willie Ricks and Stokely Carmichael popularized “black power” in 1966, they expressed the frustrations and idealism of a generation disillusioned by American liberalism, drawn to black nationalism and moved by Third World freedom struggles.
Yet, black power was something of a blank slate, lacking real definition. It was broad enough to embrace a wide range of initiatives. There were the Panther-style free children’s breakfast programs, health clinics and legal services, as well as some of the earliest neighborhood watch programs -- armed Panthers who monitored police abuses. Black power programs ran the gamut from the spectacular to the mundane: efforts to secure land reparations and welfare rights and dignity for public housing tenants.
But the same vagueness that made black power a broadly effective force also made it threatening to white middle America, able to fill in the blank with a media-enhanced frame of violent confrontation. The militant rhetoric of spokesmen such as Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and Eldridge Cleaver, set against the backdrop of recurring urban revolts, only heightened that anxiety.
On balance, however, black power’s achievements have been moderate.
Black power helped democratize higher education. It dramatically expanded the ranks of African-American students at historically white universities where, among other things, they successfully campaigned for black studies curricula. The result has been a couple of generations of scholars -- people such as former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver, a Yale-trained lawyer who teaches at both Yale and Emory Universities -- and critical-thinking graduates, such as Aaron McGruder, creator of the influential and irreverent “Boondocks” cartoon and TV series.
Many white students, drawn by an interest in the experiences of racial minorities, also have become loyal constituents of black studies courses, preparing themselves to take on the future challenges of a diverse society.
Transformed the work force
In other instances, black power became bloc power. In Chicago, African Americans, outraged over the deaths of Hampton and Clark, voted Hanrahan out of office. Years later, they voted Harold Washington in. And black business people and professionals provided critical seed money for Barack Obama’s successful Senate run.
Elsewhere, black power transformed our work force, providing jobs in skilled trades, manufacturing, municipal employment, utility companies, and other well-paying areas of the economy that historically had not hired or upgraded African Americans. And then there are the media, where black voices are heard, not nearly enough, but heard nonetheless, in front of the camera and on the front page and -- even more important -- behind the scenes, where decisions are made about the framing and presentation of stories and perspectives, such as this essay.
Because of black power, “Negroes” became “black” and showed the world its beauty. Arts and entertainment have been forever changed by the reclamation of African-derived culture, and the development of a black-centered ethos. The contemporary black cinema of filmmakers Spike Lee, Julie Dash, Haile Gerima and John Singleton owe their success to the breakthrough films of the 1970s. Black power influenced the works of recording artists as diverse as James Brown, Nina Simone and Roy Ayers, as well as the politically potent lyrics of hip-hop artists such as Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, the Coup, Common, Nas and Kanye West.
Rap moguls such as P. Diddy and Jay-Z can link their music entrepreneurial success to the franchise opportunities wrested from corporate America in the late 1960s. On this score, even Richard Nixon -- who oversaw the violent repression of groups like the Panthers -- could endorse black power. True, he called it “black capitalism,” but the programs of affirmative action and minority business set-asides that began with his administration were, at least in part, about giving segments of black America a stake in the system.
Beyond its specific effects on African Americans, black power inspired others, helping to propel a sweeping “rights revolution” among other people of color, as well as white women, gays and lesbians, environmentalists, war veterans and the disabled.
The real fundamental aspects of the black power movement -- self-determination, self-definition, self-expression -- were all expressions of fully engaged citizenship. It was about inclusion and participation. black power advocates were the trustbusters of their day. They were talking about breaking up monopolies of power. And giving up exclusivity must have seemed like a radical thing to people who had never had to consider living in a pluralistic society.
That is why, whether the Chicago City Council votes up or down on Chairman Fred Hampton Way, there already has been a victory of sorts. Fred Hampton is on the agenda, placed there by an African-American alderman, Madeline Haithcock. And agenda-setting is an act of power.
It is time to consider the continuing challenge of black power -- a challenge to both black and white America.
For African Americans, the challenge is in determining how to resolve the unfinished business and unexpected outcomes of the past.
Expanded the middle class
Ironically, one of black power’s most lasting legacies, the growth of a contemporary black professional middle class, fragile though it is, has led to deepening class conflict among African Americans today. Indeed, the post-civil rights/black power black middle class has developed alongside an expanding black urban working-class poor (the so-called underclass) devastated by economic dislocation. Internal black class tensions, arising amid gentrification projects in places such as New York’s Harlem and Chicago’s Bronzeville, challenge the assumptions of a common African-American interest that underlay many black power programs of the 1960s and '70s.
At colleges and universities, ethnic studies programs, and faculty and students of color, have weathered hostility and legal challenges, challenges that likely will intensify.
On the political front, two generations of black mayors have had to contend with the effects of industrial flight, weak tax bases, a federal government in retreat from urban policy, and the siphoning of economic resources to surrounding suburbs. Likewise, black electoral influence has been thwarted by lawsuits against majority-minority voting districts and, as illustrated in the 2000 presidential election, outright disfranchisement. For an entire nation, the popular vote for president did not count because of votes that were not counted in Florida.
For whites, then, the challenge still is in realizing that, at the end of the day, there is nothing to fear but everything to gain from a true appreciation of black power and its promise of collaborative progress. After all, it’s not about hostile takeovers. Black power is not a zero-sum game. Ultimately, it is about making this country a truly democratic space by creating more opportunity for everyone to meaningfully participate.
At its heart, deep in its soul, black power has always been about power sharing.
Christopher Benson is associate professor of African-American studies and journalism, and Clarence Lang is assistant professor of African-American studies and history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The woman above (Patricia Gatling) is out to change the advertising industry. The story below appeared on Adage.com last Friday…
HUMAN RIGHTS INVESTIGATOR REPRIMANDS AD INDUSTRY
Offers Some Praise, But Says Not Enough Being Done
March 24, 2006
By Lisa Sanders
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The head of New York City’s Human Rights Commission both praised and reprimanded the advertising industry in a public forum yesterday morning.
Patricia Gatling, who is leading the investigation into minority hiring practices on Madison Avenue, praised the industry for being “extremely open” to talking about ways to improve minority hiring. About the possibility of reaching an agreement, she said, “We’re closer than we were one year ago,” adding that, “I don’t think the industry is opposed to some kind of oversight.” But she also took issue with agencies’ explanation for the low numbers of minority employees. “Their reply is ‘I can’t find anyone.’ Well, for 40 years, you should have been able to find someone.”
Ms. Gatling made her comments during a presentation on the preliminary budget hearings for fiscal 2007 before the City Council’s Committee on Civil Rights, which oversees the Commission. Larry Seabrook, chair of the committee, led the hearings.
The latter comment referenced an analysis completed in June 1978 by the Commission on Human Rights that found only 5% of the industry’s workforce in 1967 comprised black and Hispanic workers, at a time when the metropolitan-area labor force was about 25% minority. The report also said that agencies “in the New York area had consistently failed to employ blacks, Puerto Ricans and other minority groups overall, and especially in professional and executive positions.”
Numerous agencies at the time expressed concern over the situation revealed by their employment statistics, and volunteered to establish in-house affirmative action programs to increase minority representation of their workforces, according to the report. However, subsequent follow-up by the Commission revealed only meager results, so that by 1973, the Commission took enforcement action. Three agencies eventually signed conciliation agreements, which resulted in the agencies implementing commission-approved procedures intended to produce a positive change in hiring.
During an interview with Advertising Age after the hearings, Ms. Gatling refused to provide numbers on agencies’ current minority employment, due to the ongoing investigation.
But she did offer advice of sorts to the ad industry, in relaying her own experience in creating more diverse workforces. Years ago, as First Assistant District Attorney in Kings County, Brooklyn, Ms. Gatling led a program designed to both increase the number of minority applicants and improve retention levels. To build a pool of candidates, she traveled all over the country and interviewed thousands of people, spending more than $100,000 in the process. “I had to determine what was out there. Sometimes you find candidates in unlikely places.”
