Thursday, May 31, 2007
Quick cuts in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Motorola plans to eliminate 4,000 jobs by next year, adding to the 3,500 people laid off in January. It’s ironic that the company behind the Razr is cutting so many bodies.
• Young Jeezy was arrested for disorderly conduct at an Atlanta strip club. This satisfies the recommended daily allowance of rappers arrested for disorderly conduct at strip clubs.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Taking offense in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Martha Stewart is under fire for attempting to trademark the name “Katonah” for a line of home furnishings. Members of the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation and other Indian tribes claim it’s the name of a 17th-century chief. A representative for the Cayuga Nation said, “If it’s being done for profit, then of course it’s offensive. Of all the names in the world and all the words, why can’t she pick something out that’s not offensive?” A spokesperson for Stewart insisted the name was chosen to honor the people and community. Another Indian representative replied, “We trust that Martha Stewart intended no malice in seeking to have her corporation trademark the name of one of our great ancestral leaders, but for her to say she is doing so to honor him and our tribe is absurd, especially when it is being done solely for profit.” Stewart is probably handcrafting a special peace pipe right now.
• Miami Beach cops are wondering, “Where you at?” in regards to rapper and Boost Mobile endorser Fat Joe. The police arrested a suspect who allegedly shot and killed two men during a Memorial Day fight on South Beach, and Fat Joe may be a witness. Perhaps authorities will use the new Boost Mobile GPS service to locate the rotund rapper.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Door Open for Whites at Black Colleges
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Michael Roberts has done more than study finance at historically black Benedict College. He’s played football for the college, joined a fraternity and proposed to his girlfriend.
Pretty typical, except that Roberts is one of the few whites who attend one of the nation’s traditionally black colleges.
“When I tell people I attend Benedict, they comment, ‘Well, you’re not black,’” Roberts said. “But it’s still a school, I’m still getting an education. You don’t have to be black to attend.”
Officials for the nation’s historically black schools say Roberts’ experience is not that unusual. White students are being actively recruited, and attracting them has become easier for a variety of reasons, including the offer of scholarships and lower tuitions than those paid at non-black schools.
Private, historically black schools cost an average of $10,000 less per year than their traditionally white counterparts, according to the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.
The head of the association says lower costs are not the only thing the schools have to offer. Whites who attend the schools are preparing for an “increasingly black and brown world,” said Lezli Baskerville, the association’s president and CEO.
“If you want to know how to live in one, you can’t grow up in an all-white neighborhood, go to a predominantly white school, white cultural and social events, go to a predominantly white university and then thrive in a world that is today more black, more brown than before,” Baskerville said.
White students say they’ve taken valuable experiences from their time at black colleges. Skin color, the students say, is much more of a factor away from the campuses than it is on them.
“You should get to know people based on who they are,” Roberts said. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
The first of what are now called historically black colleges and universities was Cheyney University in Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1837 so that blacks -- barred from attending many traditional schools -- could get advanced educations. Since then, more than 100 such institutions have been established in the U.S. and about 285,000 students attend the schools each year.
Lawsuits have forced many of the schools -- about half of them are public -- to diversify their student bodies, Baskerville said. In the 2005-06 school year, nearly 10 percent of their students were white, according to her association's data.
Scholarships, new programs and recruitment have attracted dozens of whites to schools such as South Carolina State University, where they account for around 4 percent of the student body, said university spokeswoman Erica Prioleau. The school has a minority affairs office for white students, similar to those found for non-white students at traditionally white schools.
A handful of whites attend Atlanta’s private Morehouse College. The school hasn’t been aggressively recruiting whites, so they make a “conscious decision” to attend, said Sterling Hudson, dean of admissions and records for the college.
Steven Schukei did just that. The Morehouse alumnus, who now works as a vice president in technology for New York-based investment firm Goldman Sachs, said he gained a perspective that he wasn’t offered while growing up and going to school in Nebraska, Colorado and South Carolina.
“There was always this sort of disjoint between what I thought I should be learning and what I actually did learn,” said Schukei, 30. “And I thought Morehouse would be an opportunity to expand my horizons and to see a different perspective on the world that we live in.”
Schukei remembers Morehouse as a “refuge from the rest of the world where what race you are doesn’t really matter.”
“Conversations that people typically wouldn’t feel comfortable having about race can happen on Morehouse’s campus where they just wouldn’t happen anyplace else,” he said.
Childish behavior in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• A study by pediatric researchers at the University of Washington shows about 40 percent of 3-month-olds watch up to 45 minutes of TV or videos per day. Parents are apparently allowing kids to watch for educational purposes. “I wouldn’t be so upset about this if I thought parents were doing it because they needed a break to take a shower or make dinner,” said a co-author of the study. “What I’m troubled by is the notion that parents think it’s good for their kids. … Yes, the baby is staring at the screen, but it’s wrong to think the child likes it. He or she has no choice in the matter. He’s hard-wired to pay attention to anything that is fast-moving, brightly colored or loud.” Jerry Springer must be extremely popular with the tots.
• The crazy kids at Conifer High School in Colorado sparked controversy by publishing their yearbook with photos of students smoking marijuana and chugging booze. The idiot student editor said she regrets not balancing the party shots with pics of non-drug users. But she probably couldn’t find any sober students on campus.
• A new British study shows teens with larger allowances are more likely to become problem drinkers. Somebody should create an international exchange program with Conifer High School.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Two letters from Adweek.com, followed by comments from MultiCultClassics…
Letters: Debating the Merits of Reviving
The Iconic Uncle Ben
Just saw [Barbara Lippert’s] Critique of the Uncle Ben’s character icon update [“Uncle Ben’s Problem,” April 9] and had to write to applaud your insights. What we see happen frequently with clients is the temptation to contemporize a venerable brand icon by somehow making it witty, hip or trendy. We call it “putting sunglasses on or turning the baseball hat around backwards.”
