Saturday, June 30, 2007
Round 2: Bart Cleveland vs. Hadji Williams at adage.com’s Small Agency Diary…
I doubt anyone of consequence disagrees with your assessment that the industry needs improvement in the area of diversity. Your contention is that our problems are intentional, I contend they are not. My response about you looking to your book as a possible cause for your frustration was not intended as a backhanded shot. I know when I’ve had disappointments in my career I have found solutions looking to my own efforts. I can see that we don’t share that ailment, so ignore the advice and please don’t be offended by it. I agree with you that the industry can and should improve and would be better for it. I don’t agree with your opinion of why it is where it is. Let’s leave it at that. I hope you will not have to wait until the day you die to see an improvement. Best of luck to you. —Bart Cleveland, Albuquerque, NM
Let’s clarify a couple things to wrap this up:
I don’t need a hug. I don’t need a job. I don’t need attention. Our industry is comprised of people who refuse to accept that the vast majority of its problems—collective myopia, shortage of innovative ideas, shrinking talent pools, adaptation to change, understanding of consumers—are tied almost inextricably to homogenized hiring practices and arrogant attitudes towards ethnic professionals, consumers, and agencies/vendors and media outlets serving communities of color. Period. Whether or not the ad/marketing and pr industries change will not be about me, but rather it’ll be about their desire to look in the mirror and do some self-improvement of their own before it’s too late. —Hadji Williams, Chicago, IL
Ratting out the news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Farfour, the Mickey Mouse look-alike who preached Islamic domination to kids on a Hamas TV show, was killed in the final episode. An actor portraying an Israeli official beat the mouse to death. “Farfour was martyred while defending his land,” said a kid on the program. The kid also proclaimed that Farfour was murdered “by the killers of children.” Officials announced new programs will replace the show. Look forward to a Donald Duck suicide bomber.
• A woman accused of robbing rapper Foxy Brown was released after Foxy failed to show up at a grand jury to testify. The rapper had insisted she was not the victim of any crime, despite the cops’ charges and evidence. Sounds like a case of rapper profiling.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Sex and politics in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama appealed to Black voters during the latest debate held at Howard University. “Let me just put this in perspective: If HIV-AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country,” said Clinton. Obama countered with, “We have made enormous progress, but the progress we have made is not good enough. … The criminal-justice system is not colorblind. … It is absolutely critical for us to recognize that there are going to be responsibilities on the part of African-Americans and other groups to take personal responsibility to rise up out of the problems that we face.” Even John Edwards freestyled, “The truth is that slavery followed by segregation followed by discrimination has had an impact that still is alive and well in America. It goes through every single part of American life.” Then Clinton performed a Negro Spiritual (pictured above).
• Charges of sexual harassment are being leveled at ESPN personalities by a makeup artist who was fired from the network. The woman claims anchor Jay Crawford and commentator Woody Paige groped her, demanded lap dances and hollered things like, “Wanna see what’s in my pants? … Wanna fuck? … Can you give me a handjob today?” Bet they’re also petitioning to add a nudie centerfold into ESPN magazine.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Ethnic biases stronger than ever
BY ANDREW GREELEY
As the 19th century turned into the 20th, Americans began to worry about the stability of their society and its culture. Strange languages were spoken on the streets, strange-looking people in strange clothes were shopping in our stores. Strange smells percolated in certain neighborhoods. Strange customs were appearing on strange holidays. These strangers were pouring into our country. They threatened our democracy, our way of life, our culture, our religious beliefs, our economy, our blood stock. Why didn’t they stay in their own countries?
The answer is they were caught in a demographic transition -- the birth rate had increased and the death rate had fallen. A population explosion was driving people out of eastern and southern Europe.
In the decade before the beginning of the Great War, the government established a commission, presided over by Sen. William P. Dillingham of Vermont, to recommend restrictions of immigration from Europe. Many of the immigrants were of inferior races, as 19th century “scientific” racialism defined inferior. It was evident to explorers that Asian and African races were inferior to the “white” races. However, all one had to do was to observe eastern and southern Europeans to realize that they were inferior too. Indeed, the most successful of the races were the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Surely they represented, along perhaps with the Germans, the greatest progress in human civilization.
Therefore, the Dillingham Commission informed the country that it was patent that Italians were an innately criminal race, that the Poles had very limited intelligence, that Jews were incapable of honest business dealings and that the Irish were shiftless, superstitious and incapable of ambition. Such individuals could never become good Americans. On the basis of “science” like this, the commission recommended draconian limitations on immigration. The country sighed with relief.
These “racial” stereotypes persist -- not as vehement as they once were, but still part of the national unconscious. “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos” fit perfectly. So does the film “The Break-up,” in which Vince Vaughn plays an insensitive oaf. He is subtly labeled “Pole” by the huge Polish flag, complete with the Polish eagle, on the wall of his office. The lazy, alcoholic Irish laugh all the way to their hedge-fund manager.
A Mexican-American high school sophomore sent me an e-mail asking why other Americans hate them so much and tell so many lies about them. My answer is that Dillingham is alive and well. They don’t want more people with somewhat darker skin who can never become good Americans.
Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington has argued that Mexicans do not want to acculturate into our Protestant political and social system. Don’t tell me, kid, that you can refute all the “facts” they propound to establish your inferiority (you’re second generation, but you have no right to the educated prose of your e-mail). The bigots (less than a third of the country) who hate you know in the depths of their souls that you and your kind are an inferior people who are trying to take over their country and ruin it. We don’t need no more Mexican flags at soccer matches and certainly no more statues of Guadalupe parading down our streets.
More seriously, young woman, you’re very smart, the kind of young person this country needs. I pray to God that you can avoid the stormtroopers who might throw you out of the country. Given half a chance, you will become a successful American. Maybe someday you can laugh at them all the way to your hedge-fund broker.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
I’m a racist? Those are fighting words
Blacks understand what white columnist doesn’t: Race matters
BY MARY MITCHELL Sun-Times Columnist
When a white male colleague calls his black female co-worker a racist, what should she do?
Walk down the hall and punch him in the nose?
Of course not. I’d be fired for workplace violence.