And that, she said, is “the exact same way to do it with the advertising industry.”
Holding on to talent
Finding and hiring minorities is only the first part of the process required to diversify a workforce, Ms. Gatling said. It also requires implementing mentoring programs to help retain candidates while they’re employed. “If you see people who look like you in places of power,” she said, “you think it can happen. I know the ad agencies don’t have [those programs].” A final crucial component is getting support from the top of the organization.
“The DA told me he wanted half of the office to be people of color,” she recalled. When she began, the DA’s workforce had less than 10% people of color as assistants, and when she left, she’d reached the goal, she said.
Even as talks between her office and ad agencies’ attorneys continue, both the Commissioner and Councilman Seabrook made clear their intention to move forward with plans to hold public hearings on the matter at the end of April.
Ms. Gatling said during her presentation before Councilman Seabrook that she wants to press on a couple of issues. One is the question of where agencies have looked to find candidates; another is whether the jobs posted are “real” opportunities. “These people are paid billions of dollars a year by companies like Time Warner and Coca-Cola that pride themselves on diversity. I would like to see them explain to their clients why they are not diverse.”
“The only way to deal with this issue of discrimination is to confront it head on,” said Councilman Seabrook. “Ad agencies shouldn’t be talking about not having hearings. That’s not the American way.”
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Getting fired up with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• General Motors white-collar employees are anticipating a “Black Tuesday” — with rumors estimating 500 to 1,200 job cuts. The Washington Post, interviewing an anonymous GM employee, reported “the conference rooms at [the employee’s] office have been booked by human resources for Tuesday. [The employee] said that about one month ago, GM detailed severance packages. Workers will receive one month of severance for each year of service at the automaker, up to a maximum of 15 months. ‘It’s a mess there at work. Everyone is so worried, walking around wondering what’s going to happen.’” Talk about An American Revolution.
• The Washington Post also reported minorities in Washington will make up the majority within the next decade. There are already more minorities than Whites among residents under 40, and experts predict the numbers will continue to grow — ultimately affecting the area’s politics, economy and social persona. A demographer said, “Schools, young adult clubs, politics and the dating scene in D.C. will be increasingly multiethnic, creating a sharp contrast with the old, White establishment and the Black-dominated minority population of the past.” Perhaps we should consider renaming the President’s pad to “The Non-White House.”
• Controversial immigration legislation inspired rallies and protests across the nation on Friday. Students staged school walkouts. Employees organized work stoppages. And placards proclaimed, “Don’t panic, we’re Hispanic” and “We have a dream, too.” Somebody better tell Congress about the new majority coming to Washington.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Is it the shoes? No, it’s a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Just sue it. A group of current and former Black employees at Niketown in Chicago filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in 2003 that has now been given class-action status. The charges include:
- Segregating Blacks into lower-paying stockroom and cashier positions.
- Denying opportunities for promotions to sales positions by failing to post job openings.
- Hiring Blacks into part-time rather than full-time positions that received benefits, such as health insurance and paid vacation.
- Subjecting Black employees to searches when leaving the store, while Caucasian employees were free from such searches. Work rules regarding attendance, sick leave and employee discounts also were unequally applied, the suit said.
No word if Mars Blackmon will be asked to provide testimony.
• Civil rights leader Andrew Young has been raising eyebrows with his public support of Wal-Mart. Young was hired by the mega-retailer as a “corporate cheerleader,” appearing at store openings to dance with clerks and posing for pictures at company-sponsored events. A professor of Black studies at Georgia State University griped, “What [Young’s] doing is providing credibility and legitimacy for some of these corporations that have policies that just reinforce inequality.” Or maybe he’s just hoping to appear in a Wal-Mart commercial with Queen Latifah and Destiny’s Child.
• Kanab, a predominately Mormon town in Utah, sparked controversy with a resolution recently passed by its City Council. The resolution rules in favor of the “natural family” led by a working dad, a stay-at-home mom and a “full quiver of children.” Critics argue the measure smacks of homophobia and sexism. To deflect negative publicity, the City Council could hire Andrew Young to dance with them.
• Thousands marched in a Milwaukee protest titled, “A Day Without Latinos.” The rally sought to bring attention to Congress’ efforts targeting undocumented workers. The Minuteman Project will probably hold a counter-protest titled, “A Country Without Latinos.”
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to provide odd sound bites. Now she’s making Biblical references over immigration issues. Reacting to a bill designed to make unlawful presence in this country a felony, the senator said, “It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scriptures … because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself.” It wasn’t clear if she meant Jesus Christ or Jesus the undocumented immigrant from Mexico.
A St. Louis radio talk-show host was fired for allegedly accidentally using a racial slur in reference to Condoleezza Rice. While discussing Rice potentially becoming Commissioner of the NFL, the host remarked, “She’s been chancellor of Stanford… She’s got the patent resume of somebody that has serious skill. She loves football. She’s African-American, which would kind of be a big coon. A big coon. Oh my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that.” While radio station bigwigs believe the slip was an honest mistake, they canned the man anyway following listeners’ complaints. The host later told reporters, “It was my dream job.” Then he probably launched into an offensive parody of Dr. King’s famous speech.
The essay below appeared in Screen Magazine, a Midwest publication focused on advertising commercial production. The MultiCultClassics response directly follows…
Revolving Door 03.20.06
By Dan Patton
Swallow a spoonful of the Great American Melting Pot. You taste steak, ribs, jalapeños, potatoes, pierogis, chop suey, baklava and curry. Metaphorically, a great dish. Realistically, these flavors are best kept apart. People of different cultures also clash, but in America, like the melting pot suggests, we get along. Except for those within New York City ad agencies, according to City Councilman Larry Seabrook. Calling their ethnic makeup, “an embarrassment for a diverse city,” AdAge reports that he’s ready “to subpoena industry executives for a grilling on the subject.”
His criticism reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the industry. Advertising relies on creativity and creativity is colorblind. Agencies hire anyone who can persuade consumers, regardless of color, creed, religion or sexual orientation. They don’t even care about standard business appearance. Indeed, the stereotype of a creative director is an unshaven, long-haired stoner.
But in a larger sense, his intentions are perfect. Advertising seeks to influence 18-to-35-year-olds who define their lifestyles through music and fashion - trends often generated by ethnic minorities. Advertising motivates white America to buy the stuff like it’s going out of style, until it eventually goes out of style. Then some new craze in Houston or Atlanta starts the whole thing all over again. Throughout the process, advertising gets fat atop the economic food chain while bottom-feeding off the cultural melting pot, and the top-earning executives seem to always be white.
Such exploitation has been around since Elvis and the Stones filled arenas by sounding black when, in fact, they were not. It exists today in the so-called tribute album to Sly Stone, “Different Strokes by Different Folks.” Hyped at the Grammys by a shameless cast of mostly white musicians, it came off like an after-dinner variety show in a suburb with a really clean Denny’s. Even the title itself seems derived from a sitcom about a bumbling, lovable white guy who generously adopts two poor black kids.
Advertising agencies are not to blame for these unequal opportunities in America, nor do they seek to perpetuate them. But they should create advantages for those who endure them. Like the blues and old-school that preceded hip-hop and oversized hoodies, another great tradition is evolving somewhere in the dense inner-cities and depressed hollows of America – a tradition born from pure innovation and a profound lack of resources. By increasing the diversity of those who will inevitably turn this tradition into a marketing trend, we’ll all have an easier time swallowing.
The writer’s column title reads, “Revolving Door.” Appropriately enough, the perspectives present a revolving door of clichés and passive bias.
Patton is probably a decent person with contemporary attitudes. But his statements warrant discussion and dissection.
