Monday, July 31, 2006

Essay 879

Here’s a follow-up to a column from The Chicago Tribune that appeared in Essay 824…


Values separate blacks, not cash, readers opine

By Dawn Turner Trice

Recently, I asked you to send your thoughts on whether the black middle class is doing enough to help poorer blacks. I heard from so many of you. This is the first installment--with minor editing--of your responses. I think it is a combination of the middle and upper classes not doing enough and the push to “keep it real.” We are inundated with negative images and stereotypes of black life.

Growing up, I was so happy to watch “The Cosby Show.” I came from that type of upper middle-class upbringing that most of America, blacks included, felt was a myth. Even today, whites find it amazing that I did not grow up in the ‘hood; that I had grandparents who went to college; and I have highly educated professional parents. During an exercise in a law school class, a white woman and I argued after I described my upbringing and what I wanted for my children. She could not believe that a black person could go to mostly white private schools and want an Ivy League education for her children. Middle and upper class blacks can adopt schools, mentor and put money back in the community all day long, but until we as a people want something better and see something better on a mass scale, the cycle of intractable poverty will not end. --Pam M.

I live in a black community where people who are involved in the mainstream economy live next door to people who are involved in the underground economy. The two groups see each other every day. One group passes the other on its way to work, school, church and family outings. The other group is usually running from something (police, gangs, personal responsibility etc.). Instead of defining our community by economic status only, we need to consider the values. There are two black communities, and each community is shaped by its values more than by income. I think that is what Bill Cosby was trying to say. --Alicia B.

I read with fascination your article. Being from New York City I see a lot of similarities. You wrote, “Is the black middle class not doing enough from close up and from afar?” I think that the black middle class is not doing enough to teach the youth of our community that there is more to life than ESPN, basketball and music. I am the youngest of 10 and I was blessed to have an extended family and support from my grandparents on both my mother’s and father’s side. I hear a lot of talk about the differences in our black communities, but little about our similarities and how we can uplift our youth. --Michael R.

I think the data you cited confirm what many of us in the black community have long been aware of but perhaps have forgotten over the past decade or so. That is, the degree of social differentiation in the black community is not as large or significant as it may be, for example, for whites or Asians. I have cousins who, like me, are graduates of Ivy League colleges and universities. I also have cousins--no further removed in terms of kinship--who have been in prison, struggled with drugs and have been involved in gangs. They are still members of my family, but I wouldn’t leave them alone in my house. The reasons for these disparate outcomes are complex. But one factor may be related to duration. The white middle-class families I know have been in the middle class for several generations and remained so even during the Great Depression. The percentage of black families who could make a similar claim is much smaller. --Darryl C.

From my humble perspective, I think the African-American community is satisfied with its current state of affairs. The census data suggest that the public education system is failing the urban youth of America, especially African-American children and more specifically African-American boys. Yet, what is the community doing to help these young men? I’m not talking about the teachers and the standout volunteers. I’m talking about the collective community. We talk a good game, but ultimately we are doing nothing. If we are doing nothing to change the situation, we must be satisfied with the situation. I ask you this: Why should the black middle class feel guilty about moving onward and upward? --Brandon S.

Essay 878

Talk about a Bold Move. Ford desperately seeks to woo Black consumers by having Magic Johnson put in a good word for them. The NBA legend says, “I like to know what a company is doing in the community before I make a large purchase. … Ford invests over $3.7 billion annually with minority businesses. They also help support 360 minority dealers and thousands of jobs.” Sounds like Magic is reading straight from the strategy brief. Oh, and Ford plans to cut about 30,000 jobs.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Essay 877

Advertising Age reported Chrysler’s campaign starring Dr. Z failed to stop the automaker’s sales skid.

Additionally, people were not impressed with Chrysler’s messaging on German engineering.

To top things off, 80 percent of potential consumers thought Dr. Z was a fictional character — and thanks to his German accent, a bunch of folks had trouble understanding what the hell he was saying.

Is anyone on Earth surprised to hear this? Anyone at all?

Essay 876

Pepsi presents another print ad featuring urban art. Kinda looks like K-Fed breaking.

Essay 875

Inconvenient truths in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• News reports show over 60 percent of the country is suffering from extraordinary dry or drought conditions. Which means Al Gore is celebrating the hottest sales ever for his movie and book.

• Mel Gibson is definitely not suffering from a drought, as the actor-director is still reeling from his DUI arrest. News reports show a drunken Gibson went on an anti-Semitic rant during the incident, screaming at a Jewish police officer, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world!” Maybe, but Gibson is responsible for directing most of the really bad movies in the world.

• Ford Motor Company is promoting its Fusion car by dropping 600,000 toy models into Kellogg’s cereal boxes. The automaker will follow up by dropping 30,000 employees. They’re gr-r-reat!