There are countless examples of classic, timeless characters who have undergone similar makeovers only to end up just feeling wrong to us for all the reasons you outline in your article—the deep emotional resonance these characters have with the audience. By ignoring that, or not working within that story framework, such endeavors feel sure to miss the mark.
There is some clever conceptual thinking in this new Uncle Ben’s campaign to be sure, and perhaps the subsequent advertising will go a step further to unpack some of the heavy baggage Uncle Ben carries as well. For example, how did he get from the rice field to the boardroom? What is the story here? Clearly there is one, and with a lot of emotion surrounding it.
It’s a common reaction for clients to want to avoid the inherent conflict and emotion in some of these highly charged icons (by subtly subtracting poundage, as you say in relation to Aunt Jemima, or removing a kerchief as if we didn’t notice). What marketers often fail to understand is that, in the world of story, conflict is a source of energy. If the conflict is embraced, the story can get a big boost of energy and authenticity. Otherwise, the energy tends to leak out.
Here’s hoping that Uncle Ben gets the respect he deserves, and in a way that realizes his potential as a true, dimensional character.
Business Development Manager
Barbara [Lippert] makes a slightly off-based assessment of the use of “Uncle.” Her claim is that Uncle was used because the honor of Mr. was denied. My understanding has been the opposite. Mr. was often a cold and formal term blacks used toward whites, while Uncle referred kinship and familial bonding.
Assistant Dean of Admission
Franklin & Marshall College
Nick Peterson makes a slightly off-based assessment of Lippert’s assessment. Peterson is not entirely wrong with this statement: “Mr. was often a cold and formal term blacks used toward whites, while Uncle referred kinship and familial bonding.” Among Blacks, for example, it’s not uncommon to refer to a close family friend as your “Auntie.” But the Uncle Ben context derives from the historical way Whites referred to Blacks.
The Museum of Public Relations in New York presented an online retrospective on Moss H. Kendrix, a public relations pioneer who influenced the ways that Blacks are portrayed through advertising. Here’s a quote from the retrospective regarding Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima:
“Many African Americans object to the term “Uncle” (or “Aunt”) when used in this context, as it was a southern form of address first used with older enslaved peoples, since they were denied use of courtesy titles.”
Here’s another quote on the subject from Wikipedia:
“In years past in the American South, whites commonly referred to elderly black men as ‘uncle,’ though they were not blood relations. The practice was considered patronizing and demeaning and largely has been discontinued.”
Sorry, but you appear to be incorrect, Mr. Peterson.
[Click on the essay title above to view the Moss H. Kendrix retrospective.]
From The New York Times…
At BET, Fighting the Rerun
By GERALDINE FABRIKANT
Last week, executives from Black Entertainment Television walked through the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, laying out the plans for the annual BET Music Awards on June 26. The broadcast has become the highest-rated award show on cable, topping the MTV Music Awards, ESPN’s ESPY Awards and the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.
This year’s host is Mo’nique, a popular comedian who is the host of “Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School,” a reality show that draws a large African-American audience. But “Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School” isn’t on BET. Instead, it has become a big hit for VH1, a cable channel that, like BET, is owned by Viacom.
Mo’nique’s presence on the BET podium illustrates one of the channel’s persistent struggles. Despite being the first and certainly the largest African-American cable channel, BET has developed few of its own marketable stars and virtually no breakout programs. It relies instead on reruns, movies and music videos for the bulk of its lineup.
BET’s chief executive, Debra L. Lee, has tried to reverse that trend, this year increasing the channel’s production budget 50 percent and plunging into original programming with 16 new shows planned for the new season.
“What we have found over the years is that acquired and licensed programming has not done as well as we would have liked,” Ms. Lee said. “It was very clear that we had to invest more in original programming.”
Ms. Lee joined BET in 1986 as general counsel and vice president, working closely with its founder, Robert L. Johnson. She was named president and chief executive when he left the network in 2005. Although she did not have direct programming experience, the programming department had reported to her since 1995. A calm, businesslike executive, she quickly brought in a team to “take BET to the next level,” she said in a recent interview at Viacom’s Manhattan headquarters, where she commutes from BET’s Washington offices.
Ms. Lee’s attempts to remake BET come at time when all cable channels are contending with an increasingly tough landscape as the battle for market share among the mature networks intensifies. BET’s ratings were strong in 2006 but tumbled in the first quarter of this year.
And while the channel has had some success with original series like “American Gangster” and “Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown,” they have been overshadowed by some recent hits on other Viacom cable channels. These include Comedy Central’s “Chappelle’s Show” and VH1’s “Flavor of Love” and two spinoffs: “I Love New York” and “Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School.”
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
Sunday, May 27, 2007
The Wall Street Journal is relaunching its famed Creative Leaders Challenge, proclaiming “you have the unique opportunity to honor an influential member of the advertising community by nominating your own Creative Leader for the series.” Based on the website, the contest seems challenged to identify any non-White candidates. Females are in short supply too.
Scrolling through the list of past honorees reveals the stereotypical lineup of Old White Men, with rare sprinklings of White Women and International Non-Whites. Caroline Jones, formerly of Mingo-Jones Advertising, appears to be the sole Black person to win the contest (Jones took the prize in 1990).