First, the term “Great American Melting Pot” is a crock. While U.S. communities are more diverse now than in the past, we still tend toward tribalism and cliques. Like “Star Trek: The Next Generation” characters facing the Borg, Americans ultimately refuse to be assimilated. Don’t believe the hype to the contrary.
If there’s “a fundamental misunderstanding about the industry,” it’s that we’re not as progressive as our work. The lack of diversity is a fundamental problem that we continue to ignore. Creativity is colorblind. But creative department leaders with hiring power are not. Long-haired stoners are revered — provided the long hair isn’t an afro or any other non-Caucasian strand.
“Agencies hire anyone who can persuade consumers, regardless of color, creed, religion or sexual orientation.” So how come even organizations like the AAF and 4A’s bemoan the low number of minorities on Madison Avenue? Why do these groups desperately seek ways to recruit and retain people who aren’t White?
“Advertising agencies are not to blame for these unequal opportunities in America, nor do they seek to perpetuate them.” Says who? If you’re an industry that has failed to integrate for countless decades — even when the clients you serve and the consumers you target have made deliberate, measurable strides — how can you possibly deny blame? Let’s not forget that advertising agency leaders have made public commitments to change, yet never delivered on their promises.
While Patton inevitably professes support for diversity, his action plans are void of tangible directives. Which makes his argument a little hard to swallow.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Crime and drugs in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The Los Angeles Times reported gang-related homicides in Compton dropped from 22 in early 2005 to 3 this year, thanks to doubling the police force in the area. One potential problem: police don’t intend to keep the added staff in the long run. “Will resources eventually be removed from Compton? Yes, they will,” said Sheriff's Capt. Mike Ford. “But I am not going to advertise it to gang members.” Uh, you just did, officer.
• The Los Angeles Times also reported the LAPD failed to meet goals for promoting women, Blacks and Hispanics. The goals are required by a 1992 consent decree. Guess Compton homicides and minority promotions have both dropped.
• The new drug considered to be the next big thing for Blacks with heart troubles has bombed for pharmaceutical company Nitromed, leading to the resignation of two executives who strongly backed the product. Guess their hearts just weren’t into it.
Clarence Page weighs in on the recent New York Times report (see Essay 486)…
Disconnected black youth plight worsens
March 22, 2006
WASHINGTON -- In an ideal world the rising tide of economic recovery would lift everyone’s boat, as John F. Kennedy used to say. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where the boom that began a decade ago has left one demographic group, in particular, stuck on the bottom of the economic lake: undereducated black males.
So says a body of new studies by poverty experts from Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and other major universities and think tanks. The experts have taken a closer look at the condition of those who are the least connected to attentive parenting, neighborhood role models and good schools that most of us take for granted.
Among the findings: The percentage of young, jobless black males increased over the past two decades, with only slight upticks during economic peaks.
By including those who were jailed or not actively seeking work, two groups normally left out of federal unemployment statistics, researchers found the real jobless rate for black male high school dropouts in their 20s soared to 65 percent in 2000. Four years later, that portion jumped to 72 percent, compared with only 34 percent of white dropouts and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts.
Incarceration rates for poorly educated blacks also climbed to historic highs in the 1990s, filling up the nation's boom in newly constructed prisons, despite the decade’s declines in crime rates.
Among black dropouts in their late 20s, for example, Steven Raphael of the University of California at Berkeley, writing in “Black Males Left Behind,” found more in prison on a given day (34 percent) in 2000 than working (30 percent).
He and other researchers in that book, edited by Ronald B. Mincy, a Columbia University professor of social work, found contributing factors include employers’ preferences for immigrants over native-born workers, especially black males, a lack of available jobs and welfare reforms that put more undereducated black women than their black male counterparts into the workforce.
Even America’s increasingly high-tech military is shutting its doors to high school dropouts, Hugh Price, former head of the National Urban League, observes in his introduction to another new book, “Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men,” by Peter Edelman, a former poverty adviser to President Bill Clinton; Harry J. Holtzer, a Georgetown University public policy professor; and the late Senate welfare adviser Paul Offner.
“Reconnecting” is the key word here. It describes an alienation that distinguishes many poorly educated black youths from earlier urban-poor generations. Too many once-thriving black neighborhoods now are less likely than comparable white or Latino neighborhoods to offer jobs, intact families or older men who have jobs.
Gone too are many of the adult role models who were able and willing to plant the visions of hope, discipline, academic achievement and self-reliance in hungry minds.
“We’re pumping out boys with no honest alternative,” Gary Orfield, an education expert at Harvard and editor of “Dropouts in America,” said in an interview with The New York Times, “and of course their neighborhoods offer many other alternatives.”
Those “other” alternatives include a gangster culture, reinforced by the worst aspects of popular hip-hop culture, that channels the ambitions of too many youngsters into the criminal world.
What can be done? A lot. And as one conservative reformer, Ron Haskins, a former welfare policy adviser to President Bush, observes in “Black Males Left Behind,” you don’t have to be a bleeding-heart liberal to believe that government has an important role to play in helping the disadvantaged, in partnership with the private sector and armies of concerned volunteers. “One reason for maintaining optimism is that so few serious attempts to help poor fathers have been made,” Haskins writes.
Unfortunately, as the authors of “Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men” observe, “young black men are the least popular group in America with politicians.” Until the winds of political concern for the poor change for the better, the work of reconnecting disadvantaged youths to “honest alternatives” is left largely to unsung heroes who donate their time and money to mentoring programs and other local efforts.
As an organizer of one group, the National Organization of Concerned Black Men, founded by five black Philadelphia police officers in the 1970s, told me last year, “Our kids have a lot of critics. What they really need are role models.”
True. They also need some national leaders who are as eager to provide honest alternatives as they have been to build prisons.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
You’ve come a long way, baby, for a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• It’s great to be a woman in Jamaica, mon. The March 30 naming of Portia Simpson-Miller as the country’s first female prime minister signals new progress. Women currently comprise 50 percent of the workforce, and they’re making strides in upper management positions. 70 percent of the university students are female, with 80-90 percent numbers in law schools. “The Jamaican matriarch is the center of our society,” said a university official. “Women here have long been leaders in their homes, churches and communities — and now they are becoming the engineers, computer programmers, architects and, yes, prime ministers of our future. It is the natural next step.”
• It’s great to be a woman in Australia, mate. Women continue to shrink the pay gap down under by making 91 cents to a man’s dollar — far ahead of U.S. women at 79 cents. However, new labor laws about to go into effect may change things for the worse. “This whole historical system that’s been in place for over 100 years is about to be wiped out,’ said a union official. “Women are going to be the big losers because of where they are located in the economy. Low-paid people are simply going to fall behind.” Hey, sounds like they’re emulating the U.S. Everybody come back to Jamaica!
• The Ohio couple charged with housing 11 adopted kids in cages lost their custody battle. “They love their children. They want them back. They are truly devastated,” said the couple’s lawyer. In the meantime, they can probably convert the bedrooms into an animal shelter.
• Crest Pro Health mouthwash is in a legal battle with Listerine, charging Listerine lied to dentists about the effectiveness of its own mouthwash. Closing arguments will be made with minty fresh breath.
• Gatorade is in a legal battle with Powerade, charging Powerade is running false advertising that claims superiority over Gatorade. Closing arguments will be made after brutal, sweaty athletic competitions.
• Incarcerated rapper Jamaal “Shyne” Barrow must continue to stew over potential recording-contract deals because the judge has recused himself from the case. Apparently, the judge confessed a family member had dealings with one of Shyne’s lawyers. Then again, is it possible these days to find a legal expert who isn’t at least indirectly linked to criminal cases involving rappers?