Essay 874

Wahl continues to unintentionally produce quirky ads (see Essay 607). This time, it looks like the kids are sporting some serious wigs.

But the craziest part awaits visitors at the company’s Web site. Folks can learn about “Womanscaping” — trimming below the belt for fun and fashion. The site tells women that “pretty is better than hairy.” There are even cool stencil designs to shape your pubic hair. Clip — uh, we mean click — on the essay title above to check it out.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Essay 873

Saturday Evening Post (aka MultiCultClassics Monologue)…

• Target was targeted by the NAACP and fired back.

It started when NAACP President and CEO Bruce Gordon blasted retailers including Target for failing to participate in the 2006 NAACP General Merchandising survey, a 10-year-old reporting process designed to measure “corporate America’s financial relationship with the African American community.” At the recent NAACP convention, Gordon awarded an F grade to Target while announcing, “We have companies that haven’t responded [to the survey] for two years. … Some folks in our community like Target because you know they have good prices and a nice product line. They don’t even care to respond to our survey. Stay out of their stores.”

The ultra-cool retailer responded, “Target did not participate in the 2006 NAACP General Merchandising survey because Target views diversity as being inclusive of all people from all different backgrounds, not just one group. The information requested in the NAACP survey was about African American teams members only. In addition, the NAACP asked for specific information on minority populations and other company initiatives that Target considers to be proprietary. Therefore, while our company has a genuine and extensive commitment to diversity, our grade reflects the fact that we did not participate in this particular survey.”

• Did anyone else respond to the Lance Bass revelation by wondering who the hell is Lance Bass?

Essay 872

A MultiCultClassics Monologue doesn’t require a subscription…

• Time Out Chicago magazine presented a cover story on the lack of diversity in the Chicago theater community (pictured above). “Most of the time the reason that people don’t consider diversity in their projects is because they quite frankly just don’t think about it,” said one Chicago theater official. Unfortunately, accessing the story online requires a subscription. Click on the essay title above to learn more.

• Babytalk magazine has sparked outrage among women with its latest cover (pictured above). “There’s a huge Puritanical streak in Americans … and there’s a squeamishness about seeing a body part — even part of a body part,” said the magazine’s editor. “It’s not like women are whipping them out with tassels on them! Mostly, they are trying to be discreet.” Not sure why folks are so upset. The typical magazine rack (pun intended) displays much worse — and we’re talking about women’s magazines, not Playboy and Juggs.

• The President of Iran ordered governmental and cultural agencies to stop using foreign words like “pizza” and “chat” — replacing them with “elastic loaves” and “short talk.” Somebody needs to send the president a subscription to Babytalk magazine.

Essay 871

MultiCultClassics presents the Sins of Synergy…

Royal Caribbean International actually produces distinct messages and layouts for Black and Hispanic consumers. But it’s hard to decide which ad sucks more.

Essay 870

Mary Mitchell of The Chicago Sun-Times continues her blog discussion on race. Click on the essay title above to catch the latest…



Having read every comment posted on this site, it’s clear to me that most of us are frustrated when it comes to race relations.

For the most part, the majority of you are willing to express that frustration without resorting to nasty insults. Despite our reluctance to talk face-to-face about race, even people who said they didn’t want to have this discussion posted a comment. What does that tell you?

Still, in order to have a real conversation about race, we have to be clear about what racism is and what it is not.

The tragic beating of Ryan Rusch in Beverly Park seemed a logical point to jump start this conversation.

Whether or not the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office charged the three teens accused of brutally beating Ryan with a hate crime isn’t the issue. Race is involved simply because this is not black-on-black violence. If it was, most of you would not have heard about Ryan. So that’s the first thing we've got to get straight.

What role, if any, do you think race played in how this crime was covered by the media?

In other words, had Ryan been beaten up by white teenagers, or if he had been a 14-year-old black boy who was attacked by three black teenagers, would this have been front-page news? And if you believe race was a factor in how this crime is being covered, is that racism?

A reader who sent me an e-mail about the recent murder of one of his students certainly believes it is. Alexander Reed, 18, was gunned down in a South Side neighborhood while standing on the porch at his sister’s house.

“There was some type of altercation in the street and one young man pulled a gun. Alex was not involved in anyway, but he was the one who got hit,” the teacher said. “He was in his senior year in high school. It just seems to me that something should have been said at least on TV, a 10-second spot or something.”

In this reader’s eyes, the lack of attention by media “devalued” his student’s life.

“I looked at it as being racial,” he said in a telephone interview. “I feel if he was white, more attention would have been paid to it in the media. I honestly believe that. Just like the young man who was driving the car that got hit by the U-Haul Truck.”

As a member of the media, I’ve seen how these decisions are made, and I can honestly say most of what readers complain is racist, is actually insensitivity bubbling up under deadline pressure. My point is, every offense isn’t necessarily motivated by racism.