But that was exactly what I felt like doing Wednesday when I read Neil Steinberg’s item in which he attacked me (without mentioning my name) for my perspective on the media coverage of Bobby Cutts Jr., the black man who is charged with killing his white pregnant girlfriend in Canton, Ohio.
In my column, I noted that the media pounded the message home that Cutts, the father of three children by three women and carrying on an affair with the victim, Jessie Marie Davis, is a lowlife.
Yet, we tiptoed around the fact that Christopher Vaughn, the white man now charged with killing his wife and three children, was most likely the killer.
Indeed, the Vaughn case was shrouded in mystery, while the Cutts case was so wide open, we knew his personal business almost immediately.
Debate still going on 17 yrs. later
The difference in how these similarly heinous crimes were framed in the media had to do with race, I argued.
And had Cutts murdered a pregnant black woman, we wouldn’t know what she looked like.
In fact, the last time a kidnapped black woman made headlines or the cable news channels (she later turned up dead), her family had to browbeat and shame the cable stations into carrying the story.
As for the Vaughn family -- the media kept harping on the fact that they were the “perfect” family. Now we hear that they weren’t so perfect after all.
Call it what you will, the media are often biased when it comes to covering these issues.
Don’t believe it? Show up at a meeting at the National Association of Black Journalists, Chicago chapter. No matter what the topic, the discussion will end on this subject.
This debate over media bias was going on when I arrived in the newsroom 17 years ago, and it is still going on today.
But Neil Steinberg has become a self-appointed critic of my views on race.
“[T]o claim that Cutts was portrayed in a negative fashion ‘because he is black’ while Vaughn was displayed positively ‘because he is white’ is to a) cry wolf and b) succumb to an inverse kind of racism…,” Steinberg wrote.
First of all, the language in quotes is Steinberg's, not mine.
For the record, this is what I wrote:
“Although just about everyone I spoke with thought Vaughn must have killed his family, he was given the respect due any grieving father by the media. The Vaughns were portrayed as the perfect suburban family, with Christopher Vaughn, a forensic adviser, being described as ‘low-key.’
“For something so sinister to happen, there had to be a lot more negativity going on with this guy than what was being reported. But Vaughn was given the benefit of the doubt in the media, which increases his chances of getting a fair trial.
“Cutts was not.
“The difference in these sensational crimes isn’t character. It’s race.”
3rd explanation not mentioned
Steinberg has the right to disagree with me. In fact, he could have come down the hall, pulled up a chair, and we could have talked about our different perspectives.
Steinberg didn’t do that. He used his platform to label me a racist. That shouldn’t surprise me, since my critics at SCORE radio trashed me, as well, on Tuesday afternoon, prompting a black listener and reader to call me, enraged.
I’m comforted by the fact that a lot of black people knew where I was coming from. And since white people haven’t walked a step in our shoes, they don’t get to tell us what our views on race ought to be, anyway.
Few blacks and whites agree on this subject. And frankly, quiet as kept, most black people couldn’t care less about what white people have to say when it comes to race.
Steinberg -- who can wax poetic about one black woman he doesn’t know in the same column that he takes a cheap shot at one he does – doesn’t have the right to label me a racist even when he wraps the offensive label in clever wit.
There’s a third explanation that Steinberg didn’t mention about why Cutts was portrayed in a negative fashion and Vaughn wasn’t.
Frankly, most often, the people who make the decision about how blacks are characterized in the media look more like Steinberg than they do me.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Once again, Hadji Williams drops in on AdAge.com’s Small Agency Diary…
Help! I’ve Been Pigeonholed!
The Difficulty of Getting People to See Beyond Your Specialty
By Doug Zanger
It only took four months, but I finally got my radio/audio consultancy and website up and running. pOne partners is equal parts labor of love and a culmination of 12 years of just plain old labor. The philosophy behind it is pretty simple: I’m trying to leverage the subtleties of the ebbs and flows of radio advertising and audio content and how they fit within the framework of the bigger advertising picture to develop highly specific consulting products.
Are we a “radio agency?” I suppose we are to a degree. Where I part company with conventional wisdom is in my perception. To me, it’s not about just being an “agency” but rather a creative and (sometimes) strategic “gap filler,” using radio and audio as the foundation. Our goal isn’t to replace but to enhance what is already in place for radio stations, advertising agencies, advertisers, programmers, interactive agencies and content providers.
The pOne position is also about advocacy. We take stewardship of radio seriously. Part of the evolution is to have an internship program that encourages younger people to see how dynamic and exciting this part of the industry can be. By doing so, we hope to develop a new generation of talent that can evolve the medium. We also strongly support the Freeplay Foundation, a UK-based non-profit that donates Freeplay Lifeline radios, primarily to remote areas of Africa and other underdeveloped countries around the world. In fact, 5% of all pOne sales will go to their efforts.
What I am finding most challenging is articulating why pOne is different. There are some preconceived ideas of my background that, whether I like it or not, have been created by the body of work that I have done over the years. After the press release hit, I started receiving congratulatory e-mails from people I hadn’t heard from in quite awhile. Some still think that I am a radio producer. Some think I pretty much just do voice work. Most still think of me as that guy who produces good radio spots and station imaging.
I was taken aback at first, because I thought that I had evolved from being just one or two things. I have, in some ways, been pigeonholed. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Yes, I have a good standing in radio that I am immensely proud of and this is the obvious place for me to hang my hat and continue to grow. But I did a little writing and voice work for the TBS Humor Study a few years ago. (I am the French, Spanish and German voice of Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza in one part of the site and Sean Connery in another.) I teach advertising at a college here in Oregon. I write some TV and print. I was the voice of Patrick Henry in an animated educational DVD that was just released. I’m doing some broad branding work for a few clients. I produce video content. I consult radio stations and sales staffs. I even have a couple of screenplays in varying degrees of “doneness.” I suppose I will always be that “radio guy,” and I’ll gladly take it as long as I get a shot at doing some of these other things along the way because I honestly believe that they can be of real value to a client.
Clearly, I am in a specialized chair, finding that I have yet to pull it up to the rest of the world's table in some ways. But from where I sit, this opens up a remarkable opportunity to introduce pOne and its core mission to an entirely new audience and reintroduce myself to the people who have been part of the success and professional fulfillment I have enjoyed for over a decade. Even if it means starting off by being the “radio guy who does the good spots.”