Mary Mitchell responds to the New York Times report (see Essay 486)…
Excuses for troubled young men only go so far
March 21, 2006
BY MARY MITCHELL SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
A front-page story in Monday’s New York Times about the plight of young black men will irritate a lot of policymakers. According to new studies by professors at three of the nation's top universities, uneducated young black men are worse off than any other group. In fact, in urban cities, young black males might as well be growing up in the South during the era of segregation and sharecropping:
“Only half of African-American men ages 16-24 who are not in school are working;
“Roughly one-third of young African-American men are in jail or prison, or on parole or probation, at any time; and
“Ten percent of young African-American men and 9 percent of young Hispanic men are disconnected from school and work for a year or more.”
Although all unskilled workers are having a tough time, young black men are at the bottom of the pile. For instance, by 2004, about 50 percent of black men in their 20s who lacked a college degree were jobless, and 72 percent of high school dropouts were unemployed.
These young black men are no longer labeled endangered as they were in the ‘90s. They are now considered “disconnected from the mainstream.”
One bad corner to the next
“Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men,” the studies by Peter Edelman, Harry J. Holzer and the late Paul Offner offer up public policies to address the plight of these “disadvantaged” men, many of whom are African-American or Hispanic.
Though I know some of these young men were neglected by dysfunctional parents, went to bad schools and had some tough breaks, the ongoing scrutiny of young black males is frustrating. It doesn’t take sociologists from Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown universities to see what the future holds for uneducated African-American males: These young men are going to drift from one bad corner to another.
Although experts have been sounding the alarm and urging policymakers to invest in programs for nearly 20 years, conditions have gone from bad to worse.
For instance, in the New York Times article, the reporter interviewed 28-year-old Curtis E. Brannon of Baltimore. Brannon dropped out of high school his sophomore year to sell drugs, and fathered four children with three different women before going to jail.
Now back in the neighborhood, Brannon lives with his girlfriend and her four children. Brannon’s excuse for him slamming the doors to a future was he was “with the street life.” Now he says he wants to get himself together. But at whose expense?
Few people will want to see their tax dollars go to dig the wayward out of holes when most low-income people are barely scratching out a life.
Violent crime associated with the drug trade has made it difficult to be compassionate toward young men who are selling drugs. I think I know why this shameful situation exists, but I still resent it.
“A lot of the country will have the same reaction you had,” said Holzer, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University, and co-author of the report.
“It’s very hard to have sympathy for these young men. They’re unwed fathers. They have high crime rates. But I think a lot of the behavior is a response to changing conditions in the labor market. Good jobs started disappearing for these young men. Whatever skill gaps they had became more profound. They felt themselves fall further behind. In response, they saw their legal job deteriorating and [illegal] job opportunities getting better.”
Plans for change
In order to help reverse this negative trend, the authors suggest that government invest in programs such as the Job Corps, Youth Service Corps and Career Academies, and develop community-wide education and training systems. They are also calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to create a new program to support employer-provided apprenticeships and internships, and a re-evaluation of charter schools, and programs blending high school and community college.
Holzer pointed out that many of the men who come out of prison come out owing enormous child support debts.
“If these men start paying child support, maybe we can forgive some of the arrears and they can get some earned income tax credit,” he said.
“I understand that these guys need to take responsibility, but there also needs to be more opportunity for these folks,” said Holzer. “The schools are lousy. The neighborhoods are lousy. They start a hard life at a very early age. We need to invest resources in changing that.”
Still, it bothers me that people talk about young black men as if they aren’t capable of self-control.
Earning a high school diploma is the very least we should accept from young black males. And we must hammer the message -- at home, at school, at church -- that it is immoral to father children that you cannot support.
Studies and programs are fine.
But young black males don’t need programs as much as they need a plan.
Monday, March 20, 2006
The New York Times presented a sobering report on Black men in America. Among the findings of recent studies:
> The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990’s. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20’s were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20’s were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.
> Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990’s and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20’s who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30’s, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.
> In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school.
Click on the essay title above to read the full story.
I hate Monday’s MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Illinois politicians are criticizing the use of comedian Bernie Mac in upcoming Lottery commercials. Mac will receive $500,000 to appear in two commercials — which is a pretty standard payment for celebrity endorsements. But the lawmakers appear to be ignorant of such deals. “It certainly makes me pause when I hear those kind of numbers for the little amount of work he’s doing,” said state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock). “It seems to me we could probably be getting similar results for substantially less advertising.” Another politician griped, “Giving money to rich Hollywood actors, I don’t think that’s a good way to spend taxpayer money… We should be replenishing our pension systems.” Or maybe questioning the salaries of elected officials.
• Wal-Mart announced plans to hire about 150,000 employees in China over the next five years. No word if they’ll change their name to The Great Wal-Mart of China.
• Dell Inc. announced plans to double the amount of employees in India to 20,000 over the next three years. No word if they’ll change their name to New Dellhi.
• The man who robbed and beat civil rights icon Rosa Parks in 1994 apologized from his prison cell. “I will go down in history as the man who robbed Rosa Parks,” the felon said. “I’m sorry that she died. I was hoping to get out in time to tell her I was sorry.” Would someone please tell this sorry fool he’s far exceeded his 15th minute of infamy?
• A Mescalero Apache family is suing the producers of “Into The West” because a stylist cut their daughter’s hair without showing sensitivity to tribal customs. The suit charges the stylist cut her hair “to make her look more ‘Indian’ and like a male Indian child because the movie casting call failed to produce sufficient young male extras of Indian heritage.” The Mescalero tradition forbids cutting girls’ hair at certain ages, actually requiring their hair to reach their waist for sacred ceremonies. The suit seeks $325,000 in total damages. There’s definitely a bad scalping joke here.
• Illinois School District 65 will vote on launching a controversial initiative to introduce Afrocentric curriculum at two elementary schools where nearly 50 percent of the students are Black. Critics argue the project would ultimately segregate kids. But one school board official countered, “Everything in the whole society validates white children… But there is not one classroom, one school, one program in the whole district that focuses on African-American children. It’s a stain on our community.” Sometimes removing tough stains requires separating whites and coloreds.
From rap to rent to renewal to religion in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The Notorious B.I.G.’s fans will have a tougher time enjoying the late rapper’s “Ready To Die” album. A federal judge has forbidden all future sales of the music because the title track ripped off an Ohio Players tune without permission. Sean Combs and Bad Boy Entertainment were found guilty of illegally using the music, with a jury awarding $4.2 million in damages. Ironically, if the verdict survives the inevitable appeal process, the ultimate result will be a rise in law-breaking activity as folks seek pirate copies.
• Pilots have been rocking to rap tunes at Miami International Airport, thanks to frequency snafus from a pirate radio station broadcasting hip-hop music. Not sure you want to be on a plane making its descent while the pilot’s headsets are blaring “Ready To Die.”
• A women’s group picketing R. Kelly’s University of Texas concert appears to have been ignored (see Essay 472). The artist performed with little concern for respecting the group’s efforts, opting to freely present his typically sexual and lurid act. “Get a hobby; it’s just music!” one concertgoer yelled at the protesters. “Sometimes I don’t know where the brother is coming from,” another fan said. “But I don’t care what those girls outside [the protesters] say — I like his music.” Michael Jackson is (a very pale) green with envy right now.
• The Miami Herald reported the rise of advertising offering rent for sex. Men propose free room and board in exchange for minor chores and regular intercourse. A women’s rights group expert said, “Advertisements soliciting women for sex in exchange for housing are offensive and disturbing. They are an indicator of how much work still needs to be done to eradicate institutional inequities and harmful attitudes toward women that persist.” It’s also an indicator of the lurid popularity of Craigslist.