So what is racism?

Give me an example of a racist act you experienced, or an incident where you were accused of being racist. And I’m not talking about slights that ticked you off, such as being passed up by a cab or being followed around in a department store. I’m talking about those times you were convinced beyond a doubt that you were being discriminated against because of your race.

And white people, you need to come clean.

Blacks are often accused of seeing racism everywhere--a mantra that a lot of Latinos are beginning to pick up--but many of you don’t see racism at all. If you do see it, you fail to acknowledge it has a negative impact on our quality of life.

Thank you for taking the time to have this chat. Unfortunately, I’m unable to personally answer every comment from readers who have a bone to pick. But you can still drop me an e-mail at

Friday, July 28, 2006

Essay 869

MultiCultClassics presents the Sins of Synergy…

Olay goes off the deep end with its body wash, segregating the messages by product flavor — crème ribbons for the mass market and body butter ribbons for Blacks. The images are kinda striking; but the Black woman is so heavily retouched, she almost looks like an illustration.

Essay 868

Super-sized idiocy in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• The New York Times reported on the fast food industry’s continued super-sizing of portions. From Burger King touting its new BK Stackers to Denny’s Extreme Grand Slam Breakfast, stuff gets bigger and — from a health perspective — badder. “People know that a quadruple burger or extreme breakfast is not the healthiest choice, but I don’t think they expect to eat a whole day’s worth of calories in one sitting,” said an official of a nutrition group. “Restaurants are giving customers these choices without telling them anything about what the impact on their diet will be.” Not only are the fast feeders not telling, they’re asking if you’d also like a megaton dessert and keg of soda chaser. Click on the essay title above to read the full story.

• The charges against New York’s DJ Star — who threatened another DJ’s wife and daughter on the air — were dropped (see Essay 650). The foul-mouthed DJ must serve two days of community service and remain on good behavior for six months, including staying away from the rival’s family. Outside of the courthouse, DJ Star told reporters, “At this point in time, I am just going to be moving forward and making people aware of such things as the U.S. Bill of Rights and the establishment clause, which people don’t seem to know about or care about.” Maybe DJ Star could also become aware of things like common decency.

• A Fresno radio station switched formats from Christian content to obscene. Dubbing itself “Porn Radio,” the station now plays music with suggestive lyrics, even embellishing the tamer tunes with moans and groans. “It would appear this is another of those promotions that are simply designed to create controversy,” said a longtime Fresno radio personality. “This format belongs on Sirius or XM, not on over-the-air.” Hey, this guy needs a lecture from DJ Star.

Essay 867

MultiCultClassics presents the Sins of Synergy…

Crest uses the same imagery for its Black and Hispanic ads. Maybe the toothpaste brand believes all minorities look alike — even when they’re made from mouthwash.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Essay 866

Political partying with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• NBA legend Charles Barkley has switched political parties and is talking about running for governor of Alabama again. “I really believe I was put on Earth to do more than play basketball and stockpile money,” said Barkley. “I really want to help people improve their lives, and what’s left is for me to decide how best to do that.” As for his decision to switch over to the Democratic Party, Barkley declared, “I was a Republican until they lost their minds.” It’s not like Barkley has never been accused of taking leave of his senses.

• A former Chicago Police Lieutenant facing charges of torturing suspects for nearly 20 years is now taking heat from three Black Chicago aldermen. The trio is seeking to stop the city from providing pension payments and legal defense to the ex-cop — and they’re likening the alleged torture to slave murders and the Holocaust. “What he did to our men was no less than what was done to Nazi Germany,” said one alderman. “The statute of limitations did not run out in Nazi Germany. People are still chasing the people. … But, when it comes to the Black people in this country, there’s always a statute of limitations.” Another alderman remarked, “We will not allow our tax dollars to be spent on criminal behavior, be it from the community or those who are serving the community.” Considering the history of political corruption in Chicago, that’s a pretty bold statement for an alderman to make.

Essay 865

Hey, Black Moms! The Military wants you to talk to your daughter about signing up. Then talk to your son too. Who’s next? Pops? Grandma? Spot?

Looks like Uncle Sam wants your whole damn family.

Essay 864

Raising the minimum rage with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Chicago alderman passed a bill that forces large retailers like Home Depot and Wal-Mart to pay employees a “living wage” — which translates to $10 per hour by 2010 and $3 per hour for benefits. Supporters celebrated the measure (pictured above), while retailers planned to fight it in court. Wonder how long Wal-Mart will be able to maintain low prices with high employee wages. Then again, if the employees receive more money, is it asking too much to have them act interested while on the job?

• Folks continue to debate the effectiveness of the National Guard troops deployed to support the U.S. border patrol. “This buildup is not decreasing migration at all,” said a pro-immigration activist. “Claims by the U.S. border patrol that this increased manpower does have an effect fits a pattern in which they implement some new strategy or idea when there is already a natural lull in migrant activity and then claim credit for it.” The troops will require even more help once immigrants learn that they can make $10 per hour at Wal-Mart in Chicago.

