Monday, January 15, 2007
Took a minute to reconsider the inane and incoherent Adweek editorial by Tim Arnold (see Essay 1544). Here’s a second rebuttal…
Back in Essay 1222 (click on the essay title above to review), MultiCultClassics introduced a culturally clueless advertising critter — Marc Brownstein. We’re roughly two weeks into 2007, and there’s already a brand new figure.
Presenting the patented purveyor of passive bias.
Once again, it’s important to note this recognition is not a direct attack on the real Tim Arnold, who is undoubtedly a fine patriot and upstanding citizen with good intentions. Rather, we’re calling out the beliefs, badges and behaviors that represent countless individuals in the advertising industry. For this dissertation, we’ll draw focus away from Tim Arnold by referring to the fresh character as “P. Didn’t” — with apologies to Sean Combs.
First, let’s define passive bias. In 1997, Lawrence Otis Graham wrote Proversity, the title being a term the author coined to stand for Progressive Diversity. In the book, Graham identified three types of bias: active bias, deceptive bias and passive bias. Active bias describes obvious, openly prejudiced actions, where all parties are aware of the bias (e.g., a Ku Klux Klan rally would fall into the active bias category). Deceptive bias entails the biased party being aware of their nasty attitudes and actions, while the other parties/recipients are unaware. With passive bias, the source of the bad actions is unaware of their bias, but the other parties/recipients are keenly aware.
If you follow Graham’s typology, you’ll probably decide there is little active bias in the industry. And let’s hope deceptive bias is rare (although minorities may suspect deceptive bias — particularly in the recent dealings between Madison Avenue and New York City’s Commission on Human Rights). The majority of our diversity problems fall into the passive bias realm. In short, most of us unintentionally demonstrate insensitivity and cultural cluelessness.
So who is P. Didn’t?
P. Didn’t has latent — and blatant — disgust for leaders like Jesse Jackson. Too bad Jackson is painfully familiar with the tactics of P. Didn’t and his ilk. Jackson knows that the arrogance, lethargy and outright lies are best confronted via legal fights, financial penalties and public humiliation. P. Didn’t doesn’t see that Jackson wouldn’t have a platform if the P. Didn’ts of the world kept their promises and operated professionally. Instead, P. Didn’t condemns activists like Jackson for shining a spotlight on the bullshit.
P. Didn’t begs us all to search our collective souls. However, P. Didn’t doesn’t realize such navel-gazing is incomplete until making a sincere attempt to view the situation from perspectives besides his own. Sadly, P. Didn’t’s cultural cluelessness prohibits an honest, full examination. And P. Didn’t usually lacks the integrity and fortitude required to gain enlightenment. There’s just too much physical and emotional sweat involved.
P. Didn’t remembers encountering minorities through the years. P. Didn’t closely collaborated with a few on occasion. Yet despite a long and storied career spent at premier advertising agencies, P. Didn’t doesn’t recall ever directly hiring a minority. Oh, P. will boast about appointing a White female candidate — the easy minority choice. But the standard P. Didn’t employer résumé rarely features Black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American reports. Imagine that.
P. Didn’t believes an affinity for minorities’ cultural art forms — R&B music, for instance — makes him acutely hip to the broader issues. Are suburban Wiggers who rock to rappers truly down with thug life? Would Elvis and Picasso make skilled negotiators for diversity debates? Granted, common interests can help bridge differences. Curing the deeper cancers, unfortunately, demands more than similar tastes in CDs.
P. Didn’t refuses to acknowledge his contributions to the dilemmas. Newsflash to P. Didn’t: Segregation is not typically initiated by the segregated. Rather, the segregated tend to react to the situations thrust upon them. It’s essentially basic survival instincts kicking in.
P. Didn’t also seems oblivious to the fact that his constant use of the word “we” confirms the literal and figurative divisions. To deflect feelings of responsibility, P. Didn’t unveils personal volunteer and multicultural milestones, as if to say, “Hey, I did my fair share.”
P. Didn’t boldly proclaims, “There simply ain’t no ‘exclusion policies.’” Sure, we may not uncover instructional discrimination documents in HR files — but primarily because a manual is unnecessary. At the same time, P. Didn’t gives zero decent explanations for the dearth of diversity. He’ll declare it’s the fault of minorities for not showing up.
Again, P. Didn’t can’t envision his contributions to the dilemmas. Although he’s a seasoned ad veteran, P. Didn’t won’t admit the industry thrives on personal contacts. Who you know trumps what you know. Friends hire friends. Internships are awarded to clients’ kids, neighbors’ neighbors, etc. Nepotism is as destructive to progress as racism, sexism or assorted ism variations. Hell, big agency staffers can identify people who landed gigs for their sexual prowess or equally dubious expertise. Honchos want to bring on protégés, so it helps if you resemble the hiring employer. It may not appear racist at first blush, but the end result is the same. When White people just hire White people, it can certainly be labeled as bias. The “exclusion policies” are alive and well — the advertising industry was born and raised on them. Oh, and there are still a bunch of hardcore bigots too.
Let’s not forget that Madison Avenue pledged to change its ways in the 1970s. Three decades later, the bare minimum has not been addressed. And P. Didn’t opts to cast blame on the victims. Is the bias tipping towards active and deceptive regions?
Adding stink to his own steaming pile of fecal matter, P. Didn’t charges the “rainbow bureaucracy” to militarize the revolution he annually failed to launch himself.
Then P. Didn’t ultimately challenges minorities to step forward and earn a position. After erecting an environment averse to diversity, our culturally clueless critter can’t fathom that the least effective recruiting would incorporate double dares from a grinning old White man.