• A story from the Associated Press debated the role food companies play in the obesity epidemic. Some argue it’s a matter of personal choice versus the scheming of corporations. “You don't have the collusion or the cover-up you had in smoking,” said James Tillotson, a business and food policy professor at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition. “We want to blame somebody, but the thing is, we’re all a part of it.” Then again, aren’t these the same arguments Big Tobacco has always made in its defense? Plus, is it a coincidence that the epidemic increased after Philip Morris merged with Kraft Foods? Just a few paranoid thoughts.
• Robert Blake is reportedly planning to make a comeback, according to an interview on the one-year anniversary of his acquittal from charges of murdering his ex-wife. “I’ve woken up some nights and wanted to drive till the car goes off a cliff,” Blake admitted. “And an hour later, poetry is coming to me. I want to go act. I want to go teach. I want to dance.” Not unless ABC introduces a new show called Dancing with the Acquitted Stars.
• The separation between church and state is blurring, thanks to the growing issues of immigration. The debate has already starred elected politicians. The new participant in recent months is the Roman Catholic Church. While politicians and church leaders have teamed up on things like abortion and same-sex marriage in the past, immigration is a whole different story. Conservative critics offered barbs that include blasting church leaders “for invoking God when arguing for a blanket amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Others argued, “This is the left wing of the Catholic Church — these are the frustrated social workers.” Church leaders countered with, “This is a justice issue… We feel you have to take care of people.”
The poem below appeared in The Chicago Tribune and was inspired by the shooting death of Starkesia Marie Reed (pictured above). Click on the essay title to learn more.
Why are we fighting to live if we’re living to die?
By Shontanette Brinson
March 19, 2006
Why are we fighting to live if we’re living to die?
Why are we fighting for love if it only makes us cry?
Why are we fighting for gangs when all our colors are the same?
Why are we dying with no one to blame?
Why are we killing for all the wrong reasons?
Why are we dying every day, every month, every season?
Why are we worried that Daddy isn’t coming home?
Why are so many children left in this world alone?
Why can’t we go outside and play?
Why is Mommy worried that one of us may get hit with a stray?
What is the reason Daddy isn’t coming home today?
Why do we have to sleep on the floor at night?
Why do we hurt and fight?
Can we all stand together and make all wrong right?
Why do people bring babies in the world like this?
Why did that bullet have to hit Starkesia? Why didn’t it miss?
Why does money make the world go around?
Why when we die we get put in the ground?
Why does it seem as our life changes in so many ways?
Why does it feel as we are living in our last days?
Why does this gang get into it with that gang?
When everyone lives in the same community and has the same things?
Why doesn’t death scare me anymore?
Because death is a game and has reached its final score.
Why is it that when a person dies a baby is born?
Or is it that the person comes back reformed.
Why is it that we are focused on the good and never expect the bad?
Why after we laugh, we cry?
Why are we fighting to live if we’re living to die?
Shontanette Brinson is an 8th grader at Vernon Johns Community Academy. She likes to write poetry and listen to music. She was friends with Starkesia Reed and Siretha White and said she was inspired by Tupac Shakur’s “Runnin’ (Dying to Live)” to write this poem.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Volkswagen is taking down outdoor billboards that offended Hispanics. The ads presented the headline: Turbo-Cojones. In English, cojones means daring and bravado. In Spanish, it mostly means testicles.
The billboards were produced by a Miami-based agency — but not Crispin Porter Bogusky. The culprit is CreativeOndemanD, a Hispanic-focused shop.
“We wanted something that broke out of the mold and carried the connotation of being strong and gutsy,” said creative director Daniel Marrero. “This is a word adapted in the American vernacular. We never thought it would be an issue.”
Talk about taking a shot in the cojones.
Legal battles and other games in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich won his battle to ban junk food in elementary and middle schools (see Essay 479), but his fight to restrict sales of violent and sexually explicit video games was less successful. In fact, the ultimate legal costs — estimated as high as $1 million — may be passed along to taxpayers. Citizens will probably deal with their depression by scarfing Doritos while playing Grand Theft Auto.
• Michael Jackson met the legal deadline for paying $300,000 in back wages to Neverland employees. But then he terminated most of the workers on Thursday. “It is public knowledge that Mr. Jackson currently resides in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain,” a spokeswoman said. “He therefore decided to close his house and reduce his work force.” Hey, it don't matter if you’re Black or White — except if you’re not in the Black.
• Rev. Jesse Jackson is speaking out about the upcoming elections in New Orleans, demanding that officials halt the process unless measures are taken to accommodate displaced voters. Assistant Atty. Gen. William Moschella conceded, “…The state may well have done more under the circumstances.” Seems like the statement of choice for everyone involved in the Hurricane Katrina response.
• South Park is in an all-out war with Scientologists (see Essay 470), as an episode dissing Tom Cruise was suddenly pulled from the schedule. Rumors claim Cruise demanded the censoring of the show. “So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!” the cartoon’s creators shot back. “You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail!” Look for the next counterstrike to come from John Travolta.
The following appeared in The Washington Post. Looks like “White Trash” is the new “N-word.”
The Selling Of ‘Trailer Park Chic’
One Person’s Trash Is Another's Marketing Treasure
By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Perfect is out. In its latest twist, marketing has taken up what Michelle Lamar describes as the anti-Martha Stewart, the anti-Pottery Barn. Offensive or not, it’s called white trash.
“If you’re not that ideal person, then you’re white trash,” says Lamar, a mother of two from the outskirts of Kansas City who runs online retailer White Trash Palace.
The book “White Trash Etiquette” dispenses advice on how to win bar fights. Earlier this month, gift bags for the Oscars included kitschy T-shirts, from White Trash Palace, with slogans such as “Every mother is a working mother” -- alongside a pair of $1,000 black diamond Havaiana flip-flops.
Once strictly a pejorative label with racist undertones, the term “white trash” is now being taken up by marketers and retailers. Call it white-trash chic, redneck couture or trailer fabulous -- whatever it is, the idea is to make it cool.
Lamar calls herself white trash and proud of it. Just read her blog, titled White Trash Mom. Her Christmas lights stayed up months after all the gifts were unwrapped. She has mastered the art of driving while talking on her cellphone and yelling at her kids in the back seat. And sometimes -- just sometimes -- she buys cookies from the store and crumbles them at the edges so that they look homemade.
Now she has an agent who is shopping a White Trash Mom book. That’s a sign that “white trash” has shed its connotations of rural poverty and poor education to become a symbol of everyman, said marketing consultant Simon Sinek. It now evokes a simpler life and more comforting times -- terrorists don’t attack trailer parks.
“We live in times of high stress,” said Sinek, who also teaches at Columbia University. “Messages that are simple, messages that are inspiring, messages that are life-affirming, are a welcome break from our real lives.”
The trend has been percolating in pop culture for several years: Think Von Dutch trucker hats, Kid Rock’s White Trash on Dope tour and the recent MTV trailer-park home makeover show.
Pennsylvania State University sociologist Karen Bettez Halnon, who finds the selling of white trash troubling, describes it as the latest incarnation of a broader movement she calls “poor chic,” in which well-off consumers mimic the culture of the lower class. From punk to grunge to hip-hop, American consumers are constantly seeking ways to keep it real.
“What consumers are shopping for more and more is authenticity,” Halnon said. “And where they can find authenticity . . . is to go through traditional activities of the lower class.”
She worries that sends the wrong message.
“This is making fun of poverty, making it recreation,” she said, “… but divorced of any kind of social obligation.”
The term “white trash” still carries a heavy stigma in many communities. Sociologist Carl Taylor of Michigan State University said he has seen young people fight over the label.
“They may call each other and may laugh and make reference to being white trash,” he said. “But if I was doing a survey and said, ‘How do you feel about the words white trash?’ they would reject the word itself, the label.”
Writer Pete Kotz has written an entire book about the ins and outs of white-trash living, “White Trash Etiquette,” due to be published in June by Broadway Books, a division of Random House Inc. Booksellers will receive a promotional beer cozy that reads, “Light beer is for guys who cried during ‘Sleepless in Seattle.’”