• DMX rejected a plea bargain in his traffic violations case. The rapper-actor spent a night in prison last month after failing to show up in court, but was released upon posting $25,000 bail. “I don’t feel good about this at all,” said DMX after his court appearance. “It’s not fair — $25,000 for traffic tickets? Come on. Let’s keep it real.” Hey, it’s not much crazier than $10 per hour for Wal-Mart employees.

Essay 863

MultiCultClassics presents the Sins of Synergy…

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula evens skin tone — for all skin tones. And the brunette plays for Hispanic and general market audiences.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Essay 862

From The Chicago Sun-Times…


FX’s ‘30 Days’ flips the script on immigration


Frank George gets his kicks when he locks and loads and heads to the Mexican border to keep people from crossing over illegally. He’s a “Minuteman,” members of a volunteer group inspired by 9/11 to put the nonviolent smackdown on Mexicans who want to cross over. But for one month, he lived with illegal aliens to see what their lives are like for the second-season debut of the FX series “30 Days.”

This is not a traditional documentary, filming what would happen naturally. It’s a pop doc that creates a situation, then records results. Show creator Morgan Spurlock and his crew do a fair job of stepping out of the way after they create situations, leading to surprisingly emotional, seemingly natural scenes. It's a contrived concept but not a contrived execution.

George is no villain, and neither is the family that takes him in. Everyone’s personal and intellectual flaws are laid bare.

But to me, George seems to represent an axiom of world history, which teaches us that once people rise into a higher class, they turn their backs on the next wave of people trying to do the same. George was brought to America as a child by his parents from Cuba. Thanks to their status as political refugees, many Cubans get in freely. Mexicans do not, by and large.

Yet in “30 Days,” George says of his Cuban family, “We weren’t given any breaks.” Um, what?

In the most effective scenes, George goes to Mexico to see where this family was living before they came here. In Mexico, they were essentially homeless, living in a field, drinking water out of a “well” that was a disgusting, glorified puddle of nastiness.

Now in Los Angeles, the patriarch takes day jobs and squeezes under houses for repair work. The matriarch’s hobby is sifting through trash and selling recyclables to save money, in a can, for her children’s future.

“I’ve collected $49 since January,” she says eagerly, unaware she is breaking my middle-class heart.

George shows the capacity to understand his opponents, the illegals, as flesh and blood. He says he would help them be Americans -- but only legally, which of course he can’t do for millions of others.

He says men don’t cry, so he doesn’t. And he says cynically that it’s funny and unrealistic that the daughter, Armida, wants to be an American and go to college. Ha, ha. How funny America is, with its hopes and dreams.

This is what defines George and Armida. She tries and fails and tries and succeeds, just as her family tried to get a better life than homelessness and are now providing for their kids. Armida represents evolution, the process of attempting. He represents conservatism, the attempt to stop change.

The grace of “30 Days” is looking at both types of people not as types, but as human beings, not just the immigrant who releases tears of joy, but the first-generation citizen whose brain won’t yield to his heart.

Essay 861

MultiCultClassics presents the Sins of Synergy…

Not sure what the hell is conceptually going on with these Jeep ads. But the comic figure beside the logo switches between versions based on the audience (i.e., Black dude for Blacks, Black Latina for Hispanics). With Jeep, even cartoon characters are segregated.

Essay 860

Ugly suits are always in style with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• A Miami woman is suing Bacardi after being burned by a rum drink. The lawsuit stated that a bartender was pouring shots when someone lit a menu on fire and placed it in the stream of alcohol, turning the bottle of Bacardi into a flame thrower and spraying flaming rum on the victim. Where are Bacardi and Cola when you need them?

• Mo’Nique is calling for a lawsuit and boycott against United Airlines after she and her entourage were kicked off a flight. It started with a confrontation between the star’s hairdresser and a flight attendant over storage in an overhead compartment. When Mo’Nique threw a fit, another flight attendant remarked, “Tell your people that the next time they have an attitude, they are being thrown off. … Since 9/11, we don’t play around.” Upon being compared to terrorists, Mo’Nique allegedly went ballistic, leading to the official ejection. Now she’s charging racism, calling the incident “humiliating” and “something that happens to Black people all the time. They don’t have a voice. I have a voice.” Hey, now Mo’Nique can commiserate with Snoop Dogg (see Essay 586).

• A lawsuit accusing AT&T of delivering customers’ records to the government was dismissed by a federal judge. “First, the [lawsuit’s] plaintiffs cannot establish whether AT&T has unlawfully disclosed their records in the past,” wrote the judge. “Second, the plaintiffs cannot establish whether AT&T is currently disclosing their records, which would tend to show that there is a real and immediate threat of repeated injury.” So for now, customers only have to worry about the real and immediate threat of their records being given to direct marketers.