Given the boom in Latino marketing, with shops recording unprecedented growth, you’d think the segment would merit at least one entrant. Don Coleman of GlobalHue managed to score victories in the two largest account moves this year—Wal-Mart and Verizon. A truly unique vote should be cast for Patricia Gatling of the New York City Commission on Human Rights for her work with Madison Avenue executives.
Click on the essay title above to learn more.
[Thanks to Bill Green at makethelogobigger.blogspot.com for spotting the contest.]
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
War on drugs kills blacks
By MONROE ANDERSON
I have two T-shirts that date back to last century. Both are black and white. One has a silhouetted head of an African-American man within the cross hairs of a gunsight. Underneath the head is a big, contrasting stencil that reads: “Endangered Species.” The second T-shirt repeats “Endangered Species” 16 times as alternating black, then white, banners. Dominating its center is a similar silhouette caught in similar cross hairs.
Although I’ve owned the two tees for 15 years, they’re like new. I’ve worn them only three or four times each. The stares I get from some who see me in my shirts take me out of my comfort zone. The looks that aren’t blank strike me as either too approving or too ill-at-ease. But between the warm weather and the cold-blooded murders of Tramaine Gibson and Blair Holt, I’ve felt the urge to take my T-shirts out of storage and start spreading their message.
Gibson, a married father of two young children, was shot to death last week during a stickup at Illinois Federal Service Savings and Loan because he didn’t know the combination to the vault. He was 23. Holt, a high school honor student, was shot to death 17 days ago on a CTA bus, protecting a female classmate from a gun-wielding teenager. He was 16. So is his alleged shooter.
Their front-page tragedies put faces on debilitating statistics. Black American males between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest firearm homicide rate of any demographic group in our nation. Ten times more black males are shot to death in that age range than white males. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 52 percent of this nation’s gun-murder victims are African American, even though we represent less than 13 percent of the total population. If all Americans were killed with firearms at the same rate as African-American males between the ages of 15 and 24, there would be more than a quarter of a million gun murders in the United States annually.
Make no mistake about it: This is still that same sad story of black-on-black crime. But the magnitude is new. I attribute it to the “war on drugs.” Two decades ago, Congress went on a “get tough on drugs” rampage. The results have visited devastating collateral damage on the African-American community. Black men have unfairly and disproportionately been targeted as enemy combatants in this trumped-up war. A black man is 13 times more likely to go to state prison than a white man.
And while drug use is consistent across all racial groups, blacks and Latinos are much more likely to get busted, prosecuted and given long sentences for drug offenses, according to the latest report by Human Rights Watch. That explains why African Americans, who make up 13 percent of all drug users, are 35 percent of those arrested for drug possession, 55 percent of those convicted and 74 percent of those sent to prison.
Time served for petty crime helped cultivate a criminal culture in too many black communities. The residue is seen and heard in hip-hop music. It’s studied in school test scores. It’s reflected in the demise of the black family unit. Right now, there are more than 1 million African-American men in prison; more black men are in jail here than the rest of the world combined. Ex-cons bring lessons learned in prison back to the community.
So, exposure to thug thought cultivates thug culture, leads to the thug life and ends in thug deaths. Most times that means one thug killing another. But increasingly, the good ones, the Tramaine Gibsons and the Blair Holts, fall victim.
One of my sons could be next -- or one of yours. We need to stop this cancer from further spreading. We need to scale down the raids and scale back the sentencing on nonviolent offenses. We need to put our energies into educating to prevent incarcerating.
So this time I won’t be putting my T-shirts away. I need to wear my alarm on my chest. That’s one small way I hope to make others aware of what’s going on. I’ll think of others.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Legal beefs in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are suing Jack In The Box, charging the fast feeder with running misleading advertising. Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s claim new commercials imply their Angus burgers are made from cow anus. “They’re not being funny,” said the chief executive of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. “They need to stop misleading people about what Angus beef is.” This guy needs to get his head out of his anus.
• Fired Wal-Mart marketing executive Julie Roehm continues her desperate legal battles with her former boss, now charging the retailer’s CEO with breaking the corporate ethics policy. Wal-Mart fired Roehm for reasons including having an affair with co-worker Sean Womack—a no-no in the company policies guidebook. But Roehm claimed the CEO accepted trips and deals on yachts and jewelry from vendors. The “boss-broke-the-rules-too” excuse seems like a desperate legal tactic. In the end, it looks like Roehm is going from Womack blower to whistle blower.
• Rapper MIMS was a no-show at an event in Chelsea, prompting the promoter to file a $7.5 million civil-rights suit claiming the artist blew off the gig because she’s a woman. The promoter charges MIMS didn’t arrive “because of his discriminatory attitude” toward women, and he “has promoted and traded upon a pattern of conduct involving the belittlement and degradation of females as ‘bitches’ and ‘hoes.’” The woman must be using the same legal counsel as Julie Roehm.
• A New York high school student was charged with a hate crime for removing a Sikh student’s turban and cutting his hair. The two students had been arguing when the accused kid dragged his victim into the bathroom and forcibly performed the haircut. '”The defendant is not accused of some schoolhouse prank, but an attack on the fundamental beliefs of his victim’s religion and his freedom to worship freely,” said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. What happened to the good old days when students only gave wedgies and dunked heads into toilets?
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Community approach helps promote healthy choices
Research project on deadly breast cancer among black women reaps understanding
BY SARAH GEHLERT
One of the biggest health-care problems confronting this country is the disparity in health between racial groups. The diseases blacks and whites suffer as well as their responses to the same disease are often different. In many cases, researchers are unable to study those differences completely because distrust limits people’s interest in becoming involved in important medical research such as clinical trials.