Believe me, if that’s what it takes to move things forward, I’m all for it.
Do you find yourself or your company pigeonholed sometimes? Why? Is it good or is it bad?
How would you define the difference between having a “specialization” and being “pigeonholed?”
Do you think that specialization can engender good, broad work or the other way around?
There’s pigeonholing, then there’s specialization.
Sometimes you’re just good at what you’re good at—and what you’re good just so happens to be in great demand so the same opportunities continue to come your way. Like attracts like. There’s no shame in just being a great radio guy or a great spot media buyer or a great billboard headline writer and nothing else.
The real problem comes if you’re systematically, time and time again, not allowed to try anything else for arbitrary reasons, or god forbid, nefarious ones that have nothing to do with your abilities or the needs of your clients.
Case in point:
By virtue of nothing else but having majority black, hispanic, and/or asian staffs, America’s ethnic agencies are pigeonholed into subcontractor status and banned from the AOR portion of accounts. Imagine being told, “Doug, you’re great, but you’re White, so here’s the ‘white portion’ of the budget and nothing else. Ever. Now go get ‘em tiger!”
That’s what ethnic agencies endure. No matter how broad-reaching and breakthrough their ideas may be, no matter how smart or on-point their staffers are, they’re not even allowed to discuss being an AOR for any client. Ever. Only White agencies get to be AORs. Ethnic shops, by the way, get about 5% of the typical GM client’s budget.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re a direct response firm, a sales promo shop, an interactive agency, a boutique or a traditional broadcast shop. If your agency ain’t white-run/majority white staffed, you cannot be an AOR. Period.
Now add to this being forced to “translate” the AOR’s creative and strategy (which was created for an audience different from yours) for your audience regardless of its relevancy and efficacy to your audience. Why? Because you’re “just an ethnic shop” and it’s play the game or not play at all.
So yeah... being pigeonholed is a bad thing. —Hadji Williams, Chicago, IL
Court jesters in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Michael and Janet Jackson continue their court fight to get back items that were slated for auction. The stuff includes Janet’s marriage certificate to singer James DeBarge and Jacko’s collection of Three Stooges photos. Which technically brings the number of stooges involved in this scenario to six.
• The jury is out on the decision to seat an all-White jury for a Louisiana trial with racial overtones. The case involves a group of Black students who allegedly beat a White classmate. “I’m sure I can get a fair trial,” said one defense lawyer. “You can’t tell me there aren’t six people in this town who won’t listen fairly and do the right thing. I think people have a tendency to do the right thing.” They say justice is blind, but this lawyer appears to be deaf and dumb too.
• A recent study showed Whites may be overrepresented in Manhattan jury pools, while Hispanics are the most underrepresented group. The writer of the study remarked, “Even if it’s difficult to have a mathematical representation for every trial, we shouldn’t have a system where there’s effectively no representation.” Somebody send that guy to Louisiana.
From The Chicago Tribune…
Hate crimes, special victims and media bias
By Kathleen Parker
WASHINGTON -- The fallacy of hate crime laws -- the prosecution of which requires a degree of mind-reading not yet available to most Earthlings -- has been cast into stark relief the last few weeks after an interracial rape-murder that has bestirred white supremacists and led to death threats against an African-American columnist.
The spark that caused the firestorm was the brutal rape-murder of a young white couple, Channon Christian and Chris Newsom, who were carjacked in January in Knoxville, Tenn. Five blacks -- four men and a woman -- have been charged in connection with the slayings.
Because the story didn’t receive national media attention, some commentators and others have asserted that the media do not treat racial crimes equally. They point out that when a black stripper charged three white members of the Duke University lacrosse team with rape, the national media grabbed the story by the ankle and wouldn’t let go. Not so Knoxville.
The perception of media bias is understandable -- and a credible case can be made that the media rushed to condemn the Duke athletes because it fit a recognizable racial narrative, especially in the South. But while race was clearly a factor in stimulating media interest, other factors absent from the Knoxville case -- privilege, town-and-gown conflicts, politics, underage drinking and the name Duke -- also added to the broader “story” appeal.
Nevertheless, the media’s largely unskeptical embrace of the charges in the absence of due process, coincident with the horrible events in Knoxville, have stoked passions among some whites who contend that black-on-white crime is underreported.
Adding to the current heat is the decision that the Knoxville blacks won’t be charged for hate crimes. Officials say that because the accused have had white friends, they weren’t driven by racial hatred.
That seems a flimsy argument, but it does serve to underscore the potential errancy and misapplication of laws that rely on the subjective judgment of others’ psychological motives. As the mother of one of the victims said: “If this wasn’t a hate crime, then I don’t know how you would define a hate crime.”
Hate crimes are not defined only by motive, but by their effect on other members of the same group. The argument for hate crime laws is that crimes motivated by animus toward an individual because of race, sex, gender identity or disability victimize all members of that group by causing fear and intimidation.
Adding still more fuel to the media bias claim is a group of white supremacists on one side and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts on the other. Pitts drew fire when he pointed out that the Knoxville incident wasn’t considered a hate crime and refuted claims that black crime is underreported. He ended his column with four words for whites who feel oppressed: “Cry me a river.”
That’s pure columnist flare, but decidedly, um, gutsy considering the likely reaction from people who are not widely known for tolerance. A neo-Nazi group has posted Pitts’ address, phone number and his wife’s name on its Web site, Overthrow.com. Pitts has received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, including several death threats that are being investigated by the FBI.
Obviously, Overthrow’s editor and the 280 contributors to his American National Socialist Workers Party are the definition of a fringe group that doesn’t deserve so much attention. But the same also might be said about those who commit “hate crimes.”
In 2005, among about 7,000 hate crimes -- mostly characterized by intimidation (48.9 percent) and simple assault (30.2 percent) -- just six murders and three forcible rapes were reported as fitting the hate crime definition, according to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics report. Though we may hate “hate crimes,” those numbers hardly seem sufficient to justify extra laws designating a special category for certain crime victims.