• California is seeking a 300 percent increase for the state’s tobacco tax. “Taxing tobacco will reduce smoking. That’s been proved in every state that’s raised tobacco taxes,” said a lobbyist for the American Lung Association of California. “It makes it more difficult for people to smoke and purchase cigarettes.” In contrast, a 2004 report by the General Accounting Office (a former investigative arm of Congress) stated, “As cigarette taxes increase, so do the incentives for criminal organizations, including terrorist organizations, to smuggle cigarettes into and throughout the United States.” Heaven forbid cigarettes should be categorized along with illegal drugs.

• General Motors reported a Q2 loss of $3.2 billion. “It’s rewarding to see our automotive business return to profitability on an operating basis and a clear sign that we’re on the right track, but there is more work to be done,” said GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner. Wow, talk about seeing the gas tank as half full.

Essay 859

Mary Mitchell, columnist at The Chicago Sun-Times, is launching a discussion on race on her blog. Click on the essay title above to check it out.



Whether you are a well-to-do white male from Lincoln Park or are a barely-making-it single mother living in subsidized housing, you are likely to hold some misguided perceptions about race and class.

How could you not?

We live in a city that is still divided by race--and class--to the point that wherever I go, someone reminds me that Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the nation. But do we talk about that? Nooooo.

That’s just odd.

Earlier this year, when Men’s Fitness magazine named Chicago the nation’s fattest city, we got on it. Fitness programs popped up everywhere. And you couldn’t go a day without reading or hearing about the latest dieting trends.

So why don’t we talk about race?

O.K. I’ll re-phrase that question. Why don't white people talk about race? Why don’t Asians talk about race? Why don’t Latinos talk about race?

Black people talk about race all the time.

We talk about it when we bemoan the state of public education. We talk about it when we complain about police brutality. We talk about it when we shop at neighborhood stores that sell loose cigarettes and single sticks of margarine.

Last month, I participated in a panel discussion of the movie “Crash” that was held at DePaul University. I was surprised that so many people turned out for the event. Other members of the panel included a black poet, black public defender, Puerto Rican lawyer, a black judge, a Latino lawyer, and a white lesbian/feminist/politician.

The audience included about a dozen white people.

Everyone seemed passionate about the racial themes depicted in the movie. But at the end of 1-1/2 hours of talking, we didn’t hear from one white person.

Not one white person asked a question. Or made a comment. Or shared a story about race relations. For all practical purposes, we were a roomful of black and Latinos talking to ourselves.

So what I want to know is this: Why is it so hard for white people to talk about race?

Black people aren’t shy about telling white people what irks them. White people shouldn’t be shy either. Besides, getting this weighty issue out in the open would not only clear the air, but may just help improve race relations in this city.

But be warned. This is my blog. While I welcome spirited debate, I’m not putting up with the disrespect. Please refrain from using racial slurs, hurling insults and posting comments that are meant to shock and offend.

Hopefully, this daily journal about race and class will be a true reflection of how we interact across racial and ethnic lines. Hopefully, our candid conversations will pave the way to some honest public dialogue on the subject.

If that happens, maybe one day we really won’t need to have this conversation.

Essay 858

From The Detroit Free Press…


Howell looks racism in the eye and won’t blink


Striving for diversity

Some residents of Howell have spent this summer -- and the past decade -- trying to end bigotry in their area.

“A healthy community is one that accepts diversity and that clearly and outwardly rejects racism,” said Lee Reeves, president of the Livingston 2001 Diversity Council.

Formed in 1989 by business, religious and community leaders, the council has tried to help the predominantly white county -- and Howell in particular -- become a more welcoming place for people from all walks of life. The group had hoped its work would be done by the time that year’s kindergarteners graduated from high school in 2001, hence its name. But experience has taught them that true racial reconciliation requires constant work.

First step: Talk it out

In June, the council completed a two-month Community Conversation about Diversity, cohosted by Howell and the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. About 150 people attended four public discussions.

At first, the council was “concerned that it would be a bunch of white people talking about diversity,” said Pat Convery, a council member and president of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce. “What do we know about the black experience in our city?”

So they encouraged diverse voices to attend the conversations. Facilitators from the Detroit chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice, an anti-bigotry organization, helped guide the dialogues.

One of the facilitators, Shea Howell, was impressed that a community like Howell, which according to the last census was 96% white, is focused upon addressing racism.

“It’s a community that could have chosen to stay in denial but hasn’t,” said Howell.

Everyone’s problem

For council members, denial isn’t an option.

“Our businesses were finding it difficult to hire the right people for jobs,” said Convery. “People of all colors and backgrounds won’t come here because of the perception that this community is close-minded.”