Kotz, who lives in Cleveland and writes under the name Dr. Verne Edstrom, Esq., said the premise of the book is that white-trash tendencies are universal. His topics include “How to scam out of your gambling debts” and “Is eloping bad financial management?”
“It’s kind of a state of mind, I guess,” he said. “I used to get letters from black guys who wanted to be white trash. … You just have to follow the belief system and not turn yuppie.”
Lamar started her retail Web site in August on a lark. The response was almost immediate, with as many as 4,000 visitors a day, she said. She had no previous retail experience, but her career in advertising had honed her instincts for what consumers want.
“You just get used to the lowest common denominator,” she said.
Her business received celebrity cachet when Distinctive Assets, a Los Angeles-based entertainment marketing and corporate gifting firm, discovered her site. They tagged her products for awards-show gift bags and the VH1 reality show “The Surreal Life.”
“I was like, ‘I love it!’” Lash Fary of Distinctive Assets said of his reaction when one of his sales reps bought him a Lamar creation. “It’s not like they’re in every hot-spot boutique in L.A. -- yet.”
Jason Saffer of Alexandria may be trying to make just that happen.
He operates a Web site called Jolene’s Trailer Park and claims to be one of the first white-trash retailers on the Internet. He sells T-shirts along with novelties such as trailer-park awareness bracelets (“in lovely wood-paneling brown,” he says) and light-switch plates.
Business is booming, he says. He is developing a fragrance called Trailer Park Woman, along with a line of shampoos. Saffer also hosts a regular comedy night at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington and teaches a cooking class as the larger-than-life character Jolene Sugarbaker, Queen of the Trailer Park. He is negotiating with several producers to create a TV show.
“It’s a way of living,” he said. “White trash with class: That is real Americans.”
Friday, March 17, 2006
A magically delicious MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn won’t be marching in the 245th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The official, who is a lesbian, hoped to participate wearing symbols displaying gay pride. But the parade chairman squashed the plans and declared, “If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?” Hey, aren’t you supposed to act like a loud, obnoxious drunk during and after the parade?
• Workers who participated in the immigration rally in Chicago last week (see Essay 464) were fired from their jobs, according to complaints received by two federal agencies. 28 employees of a suburban factory filed grievances, and there is speculation others were reprimanded or terminated too. “It sends a chilling message,” a workers’ rights expert said. “It’s one of the scariest things someone can say to you: ‘Agree with me, or I can take away your livelihood.’” Welcome to America.
• Starting in the fall, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will institute a ban on junk food in elementary and middle schools. It’s one of the scariest things a governor can say to you: ‘Agree with me, or I can take away your Twinkies.’
• Under a new initiative, Stanford University won’t charge tuition to undergraduates from some of the lowest-income families. “Many families … may be discouraged by the stated tuition, so we want to be more forceful with this new program in encouraging talented low-income students to consider Stanford,” a university official said. The average costs for an undergraduate at Stanford total about $47,000. Damn, even rich families may be discouraged by the stated tuition.
The following appeared in The Chicago Sun-Times…
Ever-cool Cornelius keeps ‘Soul Train’ rolling
March 17, 2006
BY LYNN ELBER
LOS ANGELES -- If any businessman can lay claim to soul, it’s Don Cornelius.
It’s in the baritone rumble of his ex-disc jockey’s voice, his coolly unflappable manner and, most of all, in his “Soul Train” franchise that brought a slice of black culture and music to the snow-white TV landscape more than three decades ago.
Even in the midst of mild chaos, while the staff at his Sunset Boulevard office scurried to finish plans for this year’s “Soul Train Music Awards,” Cornelius looked and sounded relaxed.
But if his tone didn’t reflect excitement over the 20th anniversary ceremony, his words did.
“We can’t make it important to anybody else,” Cornelius said. “Some of the audience we serve doesn’t really care about what you did yesterday and you have to be cognizant of that. ... But it’s important to us.”
The ceremony, taped March 4 and airing at 7 p.m. Saturday on WGN-Channel 9 with hosts Vivica A. Fox and Tyrese Gibson, celebrates the work of artists in R&B, hip-hop and gospel.
Performers include the Black Eyed Peas (who also are among the leading nominees), Charlie Wilson, John Legend and Chris Brown. R. Kelly, Mariah Carey, Kanye West and Gwen Stefani are among the nominees.
Jamie Foxx and Destiny’s Child were recipients of the Quincy Jones Award for Outstanding Career Achievement, while Legend received the Sammy Davis Jr. Award. A new award for songwriting, named in honor of Stevie Wonder, was presented to Kelly by the legendary singer-songwriter.
“We just seem to be surrounded on this anniversary show by all of our personal favorites,” Cornelius said. “I have to say that in the first person, because they’re my personal favorites.”
Using first-person singular is rare for Cornelius, who tends to prefer “we” when he’s referring to himself and his achievements. It’s a verbal tick that comes off more protective than pretentious, especially in light of his cautious approach to an interview.
Although it took years for major advertisers, including Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, to board “Soul Train” after the black version of “American Bandstand” debuted, Cornelius declines to criticize their slowness.
Major companies weren’t “big fans of syndication,” he said, rejecting the idea that racial bias might have been involved. (He doesn’t shy away from calling out discrimination when it's “hard-core” and malicious, he said.)
He’d like to see more support from record companies and Madison Avenue for his awards show, but again is measured in his remarks. “It could be stronger” but expectations have to be “realistic,” he said.
Cornelius, 69, is far more direct when he talks about the start of “Soul Train” on Chicago TV station WCIU in 1970. It went into syndication the following year.
“There was not programming that targeted any particular ethnicity,” he said, then added: “I’m trying to use euphemisms here, trying to avoid saying there was no television for black folks, which they knew was for them.”
“Soul Train,” with its trademark animated train opening, chugged gradually onto TV screens nationwide: Only a handful of stations initially were receptive to the newcomer. Johnson Products Co., maker of Afro Sheen and other hair-care goods, was its major sponsor.
“When we rolled it out, there were only eight takers,” he recalled. “Which was somewhere between a little disappointing and a whole lot disappointing.”
The reasons he heard?
“There was just, ‘We don't want it. We pass,’” he said, with race going unmentioned. “No one was blatant enough to say that.”
Audience reaction to the show and the high-powered talent it attracted helped it spread; “Soul Train,” now the longest-running show in first-run syndication (as opposed to network repeats), reaches 85 percent of TV markets.
Besides the series and the “Soul Train Music Awards,” the brand includes the “Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards” and the “Soul Train Christmas Starfest.” Cornelius, who remains executive producer but stepped down as “Soul Train” host in 1993 (Dorian Gregory has the job now), toyed with the idea of a Soul Train cable channel.
“We came to the conclusion that we came along a little late to make it happen. There’s also the problem of whether or not I had the energy to start something of that magnitude from scratch,” he said.
Besides, Cornelius said, the Internet can reach a mass audience without the hassle of building a cable channel from scratch. He drops intriguing hints that his never-released treasure trove of “Soul Train” tapes could, theoretically, end up online.
Among the many legendary artists on the tapes: Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Barry White. Filmmaker Spike Lee called the collection “an urban music time capsule,” Cornelius said.
The tapes are jealously guarded by Cornelius, who refuses to say if or how the public might get a peek at them.
Copyright © The Sun-Times Company. All rights reserved.
From the current issue of Marketing y Medios…
Seven Tips to Create Good Ads in Spanish
March 01, 2006
[Yehudit Mam is a Hispanic market creative consultant. Until March 2005 she was vp creative director at The Bravo Group. Born and raised in Mexico City, she has lived in New York for 14 years.]