Groups such as the Anti-Defamation League have insisted that hate crime laws are necessary because crimes that make minority communities fearful “damage the fabric of our society and fragment communities.”
The Duke and Knoxville cases cast serious doubts on that premise. It is human nature to resent groups and individuals deemed more special than others.
Signaling through laws (or media treatment) that one group’s suffering is more grievous than another’s -- or that one person's murder is worse than another’s -- is also likely to fragment communities, as well as to engender the very animosities such laws are meant to deter.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Cleaning up the news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The lawsuit involving a Washington judge seeking $54 million from a dry cleaners for misplacing his trousers is finally over, and the judge is the big loser. For starters, the judge was ordered to pay about $1,000 in court costs; plus, he may have to cover the legal fees of his opponents. He originally charged that the dry cleaners failed to live up to store signs stating “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” But the judge ruling on the case wrote, “A reasonable consumer would not interpret ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’ to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer’s unreasonable demands.” So much for the customer always being right.
• A new study released by the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility showed that it will take over 100 years before Latinos are well-represented in the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies. Despite the fact that Latinos are the fastest-growing segment in the U.S., the group has been slow to gain access at top corporate levels. “The majority of companies are run by white guys over 50. The majority of boards are run by white folks,” said the HACR President. “The customer base is different — in Miami, Dallas, LA, the majority of these markets are minority. At some point, people have to wake up.” Yeah, but it will take over 100 years.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Booting Camp in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The number of Blacks joining the armed forces has dramatically dropped—by over 30 percent since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq started. Relatives are leading the anti-recruitment efforts, persuading family members to steer clear of the services. They’re probably using the slogan, “A life is a terrible thing to waste.”
• Southern Blacks reached an education milestone: they’re now as well represented on college campuses as they are in the area’s overall population. “We’ve made tremendous progress, don’t get me wrong,” said an official with the Southern Regional Education Board. But unless achievement gaps are reduced, “we’re going to be in trouble. We already are in trouble, but we’ll be in more trouble seven or eight years down the road.” Maybe they should use the alternative of joining the armed forces as a college recruitment tactic.
This is admittedly a routine rant at MultiCultClassics, but it always makes for an easy essay.
Whenever the topic of diversity in advertising comes up, an angry mob of adfolks quickly rallies. The unruly horde bitterly complains about the prospect of quota hiring. Vicious slurs are hurled at Rev. Jesse Jackson—even when he’s not remotely involved in the scenario. The throng whines that sacred selection standards will be lowered, and slots will be awarded to lesser-qualified candidates.
Exactly what industry do these idiots think they’re in?
Anyone who has spent the shortest stint in advertising can readily attest that jobs are handed out for all sorts of inane reasons. And things like expertise and ability rarely factor into the final decisions.
Here’s an abridged lineup of stereotypical characters that effortlessly land Madison Avenue positions ahead of minorities:
• Children of Agency Executives. The crazy part is, most of these slackers don’t want the gigs, as they often despise being associated with their parents. The pitiful kids bide their time—occasionally selling drugs to staffers—until Mom or Pops can find them a real job.
• Children of Clients. Most of these kids do want the gigs, but they’re woefully ill-suited for the field. In fact, they’re usually just one intellectual rung below the average Special Olympian. Pray for the people assigned to mentor these clueless critters.
• Children of Somebody’s Neighbor. That’s right, virtual nobodies win a place in line before minorities.
• Family Members (including Extended Family Members). Nepotism trumps racism.
• Mistresses. Certain admen with hiring authority are bona fide pimps. Nuff said.
• Boy Toys. It’s equal-opportunity time for the ladies.
• Buddies. Let’s get real. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Unfortunately, the recruited buddy is scarcely ever a stellar performer. Ditto the recruiting buddy. But since agencies dislike paying headhunter fees—and HR officers are too lazy to actively search—companies eagerly settle for any warm body to fill a cubicle.
• Ex-clients. You hated them as clients. You’ll absolutely hate them as teammates.
• Outsiders. Some senior-level jackass hatches the notion that a washed-up punk rocker or sketch comedy writer will inject innovation. Bonus points if these freaks have access to hot groupies.
• Nomadic Poison. These drifters-grifters are becoming increasingly common as new media emerges. They tend to be charlatans who hype and hustle cutting-edge ideas, but never manage to execute anything of value.
• Mercy Hires. The former partner struggling to adapt in the evolving marketplace and recovering from a dependency problem warrants a nod instead of minorities. Mercy Hires spend their days poring over tutorials for QuarkXPress.
It’s guaranteed that anti-diversity adfolks can identify numerous professional peers from the list above. Hell, a lot of the groaners may fall into the infamous categories. But honestly, can they spot a single “quota hire” in their hallways?
If you want to slam controversial roster choices on Madison Avenue, let’s begin by thoroughly examining the existing processes.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Why does Advertising Age’s Small Agency Diary seem to inspire small-minded commentary?
In the past week, Bart Cleveland and Marc Brownstein posted perspectives that drew responses from industry critic Hadji Williams (see Essays 4076 and 4080), and Cleveland’s thread even displayed nastiness (see Essay 4091).
It’s funny how advertising veterans become paranoid and offensive when presented with the prospect of biased behavior on Madison Avenue. Cleveland was particularly stereotypical in his response, choosing to personally attack Williams. Ditto Brad Gutting in subsequent remarks. It’s reminiscent of the recent Don Imus fiasco, where Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton were targeted with death threats after calling out the racist shock jock—although Williams might question being lumped with the Dynamic Duo of Diversity, since he occasionally prefers to title himself as Black Canseco. Additionally, there’s no intention here to brand Cleveland, Brownstein and Gutting as being in any way associated with Imus.
Regardless, it’s interesting to note that Cleveland and Brownstein whined about the pains of finding qualified talent, yet both exhibited zero attempts to stray from the standard recruitment tactics that have fortified our industry’s much-deserved reputation for exclusivity.