But the council feels its efforts have ushered in change.

“There are people who say, ‘I never thought of it like that,’ or ‘I never understood that,’” said Reeves.

“People aren’t deeply racist; they just don’t realize how hurtful behaviors can be. Anything we can do to prepare our kids for the diverse world is good.”

Howell agreed.

“People build communities based on the white, American dream,” she said. “But in our focus groups, their children are saying that the homogenous environments make them feel disadvantaged. They feel unprepared to deal with people who aren’t like them.”

The upshot has been to pull more people into standing committees that will report to the council bimonthly on their efforts to address diversity.

“If we keep moving forward,” said Reeves, “there will be a critical moment when we’ll arrive at the next level.”

If you ask me, they already have.


The vision for Howell’s Community Conversation about Diversity is to create “a welcoming, open and economically vibrant community that embraces diversity and the inclusion of people from all walks of life, where the rights of everyone are honored.” To that end, it has suggested:

Creating a welcoming statement that businesses can display in support of diversity.

Inviting a leader in the area of diversity to address the community.

Supporting the diversity efforts of the public schools.

Organizing cultural exchanges with students and community leaders.

Essay 857

From The New York Daily News…


Time to kill ‘ghetto tax’

By Stanley Crouch

The black American keeps reminding us of the best and the worst and the most backward things that we can do as a nation. There are so many problems that seem to drop like butterfly nets of barbed wire on the lives of black Americans — especially those in the lower and underclass — that we find it hard to pretend that things are exactly the same for any and everybody in the good old U.S.A.

That does not mean that we should fall easily into untenable grousing, or lean on the bent adage that nothing has changed. It is true that much has changed, and for the better. Still, we do have problems that we cannot ignore because of the demagogues and hustlers who forever take advantage of the naive among us, manipulating and taking money.

We have found over the past couple of decades that insurance companies have gouged black communities across this nation, that certain police departments have planted drugs and sent intimidating numbers of black men to prison, and now, according to research by the venerable Brookings Institution, we learn of what is being called “the ghetto tax.”

There is a significant difference in what white middle-class people and black lower-class people pay for many of the same things, such as car insurance. It has been reported that in New York, Hartford and Baltimore, the difference can average out to $400 more for the black as opposed to the white.

Brookings calls this sort of thing a “ghetto tax.” This also applies to other merchandise, produce and services like check-cashing outlets.

This is a broad extension of the fact that was discovered about a decade ago — that young black people might be denied employment on the basis of where they live, the assumption being that some communities produce good, disciplined and trustworthy workers and others do not.

In this era, when there is such a hatred of publicly declared taxes, I wonder how many of this nation’s elephants will lift their trunks to trumpet the need to remove the “ghetto tax” from business practices, which, the elephants say, would reduce the cost of living for lower-income families.

As we have seen in Harlem, where the real estate frenzy has become as loud as a sonic boom, businesses can be encouraged to open in areas that are thought fertile once the police drastically reduce crime.

This complex of law enforcement, quality education and fair business practices must be effectively orchestrated to move us closer to our national goal of virtual equality. But unless all of this is taken into consideration and woven together like a strong quilt against the chill of discrimination and deprivation, we can stop pretending that all complaints are no more than the annoying sounds of demagogues and hustlers.

We also can stop pretending that we have any serious interest in the betterment of our society.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Essay 856

Guess this ad serves as counterpoint to the perspectives presented in Essays 845 and 854.

Essay 855

MultiCultClassics presents the Sins of Synergy…

American Family Insurance must think minorities are one big, happy family. These ads for Blacks and Hispanics feature identical themes. There’s probably an Asian version with a kid riding a Japanese-model toy car.

Essay 854

From USA Today…


Race doesn’t reflect on women’s poor body image

By Marilyn Elias, USA TODAY

Contrary to popular belief, white and non-white women are about equally unhappy with their looks, according to an analysis of 98 studies published in the July issue of Psychological Bulletin. It is the largest U.S. research ever done on feminine body dissatisfaction.

“A lot of theorizing and myths,” along with small studies, have emphasized white women’s poor body images, says psychologist Shelly Grabe of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Minority women, it has been thought, enjoy more sensible, forgiving expectations for body shape. But Grabe and co-author Janet Shibley Hyde find little evidence of that.

There’s no significant difference between whites, Asian-Americans and Hispanics in how dissatisfied they are with their bodies, they say. And there’s no difference between whites and blacks over age 22.

White teens and college-age women do feel somewhat worse about their looks than blacks this age, the studies show. “This is the age group bombarded with ads and media messages about the ideal feminine shape: a tall, thin white woman,” Grabe says. “So white women this age may be affected.”

But as it becomes increasingly difficult to be reed-thin, older white women may compare themselves less to the media ideal and feel better as they are, she says.