Spanish Is Not English
All too frequently, marketers and advertising agencies wish Spanish behaved a little more like English. It doesn’t. Spanish has a different grammatical structure. It’s a third longer than English. In Spanish, to communicate a word like “crowded” we need at least two words. So it’s helpful to be flexible with translation. As long as the gist of the communication is the same, make sure your message is delivered in correct, user-friendly Spanish.
López is Not Cervantes
I recall one general-market client that had its TV commercials for a beauty product translated by a legal translation agency. Not only was the copy 37 seconds long, it was scary. You wouldn’t expect a paralegal to write your dishwasher commercial, would you?
A good rule of thumb is: Don’t do in Spanish what you wouldn’t do in English. Unless they’re linguistics professors, most people with a Hispanic last name don’t speak better Spanish than the average professional Hispanic market copywriter. So why trust them more than the pros? This drives Hispanic agencies crazy, and with good reason.
Some Adaptations are More Equal Than Others
There are different degrees of adaptations. Some campaigns or slogans, like “Good to the last drop,” for example, translate perfectly in Spanish. Buy many don’t. Sometimes the same global strategy works for Hispanics but with a different execution, like the Heineken “It’s all about the beer” campaign. The fact that a global idea works well for the Mexican or Latin American market doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for the Hispanics in the U.S. Your Hispanic agency should be able to tell you honestly when an idea translates successfully and when it does not.
You Need Not be Cheesy
Some marketers demand single-minded, clutter-breaking advertising from their general-market agencies. Yet when it comes to their Hispanic agencies, they forget about all that. Perhaps it’s because they are unfamiliar with the culture or because they have one chance a year to make a splash and they want to say everything about the brand in 30 seconds.
Remember, Hispanics channel surf and they may come across an exciting commercial for a brand on English stations and then watch its cheap, confusing counterpart for the same brand on Spanish TV. How do you think they will they feel about that brand?
Hispanics Are Like Everyone Else ... Only Different
A marketer for a financial services company wanted to know how Hispanics get married. Well, besides the fact that there may be more relatives at the wedding, or that instead of vodka tonics people may drink rum or tequila, the Hispanic agency came to the conclusion that, at weddings, Hispanics booze, boogie and bawl just like everyone else.
A better question would have been, “What do Hispanics think about financial services?” This is where they differ from the general market. This is the difference between a relevant cultural insight and a stereotype.
A Good Idea Is a Good Idea
General-market clients tend to ask: What’s Hispanic about this idea? We may have a different sense of humor, different customs and cultural traits, but what will persuade us above all is a good idea. And good ideas for Hispanics don’t always need to include a piñata, men with moustaches, enormous families or silverhaired abuelitas (in many cases all in the same commercial). The rule should be that if it’s relevant and it strikes a chord, then it is Hispanic.
Show Us the Love
Hispanic consumers are not as jaded as their general-market counterparts. New immigrants appreciate the fact that marketers reach out to them in their language. Acculturated Hispanics appreciate when marketers court them across language boundaries.
Therefore, fresh ideas with good production values and a solid media buy will get your brand a lot of good will, whereas dubbing a commercial intended for someone else and putting it on air for two weeks will not.
In conclusion, build up your brand with quality, consistence and perseverance. The rewards can be enormous.
(To visit Marketing y Medios online, click on the essay title above)
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Men behaving badly in a Mini-MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The rapper formerly called C-Murder may be released on bond to await his second trial on charges of — you guessed it — murder. The rapper allegedly fatally shot another man at a nightclub in 2002. Since then, he’s changed his stage name to C-Miller. Good idea.
• Former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper denied doing anything wrong during the infamous sex boat party. Culpepper wrote, “Without admitting to the ridiculous allegations, I do apologize for any embarrassment that this situation has caused the community, the organization and especially my family.” Culpepper still owes Minnesota an apology for all his embarrassingly obscene on-field performances.
The following editorial appeared in The Chicago Tribune…
Perceptual apartheid, Chicago-style
Racial disparities after all these years
By Salim Muwakkil
March 15, 2006
Fifty-two years after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed legal segregation, racial disparities in perception between black and white Americans remain so divergent we may as well be living in an apartheid state. Two current stories vividly remind us of this reality.
One story concerns the effort by Chicago Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd) to name one block of Monroe Street in honor of Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader slain by Chicago police in 1969. Haitchcock’s proposal has sparked an explosion of criticism from the Fraternal Order of Police and some white aldermen. “It’s a dark day when we honor someone who would advocate killing policemen and who took great advantage of the communities he claimed to have been serving,” said FOP President Mark P. Donahue.
Ald. Tom Allen (38th) called the proposal “an embarrassment,” and Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) likened it to naming a street “David Duke Way,” after a notorious white supremacist. Allen and Mell represent wards with predominantly white populations.
Hampton and Mark Clark, another Panther leader, were killed by police as they slept in their West Side apartment. Investigations of the raid concluded that police guns were responsible for all but one of the bullet holes riddling the residence. No one has been held legally accountable for what appear to have been the assassinations of Hampton and Clark. The political defeat of Cook County State’s Atty. Edward V. Hanrahan, whose office coordinated the deadly 1969 raid, seems to have been the lone consequence. Donahue's rantings seem absurd framed in that historical context.
Equating the Panthers to white supremacists is a similar misreading of history. The group was relentlessly anti-racist and even incurred the wrath of other black nationalist groups for its multicultural perspective. Had Mell simply referred to historical accounts, he would easily have found that Hampton attracted multiracial support.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointment of Claudette Marie Muhammad to the state’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes is another issue best explained through historical context. Muhammad is chief of protocol for the Nation of Islam, led by Minister Louis Farrakhan.
As of the latest count, five Jewish members of the commission have quit because Muhammad refuses to repudiate Farrakhan’s latest controversial comments. A chorus is growing urging either Muhammad to resign or the governor to rescind her appointment. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn so far is the only member of the Blagojevich administration to jump into the fray, urging her to resign.
“I think she should resign, and if she doesn’t resign the panel ought to be disbanded,” Quinn said. “I think Sister Muhammad has had ample time to repudiate the anti-Semitic remarks of Louis Farrakhan, and she’s not doing that.”
She will never do that as long as she’s an official of the group. Obedience to Farrakhan is a requirement in the authoritarian organization. One reason for the Nation of Islam’s continuing popularity within the black community is the group’s resolute image. Other civil rights groups have come and gone, but Farrakhan has managed to keep the Nation of Islam relevant with public shifts between charm and bile. Just when you think he has mellowed, the crafty septuagenarian will drop a rhetorical bomb that lands him back in the headlines. Cynics have suggested that the true target of his occasional bombs is a larger NOI membership.
Farrakhan’s willingness (eagerness?) to risk white disapproval is an attractive leadership trait for a people historically repressed by a rigid racial hierarchy.
That was the Black Panthers’ appeal as well. Long victimized by police departments that tolerated racist brutality in their ranks, black youths embraced the Panthers’ swaggering style and bellicose rhetoric like a long lost lover. This was the era of the “long, hot summer,” when charges of police brutality sparked explosions of violence in hundreds of American cities.
The Panthers sought ways to channel that destructive energy into programs designed for community empowerment. Their sense of mission and disciplined audacity gave black youth a new sense of relevance and greatly lessened the appeal of predatory street gangs. This historical context should frame attempts to name a street after Hampton, one of the group’s most revered leaders.
Most white Chicagoans don’t know this history; a history that included 12 generations of chattel slavery and four more of Jim Crow apartheid. This repressive history has produced an eccentric legacy and odd heroes. Farrakhan is one of those heroes, and Jewish groups gain nothing by avoiding dialogue with him. Perhaps they could help him understand how the tragedies of Jewish history have made them particularly sensitive to anti-Semitic expressions and why they take such offense at some of the minister’s rhetoric.