We have found, however, that involving the members of the community as partners in research can make a big difference in overcoming this gap.
In the spring of 2003, we appealed to black men and women in the South Side Chicago community to be part of a series of focus groups for a research project at the University of Chicago aimed at better understanding why black women develop breast cancer earlier than white women, and why this disease is so much more fatal to black women. Nearly 1,400 South Side residents responded to that call and their insights have guided our research at the University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Health Disparities Research.
We want to thank those who participated in the focus groups. By going out in the community and learning the challenges people face, we have gained important perspectives from the people whose health we are trying to improve.
We wanted to know more about what conditions in neighborhoods “get under the skin” of African-American women to produce the factors that prompt genes to change in a way that brings on deadly breast cancer for black women. We heard many stories as we sat with men and women in church halls and community centers throughout the South Side.
We learned more about what goes on in neighborhoods that affects health in a good or bad way. We learned about neighborhood associations and organizations that protect health. We heard about the vacant buildings in their neighborhood where troublemakers lurk. We learned about the problems black men and women have dealing with the health-care system. And over and over again, we learned how racial discrimination is an unwelcome companion to black women’s everyday lives.
We heard about the people’s love for their children, and their concern that the youth in their community aren’t getting the right information, particularly at school, about ways to lead a healthy life. Instead of learning about their bodies and ways of staying fit, the students are learning about health by listening to lists of risky behaviors that they should avoid.
In all, we talked with more than 500 men and women in 49 small group gatherings. We invited them to a daylong South Side Breast Cancer Summit, which was held at the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church in April 2005. We worked together to create an action plan, which we are now implementing.
One of our first goals from that conference has been accomplished: a DVD “Livin’ in Your Body 4 Life” on teen health that is now being shown in schools and churches and on cable television. Again, working with the community paid off. High school students helped us in the formatting of the project, in choosing the music and in deciding on ways in which the information was presented. The resulting program far exceeded anything we could have produced on our own.
But there is still much more to be done. The courageous black women and men who joined us as our partners in the fight against deadly breast cancer have shown us the way. We need to agitate at City Hall to get the abandoned buildings in neighborhoods torn down, we need to speak out against the causes of violence and support people in the community who are trying to end it, we need to insist on more safe spaces for people to gather and children to play. We must stay vigilant against the continued menace of racism. Together we can make changes.
[Sarah Gehlert is a professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and director of the University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Health Disparities Research]
Friday, May 25, 2007
On message with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington filmed a public awareness spot to make amends for his anti-gay slurs. “Words have power. The power to express love, happiness and joy. They also have the power to heal,” said Washington in the spot. “When you use words that demean a person because of their sexual orientation, race or gender, you send a message of hate.” Or a message of camaraderie to Michael Richards, Mel Gibson and Don Imus.
• Actress Keira Knightley won nearly $6,000 for her libel suit against a newspaper that made nasty remarks about her bony physique. One story showed the actress in a bikini with a headline reading, “If Pictures Like This One of Keira Carried a Health Warning, My Darling Daughter Might Have Lived.” Another piece highlighted Knightley’s denials of battling anorexia. The actress’ lawyer said, “[Knightley] found the suggestions all the more offensive as she has freely admitted publicly in the past that a member of her family suffered from anorexia and she is well aware of the devastating effects eating disorders can have.” Gee, Knightley seems a little thin-skinned.
From The Washington Post…
Diversity Panel in Charles Gears Up
County Seeks Ways to Quell Racial Tensions
By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
As the population has grown in Charles County, so too have the tensions.
In recent months, the Southern Maryland community has seen an outbreak of racist graffiti. This comes after an unsettling incident three years ago in which 27 homes under construction were destroyed or heavily damaged in the largest arson fire in state history.
Now, Charles officials, hoping to get ahead of the tensions, have launched a Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity to examine population changes and explore ways to unite residents across racial and socioeconomic lines.
“There are people who are coming into the county bringing in new ideas and perspectives, and they may be clashing with or not in sync with people who have lived here all their lives,” said county Commissioner Edith J. Patterson (D-Pomfret), who spearheaded the creation of the blue-ribbon panel.
The committee of 25 people from different ethnic and economic backgrounds met for the first time Wednesday.
Indeed, Charles has changed from its rural, heavily white roots. An influx of African Americans has driven nearly all of the county's population growth since 2000, according to U.S. Census estimates. Black residents, a number of whom have moved in from neighboring Prince George’s County, now make up about 34 percent of Charles’s 139,000 residents.
The growth has brought problems with it. Just last weekend, police found “KKK” spray-painted on a home shed in White Plains. That incident was preceded by a number of hate crimes in which “White Power” and other inflammatory and derogatory slogans were scrawled in paint on homes, public school buildings, playground equipment and a church in the past year. Some of the alleged perpetrators were teenagers seeking attention, police said.
And in perhaps the most stinging example, more than two dozen homes in the upscale Hunters Brooke subdivision, many of them bought by black families, were destroyed or damaged after being set on fire in December 2004.
Five men were charged in the arson and have been convicted. All five are white. One of them testified that he targeted the development because a large number of African Americans were buying homes there.
“I think that there were too many events occurring in Charles County,” Patterson said. “There just had to be a stop to this. … Some places don’t want to acknowledge that there are challenges and issues, but I think that we should be applauded for saying, ‘Yep, these are issues and we are doing something about it.’”
Commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D-At Large) added, “We’re not going to bring things to closure until we start addressing things head on.”
County leaders applauded U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), whose district includes Charles, for helping the House pass legislation this month that would expand federal hate-crime protections and increase penalties for attackers. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill.