TV viewing during high school affects how college coeds feel about their bodies but in different ways for whites and blacks, says University of Michigan psychologist L. Monique Ward.

In her studies, the more TV a white girl watched, the worse she later felt about her body. Watching shows with mostly white casts didn’t affect black girls’ self-images, but seeing TV shows with largely black casts improved it, possibly because a fuller range of sizes are shown, Ward says.

Body-satisfaction scores hardly tell the full story, says Deborah Schooler, a psychologist at San Francisco State University. Latino teens score more satisfied than whites in some studies, but they have the same rates of eating disorders as white girls, she says.

“We’re treating a lot more black, Hispanic and Asian women with eating disorders,” says psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke, director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute and author of Change Your Mind, Change Your Body. In her nearly 25 years of experience, minority patients were a rarity until about a decade ago. “They’re buying into values of the upwardly mobile, and that means an ultra-thin ideal.”

Women of different races have much more similar body satisfaction levels than the two sexes, Kearney-Cooke says.

“Men are less satisfied with their bodies than they used to be, but they’re nowhere near as unhappy as women, and they’re not willing to try extreme dieting or vomiting, as women do.”

Essay 853

From The Chicago Sun-Times…


Bush’s NAACP address just a start


After five years, President Bush finally addressed the annual NAACP conference. He said he wanted to reach out to the African-American community -- suggesting it was a mistake for African Americans to be locked into one party.

But blacks have not always voted for Democrats. After the Civil War, they voted Republican in the party of Lincoln. When the Depression hit -- and the poor were hit the hardest -- they turned to Roosevelt and the New Deal. In the 1950s, blacks voted in large numbers for Eisenhower, in part because he vowed to get us out of the war in Korea.

When Kennedy reached out to Dr. King in his Birmingham jail cell, and Nixon did not, African Americans began voting Democratic again. As Johnson helped pass civil rights legislation, culminating in the Voting Rights Act and the launch of the war on poverty, African Americans rallied in support. This was reinforced as Republicans rose to power in the South as the party of white sanctuary, profiting from politics of racial division. African Americans are not locked into any one party -- they are voting their interest.

Bush says he wants to reach out. Here’s what he could do if he were serious about reaching out:

First, pay us the respect of communicating with us. We did not always agree with Kennedy -- he opposed the March on Washington for example -- but he talked with us. The same is true of Johnson, Carter and Clinton. There were disagreements, some sharp and intense, but we kept in communication.

Second, come into the discussion with questions, not just pat answers. Let’s agree on the subjects -- and discuss the solutions. We know we disagree about some policy questions. But by talking together, we can find common ground in some places, and agree to disagree in others. For example, any conservative should be providing incentives to businesses to invest in impoverished areas -- from Appalachia to rural America to the ghettos and barrios. Providing incentives doesn’t bust the budget. It relies on private markets and it helps even the playing field so capital, the lifeblood of capitalism, flows to all parts of the body politic.

Third, don’t assume that African-American leaders are concerned only with an ethnic agenda. We worry about poverty and decent wages -- and more poor people are white than black. We worry about war -- and all Americans are concerned about war. We are particularly hit by the outsourcing of jobs and by the loss of affordable housing -- and so are working and poor Americans of all races.

Fourth, enforce the Voting Rights Act, don’t just sign it and gut its enforcement. For too long, African Americans have been locked out of voting. Now, from Florida to Texas to Ohio to Georgia, we see increasing evidence of systemic efforts by Republicans to block blacks from registering and from voting. Too often, your political appointees to the Justice Department and your nominees to the Supreme Court choose state rights over federal enforcement.

Similarly, you can speak clearly against private-sector discrimination and work to open up opportunity for all. Equal opportunity is a pro-family value. Even to this day, minorities suffer discriminatory practices in employment and in gaining loans -- business loans, mortgages and personal loans. This impedes free markets and retards economic development. Again, this doesn’t cost money -- and it demonstrates leadership.

Finally, understand that you can’t choose the leaders for African Americans or Latinos or small farmers. If you want to reach out to the African-American community, you have to talk with the leaders we choose. For years, J. Edgar Hoover sought to create a black leader who could compete with Dr. King, but he could not be displaced from above. That remains true to this day. That’s why you can pump millions into selected black churches and still lose over 90 percent of the black vote.

Your belated address to the NAACP is a beginning. It’s late. The record is clear. Our disappointments are many. But African Americans have problems to solve and miles to travel -- so we look constantly for allies. We are open to talk and looking for action. The door isn’t shut; see us through the door, and not the keyhole. Let’s meet at the door and make this a more perfect union.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Essay 852

Don’t mean to diss Bob Garfield too much, but the man continues to build on the ignorance of his previous column (see Essay 820). Last week, Garfield sensed racial undertones in an Oreos commercial starring American Idol’s Randy Jackson. Now he turns his cultural critic’s expertise on teen marketing (click on the essay title above to read the complete column).