Cleveland took ignorance to another level by later posting an unrelated editorial on the imperative for change. Here’s a direct excerpt from his newest proclamation:
“What are you doing different? We all have bad habits that keep us from reaching our true potential. I love change because it forces you to stay on your toes. More importantly, it forces you to look at how you do things today. I hate it when people say, ‘We’ve always done it that way.’ That is the lamest reason I’ve ever heard. Gordon Sawyer founded my previous agency in 1960 in Gainesville, a small north Georgia town that’s biggest industry was chicken farms. Frank Compton used to tell me how Gordon would walk in randomly and make everyone change offices. Frank said it was great because it re-energized everyone, getting them out of whatever ruts they might be in at the time. If a guy from a chicken-farm town can be this forward thinking, I want to be.”
Hmmm. Heaven forbid Cleveland should apply such progressive notions to the search for employees. But he’ll probably be happy to learn that New York City’s Commission on Human Rights has no jurisdiction in New Mexico, where his small agency resides. As always, walking the walk remains a difficult dance move for old school adfolks.
Sunday Knight News in a MultiCultClassics Monlogue…
• Religious parties worldwide are pissed off over Britain’s announcement that author Salman Rushdie will be awarded knighthood. Protestors in Pakistan chanted for Rushdie’s death. One person argued, “Earlier they had published cartoons of our Prophet, and now they have given an award to someone who deserves to be killed.” Rushdie probably hopes the knighthood comes with a suit of bulletproof armor.
• New York police said rapper Foxy Brown was robbed this weekend, with four people teaming up to steal her Louis Vuitton bag, $500 in cash, credit cards and a hearing aid. But Foxy denied the charges, telling The New York Post, “A lot of the time, people mistake me for someone else, or people always call in these false tips.” However, the cops are sticking to their story. Maybe this is another “Stop Snitching” scenario.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Faggot vs. queer
Reflecting the evolving place of gays in American culture, one word has grown more acceptable, the other more vile
BY KEVIN NANCE
I don’t know why I said it. I was 13 — that dangerous age — and on a schoolyard in 1973, having an argument with my former best friend. Jim, as I’ll call him, had recently become distant, even hostile, and I was furious at him for deserting me. Sputtering, almost crying, I called him a name that I must have known would end whatever chance we had to reconcile. “Faggot,” I spat at him. “Dirty faggot.”
Jim’s eyes narrowed to slits. He balled up his fist and drew it back to punch me, then seemed to realize he could do better than that. “Takes one to know one,” he said with grim satisfaction, and left me standing there, stunned and speechless.
And so, years later, I found myself in the unusual position of agreeing, if only partly, with the far-right pundit Ann Coulter, who insisted that the word “faggot” — which she’d lobbed at presidential candidate John Edwards — was “a schoolyard taunt.”
But it isn’t just any taunt. In the schoolyards of my youth, you unleashed “faggot” sparingly, only against your worst enemies and only if you were prepared to back it up with violence. Then as now, you understood it as a nuclear weapon in the American name-calling arsenal, rivaling the N-word in sheer wounding power.
“Queer” was almost as bad. It was slightly quieter and more clinical, but it meant the same thing; “queer” was to “faggot” what “prostitute” was to “whore.” To fling either word at a male was to accuse him of being unmanly, a homosexual (in those days pretty much the worst thing a man or boy could be) or both.
In the past two decades, however, the two slurs have evolved in two distinctly different directions.
The new N-word?
Today, “faggot” seems to have grown even more offensive, and to more people, than ever before. Ask “Grey’s Anatomy” star Isaiah Washington, who may have been fired this month partly for having repeatedly used the term in reference to a gay co-star. In what cynics viewed as an effort to save his job, Washington apologized, filmed public-service announcements and even went to rehab over the incident — a fact that Coulter was hamfistedly trying to lampoon in a way that sparked its own firestorm. She was chastised by Republican presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and John McCain and dropped by several newspapers that had carried her column.
In fact, “faggot” shows signs of becoming the new N-word, an expression so taboo that in their reporting on the Coulter incident last winter, several big-city newspapers, including the Washington Post, declined to print the term itself; “anti-gay epithet” was a common euphemism. (Other papers, including the New York Times and the Chicago Sun-Times, elected to print the unexpurgated version.) In phone conversations and interviews related to this column, I’ve found myself avoiding using the word whenever possible, and worrying that co-workers sitting near me might be offended.
The F-word’s diminutive version, “fag,” carries slightly less sting. Coulter called Al Gore “a total fag” a year before the Edwards incident, with much less public reaction. And when Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen called Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti a “fag” last year, the consequences were relatively muted. “Completely unacceptable,” said commissioner Bud Selig, who nonetheless simply ordered Guillen to attend what seems to have been a perfunctory bit of “sensitivity training.”
In Coulter/Edwards and Guillen/Mariotti, by the way, the attackers later insisted that their words weren’t meant as references to their targets’ sexual orientation; Guillen says he meant to imply that Mariotti was a coward, and Coulter meant — well, who knows what she meant? Both explanations don’t entirely wash, however, because of how sexual identity and gender are so closely bound, and confused with each other, in the public mind.
“Gender is about sex roles, and when you call a heterosexual man a faggot or a sissy, you’re attacking his masculinity — accusing him of doing something that doesn’t conform to traditional masculine sex roles,” explains Gregory Ward, a linguist at Northwestern University. “Gay men have been thought of the same way, and there’s a conflation of the two that people exploit in their choice of words.”
In that way of thinking, then, gay men are abnormal because they don’t act like straight men. And straight men who don’t act like other straight men — by, say, re- fusing to come to the White Sox clubhouse to get yelled at by Guillen after they’ve written something negative about him — are also abnormal, which puts them a tank top away from those mincing sissies down on Halsted Street.
The strapping lads of the International Mr. Leather competition, which took place a few weeks ago in Chicago, might have something to say about that, but that’s another story.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
From The Chicago Tribune…
THE DUKE LACROSSE CASE
Cheers can’t drown out painful truths
Public brawl over rape allegations reminds us of the price women sometimes must pay for being heard
By Anne K. Ream
Supporters of the Duke University lacrosse team are in a celebratory mood. The team excelled in last month’s NCAA tournament. And just last week, the prosecutor who filed rape charges against three of the team’s players was himself put on trial, accused of ethics violations in pursuing a case fraught with problems.