In Charles, the county commissioners recruited former New York congressman Major R. Owens (D), who as a leading member of the Congressional Black Caucus gained experience in addressing racial tensions, to lead the blue-ribbon commission and serve as an unpaid adviser.
Forming the committee is a “preventative social action,” Owens said in a telephone interview. He said the arson and hate crimes “had the seeds of something much worse,” and it is important that the government prepare for dramatic reactions from residents to the demographic changes.
“You can anticipate that there will be problems,” Owens said. “If you do anticipate it, why not prepare for it the way you do everything else?”
Owens added that Charles is “at a stage now where we should go beyond just the functions of government which deal with physical things like crime and fire and deal with the human elements there, which are in many ways more complicated, but if allowed to explode out of control, can create quite a number of problems for a locality for a long time.”
Alvin Cohen, 75, a retired college professor who lives in Waldorf, was appointed to the commission and said he hopes the group can address the tensions.
“The county is no longer rural,” he said. “It is no longer farming. It is no longer predominantly white. It is no longer just Methodist and Catholic. So there’s a tremendous amount of diversity. That creates some problems.”
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Paying the bills in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• A judge ordered O.J. Simpson to hand over loot that a Florida lawyer was holding for him in order to pay Ron Goldman’s family for the $33.5 million wrongful death judgment. The Florida lawyer is probably holding about $3,500. Which would reduce the amount owed to roughly $33.5 million.
• Rapper Eve pleaded not guilty to DUI charges stemming from an April 26 car accident in Hollywood. The artist drove her Maserati into a concrete center median at 2:40 am with a blood-alcohol level of at least .08 and no proof of insurance. Gee, she must have been drunk when pleading not guilty.
• A millionaire couple in New York were charged with slavery for allegedly keeping two female Indonesian housekeepers confined for years. According to prosecutors, the women were beaten, burned with scalding water and forced to climb stairs as punishment for misdeeds. What’s the big deal? Naomi Campbell has done worse than that to hired help.
• WPP Group shareholders will pay $2 million in legal expenses for advertising honcho Martin Sorrell’s libel suit against Italian ad executives who allegedly called him a “mad dwarf.” What’s the big deal? Adman and blogger George Parker has called Sorrell far worse than that. Also, are the shareholders possibly named Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy—with Sorrell aka Grumpy?
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Carter News in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Former President Jimmy Carter backpedaled over his remarks that the Bush administration is “the worst in history” for its international relations (see Essay 3050). Carter now says the comments were “careless or misinterpreted,” and he explained, “I wasn’t comparing this administration with other administrations back through history but just with President Nixon.” The White House responded by declaring Carter as “increasingly irrelevant.” Sounds like the perfect slogan for the current administration.
• Jay-Z, aka Shawn Carter, was hit with a lawsuit from staffers at his trendy 40/40 Club, charged with skimping on pay. Guess the workers were hoping for a 50/50 split.
The missive above ran in a recent Advertising Age Letters To The Editor section. Don’t mean to overreact, but in many respects, it spotlights the growing issue of ageism on Madison Avenue.
F. Stone Roberts is undoubtedly a well-meaning, upstanding citizen. But he also appears to be a standard prick, representing his peeps in stereotypical fashion.
Roberts is divisive, judgmental and condescending—displaying the arrogance that contributes to our industry’s global exclusivity. The defensive tone, probably fueled by paranoia, comes off as offensive. Roberts’ exposition is rife with “we” and “us” versus “they” and “them.” Whassup with that?
Roberts boasts the 4As committee of “CEOs and the ‘influential of the industry’” probes topics ranging “from the ever-evolving industry model to emerging digital media to diversity in the workplace.” Hey, somebody draft a memo when our leaders hatch directions and solutions for any of the listed subjects.
Roberts notes the absence of specific folks at “the big-boy table.” His revelation speaks volumes. Would anyone not resembling a “big boy” even feel welcome at the summit?
The labeling of Young Turks widens the generational gaps, especially when delivered with sneering sarcasm. Can’t imagine Roberts and his posse would appreciate being tagged as Old Guns or Elder Hacks by the professional community. One can only guess how minorities are addressed in these meetings.
Roberts insists that if the Young Turks “are contributing, it certainly isn’t obvious to anyone.” Not sure why the Old Guns make such proclamations, as if deciding their own ignorance must be shared by everyone. Maybe it’s time for them to quit playing with their 401k plans long enough to observe the landscape and use their collective voice.
Roberts closes by announcing, “It is time to let the Young Turks out of the cage, but it’s our job to make sure they don’t blow up the place.” An admission of segregation and oppression coupled with an invitation featuring dictatorial restrictions.
Bravo, Old Gun, bravo!
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Immigration anxiety is cultural
By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- On Thursday, senators announced a rather remarkable bipartisan compromise on immigration reform that combines border enforcement, a guest worker program, a path to legalization for illegal immigrants, tougher employer sanctions, and an education/skills-based point system for future immigrants.
The same day, the Census Bureau reported what many Americans already know: The United States is becoming a Hispanic nation. Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority with 44.3 million people and they account for almost half the growth in the U.S. population. Meanwhile, since 2000, the white school-age population dropped 4 percent, and the white population shrank in sixteen states.
The stories are connected. Anti-illegal immigration crusaders claim their worries are entirely practical -- tied to border security or the cost of entitlements or the fact that illegal immigrants supposedly depress wages for the low skilled.
(That reminds me. Memo to the low skilled: “Grow up. Stop complaining. And go get more skills. Then you won’t have to suffer the humiliation of being driven out of the market by folks with a sixth-grade education who are here illegally and don’t even speak English.”)