They could explain their reasoning that if Farrakhan isn’t anti-Semitic, he at least is tone deaf to Jewish sensibilities.
I humbly suggest that Blagojevich’s commission convene a dialogue somewhere on Chairman Fred Hampton Way.
Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor at In These Times.
Poetry in motion with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The tale of the rhyming rascal (see Essay 472) has an ugly new twist. Postcards bearing swastikas were littered around the school where the 7-year-old poet made her original presentation. Police claim the postcards have appeared throughout the area in recent weeks and insisted, “There’s nothing at this point to conclude that there’s any sort of connection between the two matters.” Unless you consider hate and bigotry as potential connections.
• Michael Jackson has agreed to pay wages to employees at his Neverland ranch, preventing any legal action at this point (see Essay 472). If Jackson knowingly had people performing services without compensation, wouldn’t that technically make him a slave owner?
• The New England Journal of Medicine reported on a massive survey showing there is no racial disparity when it comes to receiving health care. Everyone gets about the same treatment. The catch is that everyone gets equally mediocre health care. “It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, white or black, insured or uninsured,’ said a study author. “We all get equally mediocre care.” Unless you’re a slave at Neverland ranch.
• A new survey revealed a lack of diversity in visitors at Chicago cultural museums and institutions. The majority of folks showing up are White, educated and affluent. “Chicago’s large arts organizations are not successfully engaging households with poor socioeconomic backgrounds,” researchers concluded. “Areas with high concentrations of African Americans and Latinos have among the lowest participation rates.” Not to sound discriminatory, but why would large arts organizations be expected to “successfully [engage] households with poor socioeconomic backgrounds?”
• Kanye West is taking his art to a new level, with plans to produce a feature film. The flick will take inspiration from West’s music, plus create “a multiperspective portrait of America.” Sounds like the perfect movie to play at Chicago cultural institutions.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
The following appeared in The Los Angeles Times…
Reminders of Bigotry Unearthed
Remains found at an MTA excavation site shed light on a time rife with anti-Chinese bias.
By David Pierson
Times Staff Writer
March 15, 2006
They could not marry, they could not own property, and they performed the most undesirable jobs: ditch diggers, canal builders, house boys. They were banned from most shops and public institutions and were the target of racist violence that went unpunished.
Los Angeles was home to an estimated 10,000 Chinese in the late 19th century — almost all men who came to America to work on the railroads and ended up in desperate straits, crowded into a filthy Chinese ghetto near what is now Union Station.
A recent discovery by a new generation of railway workers building the extension of the Gold Line commuter rail line through Boyle Heights has unearthed this dark but largely forgotten period in Los Angeles history.
Last summer, workers found the skeletal remains of 108 people just outside the Evergreen Cemetery, one of the city’s oldest and grandest burial sites.
A few weeks ago, the MTA told a community review board, which includes members of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, that the agency’s archeological study found that the majority of the remains were from people of Asian descent.
Three-quarters of the remains were adults and most were male. The finding supports the belief among Chinese American historians that the bones belonged to Chinese male sojourners who died a century ago at a time when immigration laws sought to reduce the Chinese population by prohibiting Chinese women from entering the country.
The workers also found rice bowls, jade bracelets, Chinese burial bricks, Asian coins and opium pipes.
Historians have long believed that there was a potter’s field for Chinese workers in Boyle Heights but did not know precisely where. The last known public record of the cemetery was from the 1920s.
The discovery has generated excitement within the Chinese American community along with concern about the way the MTA has handled the find.
Irvin Lai, one of the historical society's longest-serving members, said the remains belonged to men who lived at a time when Chinese were relegated to the lowest rung of society.
“They treated the Chinese just as bad when they were dead. They were treated like animals,” said Lai, 78, who grew up in the pre-civil rights era and said the memory of being denied service at barbershops or restaurants because of his ethnicity still stings.
In the late 19th century, racial intolerance toward the Chinese was particularly heightened because some whites believed the Chinese were taking jobs away from them.
Most of the Chinese did not speak English. Politicians and newspapers seized on the anti-Chinese sentiments. The Los Angeles Times described denizens of the Chinese ghetto as “Celestials” and as the “the pig-tainted fraternity.”
“While the Chinaman is a natural-born thief and scoundrel, he is also the most superstitious of God's creatures,” a Times reporter wrote in a breathless 1887 travelogue of the ghetto.
Members of the historical society say they believe the excavation site is part of a Chinese cemetery that disappeared sometime after the 1920s, when development obscured most of the graves’ whereabouts. It dates from 1877, when the owners of the nearby Evergreen Cemetery gave the city five acres in which to bury indigents.
Chinese were not permitted to be buried in Evergreen Cemetery, where some of the city’s most prominent early families — such as the Van Nuyses, Lankershims, Hollenbecks and Workmans — were laid to rest. Chinese were given a corner of the city potter's field next to the indigents.
But unlike the white indigents, who were buried at no charge, the Chinese had to pay $10 for a burial, a substantial fee for that era, Lai said.
Lai said he found what could be the last official acknowledgment of the Chinese cemetery at the Los Angeles County Hall of Records.
The document, dated June 19, 1923, is from the superintendent of the county Department of Charities, Norman R. Martin, to the secretary of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Chan Kai Sing.
Martin wrote that the potter’s field where the Chinese were buried was badly crowded.
“Recently your people established a new Chinese cemetery on East 1st Street, and it would be highly desirable if the bodies buried in the county cemetery could be transferred to your new location,” he said.
Martin said he wanted the chamber to move the remains and offered compensation of $2 per body even after acknowledging that each grave cost the Chinese $10. “The idea being that you would move all of the bodies as fast as practicable,” Martin wrote.
The letter said there were 902 Chinese buried in the vicinity of what is now the MTA excavation site, at Lorena and 1st streets.
Lai found a list of some of the dead buried at the old Chinese cemetery. In cursive writing were hundreds of Chinese names, such as Wong Wah Mow, who at 46, was killed after he was “shot in heart” in a homicide. Tom Ping, 51, died from opium poisoning. Wah Lee, 51, committed suicide by hanging.
While historians said they hope the find will broaden their understanding of the sojourners’ lives, some expressed anger at the way they learned about it.
The historical society and other Chinese American community leaders have accused the MTA of concealing the fact that the bones were of Chinese immigrants for months so that it would not delay the extension of the Gold Line, a long-anticipated $898-million project that will connect Union Station to East L.A.
“It’s a slap in the face,” said Ken Chan, president of the historical society. “These men weren’t respected when they were buried, and it’s like they're not being respected now.”
The MTA denies that it held back information. Once it found the bones, officials said they shipped them to an archeologist for study.
They said they found no reason to halt construction after all the remains and artifacts had been removed. Once the archeology firm concluded the bones could be Chinese, they said they immediately informed the historical society.
MTA officials said that if they had known earlier they were dealing with a predominantly Chinese grave site, they would have contacted members of the Chinese community, such as the historical society, and asked for their help.
“Everything would have been directed differently if we knew we were dealing with a preponderance of Chinese remains” earlier, said Carl Ripaldi, the MTA project’s environmental specialist. “We realize the sensitivity of the issues here. We have to be very sensitive to all people, all cultures and customs.”
In recent weeks, the historical society has been helping with the identification of some artifacts. It is unlikely it will find relatives in the U.S. today because of the prohibition of Chinese women during that era.
“These guys probably had a friend or two bury them,” Lai said. “They probably threw wine over the grave, burned some incense and paper money, and if they were lucky, had a eulogy read with some kind words.”
Lai wants the MTA to re-inter the bodies at Evergreen Cemetery — the place where at the time of their death they were not allowed to enter let alone be buried. That decision will ultimately be up to the MTA and the community review board, which includes Lai and Boyle Heights residents.
Lai said: “We need to give them a dignified burial with elected officials” present.