The young men who narrowly lost to rival Johns Hopkins in the NCAA championship game are indeed gifted and resilient athletes. But praising the players as “outstanding” and “upstanding” young men, as the Duke Lacrosse Booster Club did in a full-page advertisement in The New York Times, is a reminder of just how low the bar has fallen when it comes to acceptable male behavior. Legal vindication is not moral vindication, no matter how hard a PR campaign works to make it so.
We may never know everything that occurred on the night of March 13, 2006, when the Duke lacrosse players threw a team party at an off-campus house. But what we do know is troubling enough.
Photos taken at the party show two young women, hired to perform by the players, dancing at the center of a group of largely drunken and leering men. The North Carolina attorney general’s report details how one of the lacrosse players held up a broomstick during the night’s events, suggesting that the women use it as a “sex toy.” Another player sent a chilling group e-mail just hours after the party, musing about bringing in more “strippers” and cutting off their skin while ejaculating. Witnesses reported hearing racial slurs lobbed by partygoers.
To be fair, individual acts do not implicate the entire lacrosse team. Misogyny is not illegal. And none of these ugly events constitutes a criminal act. But they stand as a testimony all their own, a window into a world where “good” men engage in troubling -- and sometimes troubled -- behavior.
The statement that “boys will be boys” has become an all-purpose justification for male behavior that is boorish, bad and at times even brutal. The degradation of women has been normalized for so long that it seems we have ceased to see what is right before our eyes.
Yet the words and images that came from the residence of the captains of the Duke lacrosse team demand to be addressed, as does the prosecutor’s possibly criminal mishandling of the case. They speak volumes about the climate in the players’ house. So what does our silence in the face of these truths say about us?
We talk endlessly, exhaustingly, about “moral values.” But we talk little of valuing women, particularly when they are young, poor and black, as were the women hired by the Duke lacrosse players.
Nowhere was this more apparent than at the news conference two months ago when North Carolina Atty. Gen. Roy Cooper dismissed all charges against the players, taking the opportunity to muse about the mental stability of the young woman at the heart of the case. Later that week, when the mother of one of the lacrosse players appeared on “Good Morning America” and insinuated that the accuser ought to lose her children, she left little doubt about who was being tried in the court of public opinion.
Every public rape case exists in two spaces: In the practical, “law and order” world, where it works its way through an imperfect system; and in the public imagination, where it exists symbolically, a Rorschach test of our values and beliefs. It is not only the specifics, but also the symbolism, of the Duke case that remain troubling. Both serve to remind those who come forward with rape charges that they may pay a steep and very public price for the chance to be heard.
Millions of rape victims, most of whom never report the crime -- much less see legal justice -- must have watched silently as this case unfolded, thinking about how they might have fared under such scrutiny. That the accuser gave conflicting statements to the police is not unusual. A victim’s statements, particularly in the wake of a traumatic attack, can be confused and inconsistent. Memory is resolutely imperfect over time and under the duress of repeated questioning.
Our cultural response to rape leaves its victims in the cruelest of double binds: They must choose between coming forward, which carries the risk of being blamed, and remaining silent, which carries the risk of isolation. It is a silence that damages more than the victim. It strikes a blow to our public safety as well, because unreported sexual violence allows perpetrators to violate again.
The myth of the “false report” of rape must be replaced by this truth: It is underreporting, not false reporting, that poses the greatest risk to our families and our communities. It is silence that is the enemy of change.
[Anne K. Ream is a Chicago-based writer and founder of The Voices and Faces Project, voicesandfaces.org, a national documentary initiative.]
Saturday, June 23, 2007
A stereotypical comment posted at AdAge.com in response to the Bart Cleveland-Hadji Williams debate presented in Essay 4076…
The industry really needs more people like you. I continue to be amazed at how humane you are without being soft. Basically, what you’re doing is mentoring people, something that seems to have all but vanished from the professional world these days across MANY industries.
You accomplished precisely minus-zero with your rants. Broadly accusing CDs of racism is…uh…silly. Several months ago I applied to a fine agency that has a “minority focus.” I’m white. I didn’t assume that they passed on me because of that. I know one thing that agencies generally find useless and irritating is uncontrolled anger. It’s not original. Grow up.
Brad Gutting, STL.
Oh baby, it’s another MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The mother of 50 Cent’s 10-year-old son is demanding more child support, seeking a raise from the current $25,000 per month. Fiddy’s lawyer griped, “Her demands keep escalating.” Clearly, she’s looking to get rich or die trying.
• The results are in: Eddie Murphy is Melanie Brown’s—aka Scary Spice—baby daddy. A DNA test confirmed it, although Murphy has made no public comment. Brown needs to hook up for advice with the mother of 50 Cent’s kid.
• A new nationwide survey revealed that 29 percent of men claim to have had 15 or more sex partners in their lifetime, versus only 9 percent of women boasting similar numbers. Based on the stories involving 50 Cent and Eddie Murphy, it appears that men ultimately pay for the higher figures.
• Despite a 12 percent decline in sales over the first five months of 2007, Ford CEO Alan Mullaly said the company’s turnaround plan is “pretty much on track.” Guess the bold moves are based on lowered expectations.
From The Chicago Tribune…
Green Bay heats up immigrant debate
City becomes one of largest in the nation to enact law targeting undocumented workers
By Tim Jones, Tribune national correspondent
The business of doing business in Green Bay is changing this weekend because of a new ordinance that would let the city yank the operating licenses of employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.
Proving that immigration reform is not simply a matter of congressional gridlock and talk-radio shouting, Wisconsin’s unofficial football capital added its name this week to the growing number of local communities trying to address the issue that has Congress tied in political knots.
“Look, had Congress done their job we wouldn’t have this [ordinance] in Green Bay,” Mayor Jim Schmitt said Friday. “I think at this time it’s the right thing to do, given what’s not happening at the federal level.”
The new law, set to take effect Saturday, comes amid similar local efforts around the country, including Waukegan, Ill., where the City Council on Monday authorized giving the chief of police permission to apply to Washington for authority to enforce federal immigration laws.
Many of these efforts have spawned lawsuits or questions about enforceability. A common effect of nearly all of these laws is friction with rapidly growing Hispanic communities, such as the one in Green Bay.