But I digress …
As someone who has written about immigration for more than 15 years, and heard from hundreds of thousands of readers along the way, I can tell you that most of the anxiety over illegal immigration is cultural. People worry about changing demographics, the encroachment of Spanish, the fear that the country is becoming Hispanic-ized, etc. One sociologist called it “cultural displacement” -- the fear that your children will grow up in a world different than the one you grew up in, with fewer advantages, where they will have to work harder for what they accomplish.
One of the more fearful members of Congress is Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-California. Last year, while campaigning, he told a largely white audience near San Diego that if we don’t end illegal immigration, one day our children would live in a world where instead of electing to take Spanish in high school, they’ll have to take Spanish. Bilbray now heads the House Immigration Reform Caucus. That’s where members of Congress come together at regular meetings and complain about illegal immigration while counting the campaign contributions they collect from businesses back home, many of which undoubtedly profit from hiring illegal immigrants.
Last week, Bilbray popped up on one newscast after another and milked his 15 minutes. He opposes the Senate plan, which he calls -- wait for it -- amnesty. But, like most of the critics, he offers no alternate piece of legislation to solve the problem over which he claims to be worried sick.
The Senate compromise isn’t perfect. But it’s bold and thoughtful, and it’s a start. It also did something that’s very significant -- dividing traditional allies and uniting traditional adversaries.
If the deal crumbles, we’ll return to the status quo. Illegal immigrants will still come to the United States do jobs that Americans won’t do. And employers will still hire them. Nothing will change. No one will be punished or held accountable. There’s a word for that. I know -- wait for it: amnesty.
[Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of The San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist.]
Monday, May 21, 2007
From The New York Times…
Will Gentrification Spoil the Birthplace of Hip-Hop?
By DAVID GONZALEZ
Hip-hop was born in the west Bronx. Not the South Bronx, not Harlem and most definitely not Queens. Just ask anybody at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue — an otherwise unremarkable high-rise just north of the Cross Bronx and hard along the Major Deegan.
“This is where it came from,” said Clive Campbell, pointing to the building’s first-floor community room. “This is it. The culture started here and went around the world. But this is where it came from. Not anyplace else.”
O.K., Mr. Campbell is not just anybody — he is the alpha D.J. of hip-hop. As D.J. Kool Herc, he presided over the turntables at parties in that community room in 1973 that spilled into nearby parks before turning into a global assault. Playing snippets of the choicest beats from James Brown, Jimmy Castor, Babe Ruth and anything else that piqued his considerable musical curiosity, he provided the soundtrack savored by loose-limbed b-boys (a term he takes credit for creating, too).
Mr. Campbell thinks the building should be declared a landmark in recognition of its role in American popular culture. Its residents agree, but for more practical reasons. They want to have the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places so that it might be protected from any change that would affect its character — in this case, a building for poor and working-class families.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
From The Los Angeles Times…
L.A. gang members go union
A rising number of gangbangers are moving into well-paid futures as members of the region’s building trade unions.
By Sam Quinones, Times Staff Writer
Shortly after his release from prison four years ago, Julio Silva entered the apprenticeship program in the Ironworkers Union Local 433 in La Palma.
To his alarm, he learned that ironworkers called all first-year apprentices “punk.”
He had been an East Los Angeles gang member, a drug user, and a car burglar in and out of jail. In that world, a “punk” was someone’s prison sex slave.
But Silva tried not to let it bother him. The more he worked at his new job, the more his skills improved. Ironwork became the one legal thing he had done well. It also paid $29 an hour, plus benefits.
Glimpsing a future, Silva’s desire to do drugs was replaced by his determination to master the use of sleever bars and spud crescents.
After Silva’s first year on the job, the ironworkers simply called him Julio.
“I never thought my history would allow me to have something more than $7 an hour,” said Silva, 37. “I don’t see this happening nowhere else but in the union. It’s given me the best opportunity of my life.”
Silva is among a large and growing number of Southern California gang members who have joined building-trade unions over the last decade as construction work has boomed. These good-paying jobs were once reserved for those with family connections, as fathers recruited sons.
But today, beset by nonunion competition and an aging membership, unions have stepped up recruitment in minority enclaves where many young men have criminal pasts. Now homeboy recruits homeboy.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
From The New York Daily News...
Thugs make a killing at society’s expense
By Stanley Crouch
When we look back on this era of especially muddled thinking we will celebrate Harlem’s Geoffrey Canada for not being afraid to step out by himself and pin the tail on the donkey of hip hop for aiding and abetting the criminal culture that oppresses so many so-called minorities in our country.
I was most impressed when Canada came out against the way that hip hop celebrates those who refuse to inform on criminals, otherwise known as snitching.
Kansas City journalist Jason Whitlock says of this trend that the most popular hip-hop recordings now promote what he calls “prison values,” or the criminal vision that comes from the dark world behind bars, where the siren song of those who make the streets so mean was once heard most clearly and influentially.
As Canada told Anderson Cooper on television recently, advocating the refusal to cooperate with police is saying something very destructive to black youth.
“It’s like we’re saying to the criminals, you can have our community. Just have our community. Do anything you want, and we will either deal with it ourselves, or we will simply ignore it,” Canada said.
If one looks at the level of urban oppression that is shown in the national rise of homicides committed with guns, Canada must be taken seriously. The black and Latino victims constitute the largest numbers of the murdered. The epidemic rise of murders with firearms in Newark prompted James Ahearn to write, “Typically, shooter and victim are both black, male, young, with arrest records, uneducated, with dim life prospects. The killers act with careless indifference to the enormity of what they have done, or to the likelihood that they in turn will be cut down, in retribution.”