Oddly enough, Garfield opens with the whining of a stereotypical Baby Boomer in the throes of a mid-life crisis. Check it out:

“You think this job is easy?

“Walk a mile in AdReview’s shoes. Try to find something different to say week after week for 20 years. Try to be simultaneously serious and entertaining. Try to keep a level head. Try not to damage any careers along the way.

“Is there anything more excruciating than some lametard adult copy writer trying to speak to teenagers in their own language? To see this stuff is to cringe.

“51-year-old man
Oh, and if you happen to be an incredibly macho and worldly 51-year-old man, try putting yourself into the head of the many demographic target cohorts to which we, strictly speaking, do not belong. Not only are we not in the bull’s-eye-18 to 34 years-old — we’re also not a skateboarder/gamer, a soccer mom or, to the best of our knowledge, Japanese.”

You’d think Garfield would have stopped right there. Instead, he proceeds to skewer a Wal-Mart campaign for its irrelevant copy and imagery. Has Wal-Mart ever produced anything that wasn’t lame? Do we need Garfield to identify what’s been obvious for decades?

But here’s the real point of this rant: Bob Garfield symbolizes a lot of the negative issues in America’s advertising industry.

After all, the man admits to being clueless on the cultural tip, yet he still feels compelled, comfortable and competent to comment on everything with a sense of authority. This demonstrates the blatant arrogance so prevalent on Madison Avenue.

Another quote from the column reads, “This week it’s teenage and preadolescent girls and boys. And, we’re like, that is soooo gay.” Leave it to Bob to successfully turn off gays and teens with a single sentence. He also manages to deliver statements that smack of ageism, implying that an “adult copy writer” may not have the know-how to communicate to youth. This demonstrates the discriminatory attitudes running rampant in the industry.

The cultural cluelessness and discriminatory attitudes exhibited here are deeply rooted in our business. From judging awards shows to judging job candidates, too many decisions are made through limited — and often narrow-minded — perspectives.

To be clear, this is not intended to be a direct attack on Bob Garfield. It’s highly likely that he’s a loving family man and law-abiding citizen. And it’s highly unlikely that he’s a racist or even mean-spirited. But like too many of our industry’s leaders, he is culturally clueless. And probably a little biased as well.

Maybe we should start to criticize the relevance and qualifications of the culturally clueless types among us.

Essay 851

MultiCultClassics presents the Sins of Synergy…

With Softsoap, the directions are easy: Just add minority.

Essay 850

Cherry Bomb and other explosive devices in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• John Mellencamp managed to piss off former vice president Dan Quayle during a recent concert. Before performing the song “Walk Tall,” Mellencamp told the audience, “This next one is for all the poor people who’ve been ignored by the current administration.” Mellencamp didn’t know Quayle was in attendance, and the comment inspired the ex-veep to walk out. “I still feel there are many people left behind by this administration,” said Mellencamp. “Not talking about problems doesn’t make them go away. It’s kind of telling that he chose to walk out as I was doing a song about tolerance.” Hey, sometimes you fight authority, and authority doesn’t always win.

• The Washington Post continues its series titled, “Being a Black Man.” The latest installment focuses on “Paths to Success: A Forum on Young African American Men,” which was co-sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation, The Washington Post and Harvard University. “Every institution is failing our young men,” said the chairman of a national commission on the “life options of young black, Hispanic and Native American men.” “We’re grinding young men of color up like glass … We’re not hearing them.” Click on the essay title above to hear the latest.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Essay 849

MultiCultClassics presents the Sins of Synergy…

Ford Motor Company touts innovation to Whites, Blacks and Hispanics with identical executions that are anything but innovative.

Essay 848

Legal dramas in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• In what sounds like an episode straight out of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” a makeup artist fired from the TV drama is suing for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. The makeup artist charges a female production manager invited her to participate in group sex, and ultimately fired her when rebuffed. Somebody get Ice-T on the case.

• An independent investigation showed former Rep. Randy Cunningham, currently in prison, used classified bills for schemes that brought big money to himself and partners — including $2.4 million in bribes and payments for a mansion, Rolls Royce and yacht. The classified budgets, which remain private for national security reasons, are known as “black” budgets. Funny how “black” budgets don’t benefit Blacks, but manage to keep plenty of shady White folks in the black.

Essay 847

MultiCultClassics presents the Sins of Synergy…

One of the toughest challenges for advertisers producing multicultural efforts — and the advertising agencies doing the work — involves creating synergy between messages across campaigns. This week, MultiCultClassics examines various tactics and executions employed by folks seeking to reach diverse audiences.

K-SWISS likes to produce identical layouts depicting people of different ethnicities. Can you guess which ad appeared in Vibe, Latina and Teen People magazines?