Luis Bello, the CEO of La Uni-k Radio, a Spanish-language radio station in northeast Wisconsin, said most people in the Hispanic community “are pretty upset about it. They feel like they’re being taken advantage of, doing jobs that most Americans aren’t willing to do.”
Bello added: “And now they feel targeted and afraid.”
The local movement aimed at regulating immigration has generally been confined to smaller towns and cities. Hazleton, Pa., population 22,000, last year approved a law that prohibited hiring or renting to illegal immigrants. That law was challenged and is before a federal district court; a similar proposal in the Chicago suburb of Carpentersville has been delayed pending the outcome of the Hazleton case.
Last year, the mayor of the western Wisconsin town of Arcadia proposed an “illegal alien task force,” designed to prevent renting to undocumented immigrants. He backed down after a public outcry.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
U.S. must be committed to ending poverty, injustice
By RALPH MARTIRE
How does society benefit from poverty, or from the social or economic injustices it generates? The short answer is, society doesn’t. Poverty and other injustices impose costs rather than confer benefits. Some are financial and can be measured in dollars and cents. Other costs are harder to quantify, but no less real. These include growing numbers of alienated youth, many of whom are unemployed and becoming increasingly unemployable, and an expanding income disparity driving huge wedges, economic and social, between the haves and have-nots.
So how does America, with a $13 trillion-plus annual economy, counter poverty and its concomitant injustices? The answer is simple: through a combination of public services that both give the disadvantaged access to economic opportunity that otherwise wouldn’t exist and create a social safety net. On the access to opportunity side, public funding of education, job training, transit and roads helps individuals become employable and helps communities develop. Safety net investments include Medicaid, which provides health insurance coverage to low-income Americans, and Social Security, the primary income source for most seniors. Without these investments, things could be bleak.
Consider access to opportunity. According to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northwestern University, a significant portion of minority and low-income youth have been left out of the economic recovery that began in 2001. The only factor that has countered this is educational attainment. For black males, 86 percent who graduated college had jobs, compared to 57 percent of high school grads and only 33 percent of dropouts. As for income, census data reveal the average annual pay of a college grad is $51,554, compared to $28,645 for high school grads and $19,169 for dropouts. Inadequate public-sector investments in education mean no economic future for minorities and low-income folks.
Then there’s the burgeoning income gap, which last year hit historic highs. In 2006, the wealthiest 1 percent claimed nearly 20 percent of America’s income, while the bottom 20 percent of income earners got a paltry 3.4 percent. But this yawning income gap affects more than just top and bottom. Real median earnings for the 93 million non-farm workers in America haven’t grown since the economic recovery began six years ago. Meanwhile, corporate profits more than doubled during this period, and worker productivity jumped 18 percent. This stands in sharp contrast to the American economic boom that followed World War II, during which productivity gains were shared broadly across income classes, enhancing quality of life for most.
Given how the private sector is squeezing families, is it any wonder that today, almost one in six Americans receives public assistance? Which means safety-net programs such as Medicaid are more important than ever. If anything, Americans should be clamoring to ensure government is doing everything possible to counter disparities by making needed investments in services.
The data, however, indicate America is parsimonious when it comes to poverty. Adding total annual federal expenditures on programs that deal with poverty, everything from Medicaid to food stamps, housing and social services, produces the tidy sum of $390.8 billion. Which seems more tiny than tidy when you realize it’s only 15 percent of the total federal budget, and a minuscule 2.9 percent of the U.S. economy. These expenditures pale by comparison to federal discretionary spending on defense, $474 billion -- over half of all discretionary spending -- without even accounting for the Iraq war. That tacks on another $120 billion.
These spending priorities become galling when you consider unmet need. You’d think everyone fortunate enough to live in the planet’s wealthiest nation could afford to visit a doctor. Yet 47 million Americans are uninsured. Medicaid cost $189 billion this year, and covered 45 million people. Doubling that investment would cover all our uninsured, for the low, low cost of 1.4 percent of our economy. The United States could pay for this by leaving Iraq ($120 billion) and finding another $70 billion (just 2.6 percent of the budget) from other areas. Instead, over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the wealthiest 1 percent in America will receive $1 trillion from tax breaks -- more than the bottom 80 percent of income earners, combined.
Poverty and injustice benefit no one and harm everyone. America already has the economic means not only to reduce poverty, but to come close to eliminating it. All it takes is an honest review of the data and a commitment to adjust priorities.
From The New York Daily News…
Books reveal true hip hop, chapter & verse
By STANLEY CROUCH
The serpent curling in the box of trends, sentimentality, self-righteousness and bad taste that we recognize as the most adolescent side of popular culture, has been taking a number of blows, spears and stompings over the past few months. For many, this seems unfair. To call hip hop a serpent seems a bit extreme. They feel that hip hop is being battered because it has become the scapegoat for a level of violence, glamorization of criminal behavior, crude materialism and misogyny that was in place long before hip was invented.
Fine. It is true that exploitation of sex and violence has existed in popular culture for many years but that does not change the fact that what is wrong in hip hop is being recognized, and people are finally stepping forward to call out those things that they find degrading and tasteless. Hip hop’s defenders always say that there is a much greater variety of styles to the idiom than its critics acknowledge.
I have seen three new books that should be looked at by anyone interested in the degree of precise, imprecise and naive thought brought to the matter or that avoids the facts of the matter. Tayannah Lee McQuillar’s “When Rap Music Had a Conscience” is a perfect example of precision, confusion and extraordinary intellectual laziness. “Pimps Up, Ho’s Down” by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting is much more intellectually rigorous but gets caught in academic language and feminist cliches. “Beats, Rhymes, & Life: What We Love And Hate About Hip Hop” is an anthology edited by Kenji Jasper and Ytasha Womack that spans the gamut from extremely clear criticism and analysis to some of the looniest excuses I have ever read given for anything.
The problem with McQuillar’s work is that while she is critical of the thug extremes and the prison values that mislead too many young black people, she provides a chapter, “The Sacred Scrolls,” that is overladen with Afrocentric claptrap and shoddy propaganda presented as if it is real scholarship.