As they display the gilded imbecility of “bling” while riding in the most expensive cars and living in gated communities, the rappers who promote the idea that informing to the police is some sort of sin have become another menace to society.
They have expanded upon their identities as buffoon thug minstrels so that they could now easily be considered the most dangerous Uncle Toms of the moment.
This may be hard for those who can never accept the idea of black people having anything at all to do with their group’s oppression. The young are dazzled by the vulgar finery of the rappers while the black middle class is overly impressed by the riches of these young men.
Once again it is obvious that the civil rights establishment has fallen asleep at the wheel by failing to stand up for the rights of those they purportedly represent. The civil rights establishment should be no more concerned about being called old-fashioned than those whom Southern white racists accused of being “outside agitators” during the 1960s.
Ironically, what we now have is an urban version of the Southern violence that gave such a bloody reputation to the members of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizen’s Council. Gangs like the Crips and the Bloods are exactly the same — ever ready to murder and intimidate the witnesses to their crimes.
Albert Camus once wrote that he preferred to look his fate in the eyes. For too many in the black lower class, their fate is to be murdered, mutilated and brutalized by contemptuous street gangs and by the criminals who have been made into an elite by the worst of hip hop. It is time for all of us to look that fate in the eyes and move to change it by whatever means are as legal as they are necessary.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Trash talking in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Former President Jimmy Carter called the current administration “the worst in history” in international relations. “I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history,” said Carter. “The overt reversal of America’s basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me. … We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered. But that’s been a radical departure from all previous administration policies.” Carter appears to be launching a pre-emptive war of words.
• A lawmaker in Massachusetts is introducing legislation to protect fat and short folks. “This is one of the last physical aspects of people that you can acceptably laugh about,” said the Massachusetts Democrat. “You can be a shock jock on the radio and talk about fat people for a solid week, and no one would ever think of having you lose your job. It’s still acceptable.” The proposal applies mostly to the workplace, but also deals with landlords and real estate. This could mean trouble for Donald Trump and his constant trashing of Rosie O’Donnell.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Why do women take it when Hip-Hop insists on ‘keeping it real’?
BY AMY ALEXANDER
Here is a cultural paradox for you: Young, smart, seemingly self-confident women of color who put up with even the most raunchily misogynistic rap and hip-hop music. We're all familiar with the commercial and cultural trajectory of the music and how, since its emergence in gritty New York neighborhoods 25 years ago, it has become a global phenomenon, generating billions of dollars in sales and spawning fashion, linguistic and sociopolitical trends that have entered the mainstream.
Along with all the bling and snap, the rise of the Hip-Hop Nation also has earned negative attention for its more unsavory behavioral byproducts, including violence in the name of “keeping it real” and a normalization of a “get rich or die trying” ethos.
But more troubling than the mainstreaming of violence and acquisitive values has been the rise in misogynistic attitudes among performers and their acceptance by fans of both sexes, according to Pimps Up, Ho’s Down, by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting.
Director of African-American and diaspora studies at Vanderbilt University, Sharpley-Whiting argues, with mixed results, that a general coarsening of hip-hop culture -- in its lyrics and the videos and marketing built around the music -- claims women as its biggest victims. She observes that some of the women who subscribe to the culture do so willingly, even as they are denigrated and abused onstage and off. It is not a new observation, but in this slim volume, she gets at the heart of the paradox.
“As much as the sexploitation of young black women is necessary to the ‘keep it real’ mantra of hip hop artists, corporate bottom lines, and marketing strategies, we must acknowledge our own role in this troubling relationship.”
Sharpley-Whiting tosses off an incendiary notion that requires more exploration than she provides: Young black women you see shaking their nearly naked rumps in all those videos or who serve as groupies to male rappers or who appear in increasingly popular underground hip-hop porn films are willing, if misguided, participants in their own debasement.
They are not alone, Sharpley-Whiting argues, in falling into the cesspool of rot that is laying waste to many aspects of American pop culture. It’s just that few of them believe they have other options for artistic or commercial success, and fewer still see themselves as taking part in third-wave feminism, the “sex-positive” movement that has made public displays of sexuality more acceptable for white women. In stating her case, Sharpley-Whiting cites a wide range of sources, from the black intellectual Frantz Fanon to journalists Greg Tate and Stanley Crouch to Pamela Des Barres, author of I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie. But, like many academics who write about pop culture, Sharpley-Whiting fails to connect with readers in clear, layman’s language:
“And even more mind-bending than the length, girth, and bland performances of the churlish cabal of male hip-hop stars are the motivations articulated by the women in ‘Groupie Confessions,’” she writes, all but defying readers to make sense of that sentence. The result is a frustratingly enigmatic discussion that encapsulates a grand theme without coaxing forth the emotional punch that might allow readers to grasp it.
Surprisingly, it is left to a rap performer to point out the paradox that underlies Sharpley-Whiting’s premise -- how successful, “respected” black women like Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice and Halle Berry exist on the same continuum with Karrine Steffans, author of the best-selling roman a clef, Confessions of a Video Vixen, and her numerous nubile counterparts who are seen shaking their moneymakers in videos.
In a 1989 interview, former 2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell said, “Traditionally black people are really conservative. They’re more conservative than whites are, in my opinion. … With this whole tradition of sexuality (in hip-hop) most black people are nervous about that.”
So how do black female hip-hop consumers reconcile their love of the genre? And what can be done to bring them to a healthier place, in terms of their own self-image and to erase their vulnerability to hip-hop’s less savory side? Sharpley-Whiting doesn’t have the answers, and maybe no one does, but at least she’s put the discussion on the turntable.
[Amy Alexander is a free-lance writer. This review first appeared in the Washington Post.]
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Method to the madness in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Method Man was busted for smoking and possessing marijuana after a cop pulled him over for an expired car sticker. The arresting officer caught the rapper with two blunts and about 28 grams of dope. Doesn’t that stuff come standard with rapper rides?
• NBC announced its prime-time fall lineup for next season, and “The Apprentice” was not on the list. Donald Trump responded by telling NBC he’s quitting and “moving on from ‘The Apprentice’ to a major new TV venture.” Um, somebody explain to Trump that you don’t quit after being fired.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Frivolous ad trivializes heart-rending decision
BY PATRICK T. MURPHY
For the past two years, I have been hearing divorce and domestic violence cases. Divorce lawyers sometimes get a bad rap. However, I have been impressed by most of the lawyers who have appeared in front of me. Most attempt to shepherd their clients through difficult and painful times with minimum stress and rancor while charging a reasonable fee. Most.
Recently two divorce lawyers sponsored a billboard in Chicago that gained nationwide notoriety. The billboard gave the names and phone number of the attorneys and stated: “Life’s short. Get a divorce.” The billboard contained two enormous photographs -- one of a nearly naked young woman with apparently surgically enhanced breasts and one of a nearly naked young man with an apparently steroid-enhanced body.
Some critics have inferred that the message of the billboard was: Get a divorce, and if you hire these lawyers you most certainly will end up with a much more exciting companion. And I suspect that the subliminal message had this or some equally sleazy message. But anyone who actually believes this drivel deserves the lawyers, and their spouse is most certainly better off without him or her. The real problem with this frivolous ad is that it trivializes one of the most painful and momentous events in the lives of many people.
Often couples find that they cannot continue in the relationship. They grow apart. Finances, children, in-laws and debt pick people apart. Arguments increase. Words become vicious. Children cower in corners. The pain becomes overwhelming, and the parties must separate and divorce, for their own sanity and that of their children.
Recently, I dealt with the case of a wonderful young couple and their five beautiful and intelligent children. Divorce was inevitable. But the children were torn, as were the parents. The kids obviously want their parents to stay together and to be happy, but at some level recognized that this was impossible. One child, a 10-year-old boy, wished to live with his dad although he loved his mom and wanted to see her. The others were ambivalent but wanted to remain together.
The parents desperately loved all their children. In the end, one will become the residential parent while the other will visit three or four days every two weeks but miss much of the excitement that goes with having the children every day. And even the residential parent will suffer by not having the children on a daily basis.
The parties will also have to sell their home because neither can afford to keep it up without the assistance of the other. Nothing frivolous or trivial here.
Every day, men and women step up in front of me with tears welling up in their eyes, even sobbing, while becoming divorced. They are recalling the courtship, the first kiss, the wedding day, the news of the first pregnancy, the sacrifices to purchase the first home, the day one of them lost a job, the serious illness suffered by one of the kids, the great report card, the day the son got suspended for fighting in school, the picnic in the park, the trip to Disneyland, the cold nights in a warm bed together. In most divorces, there still is a great deal of love, appreciation for what was and warmth for the other party.
Yes, there are the recriminations, pettiness, jealousy and hatred. But most frequently, the good and the bad emotions are all swirling around together. And that is what creates the pain and misery in even the most inevitable of divorces.
Most who are muddling through a divorce need the help of an attorney dedicated to his or her needs and sensitive to his or her pain. The billboard in question did little for the dignity of the divorce bar. Worse, it gives those going through divorces little confidence in finding an understanding attorney to help them through this most complex and emotional of times.
Patrick T. Murphy is a judge in the Domestic Relations division of the Circuit Court of Cook County and hears divorce and domestic violence cases.
From The Chicago Tribune…
Racial demons rear heads
After months of unrest between blacks and whites in Louisiana town, some see racism and uneven justice
By Howard Witt
Tribune senior correspondent
JENA, La. -- The trouble in Jena started with the nooses. Then it rumbled along the town’s jagged racial fault lines. Finally, it exploded into months of violence between blacks and whites.
Now the 3,000 residents of this small lumber and oil town deep in the heart of central Louisiana are confronting Old South racial demons many thought had long ago been put to rest.
One morning last September, students arrived at the local high school to find three hangman’s nooses dangling from a tree in the courtyard.
The tree was on the side of the campus that, by long-standing tradition, had always been claimed by white students, who make up more than 80 percent of the 460 students. But a few of the school’s 85 black students had decided to challenge the accepted state of things and asked school administrators if they, too, could sit beneath the tree’s cooling shade.
“Sit wherever you want,” school officials told them. The next day, the nooses were hanging from the branches.
African-American students and their parents were outraged and intimidated by the display, which instantly summoned memories of the mob lynchings that once terrorized blacks across the American South. Three white students were quickly identified as being responsible, and the high school principal recommended that they be expelled.
“Hanging those nooses was a hate crime, plain and simple,” said Tracy Bowens, a black mother of two students at the high school who protested the incident at a school board meeting.
But Jena’s white school superintendent, Roy Breithaupt, ruled that the nooses were just a youthful stunt and suspended the students for three days, angering blacks who felt harsher punishments were justified.
“Adolescents play pranks,” said Breithaupt, the superintendent of the LaSalle Parish school system. “I don’t think it was a threat against anybody.”
Yet it was after the noose incident that the violent, racially charged events that are still convulsing Jena began.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]