Sharpley-Whiting’s book does not suffer from the sort of cowardice one too often hears from black academics who genuflect to hip hop in order to stay current with the tastes of the students who provide them with whatever power they have on college campuses. Sharpley-Whiting calls them as she sees them and wisely quotes the offensive material when necessary. Her book is high level in its research and its thought, and those looking for adult ideas about the subject should look it up.
The anthology is quite good because it contains very insightful pieces, interviews with rappers in which they unknowingly damn themselves, and essays so crazy, like “A Christmas Story,” that they add new definition to the word insane.
All in all, however, we are seeing something rising up from the ground and moving through the bling and the smoke machines to ask only that we Americans recognize what is happening to our young people and understand that part of the reason it exists is that popular culture at large has far too frequently substituted sensation, pornography and shock for the mysteries and the grandeur of human feeling. In that sense, for all of its violent minstrelsy, the worst of hip hop is just following the pack.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Another columnist at AdAge.com bemoans the industry’s alleged lack of talent, and Hadji Williams strikes again (see Essay 4076). The crazy part is, the columnist is none other than Marc Brownstein, who was spotlighted in MultiCultClassics last October (click on the essay title above to review Essay 1222). First read Brownstein’s latest observations, then check out Williams’ response—and finish it all off with a MultiCultClassics commentary.
Small Agencies Seek Good Help
How Do We Get the Kids Back?
By Marc Brownstein
This is a recruitment call on behalf of small agencies everywhere. It wasn’t long ago that it was pretty easy to find talented writers, art directors, project managers, public relations people and account executives. Headhunters needed us more than we needed them. Yet today, many talented people have left the business or have opted for a freelance career.
Where have they all gone? It’s pretty well documented that we (as an industry) chased many good people away after the dot-com implosion. We hired them, put them on accounts that never had a chance of being brands, and when the venture-capital money dried up, we fired them. Nice way to treat talented individuals. That was wave one.
Wave two has arrived seven years later. Only this time, good people are losing their passion for the business because the business has changed. Recently, a writer left our agency after many years because she lost her love for advertising. That pretty much summed up what’s going on.
How has the business changed? Clients are more demanding. They side-step branding and strategy for tactical execution. They demand results in unreasonable time frames. And they tighten the purse for agency compensation. You think that doesn’t have an impact on the people who work on their brands?
In addition, agencies are trying to figure out where the world is heading. So we’re integrating -- sometimes successfully, sometimes not. We’re cross-training those who were reared on the traditional side of the business because we all know the growth is on the digital side. Thing is, all this internal realignment causes disruption and process issues. We have it at our agency. And after talking with a well-known agency consultant, most small-to-mid-size agencies are dealing with the same issues. No agency is immune.
I can tell you that, at our agency, we have job openings in many departments. And that’s not just in our Philadelphia office. We’ve had a senior-level opening in our Seattle office for months now. We’ve interviewed many candidates; there’s just a shortage of good people out there right now -- especially mid-level people. Until we find them, we’ll rely on freelancers that we’ve worked with over the years.
So what do we do? As my dad, Berny (who is our founder and CEO), says: “We have to bring fun back to the business.”
Sure, clients are breathing fire more than ever. But there’s also a growing need for great ideas. With the massive clutter out there, it’s more important than ever to make your brand stand out. Those who can, will succeed in this business. Insisting on great thinking, and fostering a culture to incubate it, will help bring young talent back to our business. Doing outrageous work will inspire others to join up. And figuring out how to execute in both traditional and digital media in the advertising and public relations space will go further still in re-establishing marketing agencies as a good choice for a rewarding career.
I know there’s interest with the next generation. I have a daughter who’s graduating high school, and almost every day one of her friends asks her how to get an internship at our agency. Or if they’re graduating college, they ask about sending me a resume. Young people are still passionate about this business. That bodes well for the future. Until then, small agencies are going to continue to make headhunters rich.
Just a note--akin to one left in another entry:
Agencies, both big and small, traditional and non-, along with PR and promotions, would do well to expand the pool of talent from which they currently draw from. Great ideas and unique perspectives are not wrapped in just one skin color. Sounds like a broken record or a remix of an old song, but it’s true and needs to be said until people listen.
It’s counterproductive to complain about a lack of talent and useless to make “try harder” HR speeches as long we as an industry continue to display such a stunning lack of will to recruit and respect talent from ALL sectors of society, including those which we aren’t members of ourselves.
The only people hurt by this long-standing construct of entrenched homogeny are our clients’ brands and our own agencies’ futures. —Hadji Williams, Chicago, IL
Well, it’s clear that Marc Brownstein has failed to make much progress on the Darwinian Chart of Cultural Cluelessness, assuming a simian stance somewhere between the late Al Campanis and Don Imus.
Last October, Brownstein wrote of dreams for a recruitment road show and minority student scholarships. Plus, he promised to regularly report on his achievements. Not sure about the man’s level of victory, as MultiCultClassics editors rarely read Brownstein’s online drivel. But it would be interesting to learn how many non-Whites were interviewed for his shop’s numerous job openings.
Of course, Brownstein seeks guidance from agency founder and CEO Berny Brownstein—who just happens to be his dad. You can bet the B-Boys have tapped all available relatives for the employment slots. Brownstein even admits to collecting referrals and resumes from his daughter’s pals. White-skin privilege is a terrible thing to waste.
According to Brownstein, “…agencies are trying to figure out where the world is heading. So we’re integrating—sometimes successfully, sometimes not.” Too bad his definition of integration doesn’t include diversity.
Brownstein also typed, “Insisting on great thinking, and fostering a culture to incubate it, will help bring young talent back to our business.” The question is, whose culture does the man really plan on fostering?
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Not surprisingly, the family of Ron Goldman is pissed off over the online release of excerpts from O.J. Simpson’s unpublished “If I Did It” book (see Essay 4075). The family’s lawyers think TMZ.com, the website that posted the writings, should be held in contempt. Looks like more Goldmans are assuming little karate stances.
• A federal jury decided drugstore chain Walgreen did not discriminate against four Black customers who charged they were racially targeted. The customers claimed employees followed them around Chicago stores. Perhaps they were victims of racial prescription profiling.