Sunday, October 31, 2010

8112: Politics And Patties.

McPolitics in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• A Mickey D’s restaurant owner in Ohio ignited outrage with his political campaigning. Employees received handouts from Republican candidates, along with an insert attached to paychecks threatening their wages and benefits would suffer if the Republicans lost in the midterm elections. “If the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels,” stated the insert. “If others are elected we will not.” The owner apologized after an employee contacted a lawyer. By the way, is Mayor McCheese affiliated with a political party—and when is he up for reelection?

• A new study shows Republicans are happier than Democrats, and have more friends as well. Probably because—at least in Ohio—Republicans give people Happy Meals.

8111: Politically Correct Not Always Right.

From The Chicago Tribune…

Why PC is such a pain, no offense

By Clarence Page

Political correctness may be the biggest stealth issue in this political season, partly because people are afraid to talk about it.

For example, a new poll by Rasmussen Reports finds that 74 percent of the Americans surveyed regard political correctness as “a problem” — and 57 percent believe the country has become “too politically correct.”

How did the pollsters define “politically correct”? They didn’t. The respondents were left to define PC any way they wanted and, whatever that happened to be, most of them didn’t like it.

PC is like flu season: Everybody hates it, but it keeps coming back. We try to inoculate ourselves the best we can, hoping we don’t get hit by some new, unexpected strains of offense.

Witness, for example, then-Sen. Joe Biden’s irritating many African-Americans in 2008 with an unfortunately condescending-sounding use of the words “clean” and “articulate” to compliment then-Sen. Barack Obama. At least Biden wound up with the vice presidency.

Biden’s presence came in handy when President Obama found himself offending conservatives by saying the Cambridge, Mass., police behaved “stupidly” in arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates at his home. Everybody hates PC, it seems, yet everybody seems to have his or her own version of it.

Political correctness generally is defined as a ban, usually unwritten, against language or practices that could offend women, minorities and other legally or socially protected groups.

Personally I prefer to call it by the old-fashioned label that my parents taught me: good manners.

But PC becomes more problematic when it tries to codify what’s going to offend people or even violate rights when people and situations can be so different.

Efforts to protect one group sometimes can offend others, as in Grand Rapids, Mich., where state civil rights officials are investigating an unnamed 33-year-old woman for posting an advertisement at her church last July seeking a “Christian roommate.”

That violates fair housing laws, the director of the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan told Fox News. “No exemptions.”

You don’t have to be paranoid to wonder whether cases like that are filed by somebody who deliberately wants to make fair housing laws look bad.

On the other hand, you have cases like Carl Paladino, New York’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, who declares, “I’m not politically correct,” in ways that make political correctness look good.

He proudly espoused his opposition to PC when asked, for example, about sexually and racially charged e-mails he had forwarded to friends. One of his missives famously featured a Photoshopped picture of Barack and Michelle Obama as a pimp and hooker. Not too classy.

But, alas, in a democracy, unlike the private sector, voters can decide what’s politically correct in their candidates.

Besides, if politics doesn’t work out for Paladino, for example, he received an offer from Hustler publisher Larry Flynt to be the porn magazine’s executive editor, reports. “It’s clear he’s better suited to join our team,” said Flynt, “than be the governor of the state of New York.”

That’s why I think PC is a stealth issue in these midterm elections. Although all political sides have their own versions of political correctness, liberal PC further enrages the already-aroused right when they sense, for example, that it protects Obama from criticism.

Tea party movement supporters, for example, don’t like to have their nonracial concerns about taxes and government spending dismissed as “racist” — and liberals don’t like to have their concerns about health care and job stimulus dismissed as “elitist.”

Today’s PC battles date back largely to the 1960s. By the end of the decade, traditional partisan differences about how government should be run were recast into a culture war between self-styled forces of good and evil that over time have became even more polarized.

The actor Hal Holbrook once said he hates PC because “it causes us to lie silently instead of saying what we think.” We’d be better off discussing what we think openly, candidly and sensibly, if we aren’t too afraid to talk.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

8110: Mad Men Mention.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on a celebrity art auction including a doodle from Jon Hamm, the actor who portrays Don Draper on AMC series Mad Men. Take a close look at Hamm’s piece. It appears to be the work of a drunken, hackneyed creative director.

8109: Fear Of Failure To Communicate.

From The Chicago Tribune…

Islamophobia now competes with fearophobia
If we ban discussion of our secret fears, how can we bring light to bear on them?

By Ron Grossman

Like perhaps no other city, Paris is burdened by visitors’ expectations; images drawn from novels and movies are so freighted with emotion the reality can be disappointing.

And so it was for me during a month’s stay in the City of Lights. I didn’t see a single face-covering veil.

That wasn’t the reason for my visit, yet I was led to expect it. France, like other European countries, is rebounding from the open-arms welcome it once extended to Muslim immigrants. The French parliament recently outlawed the public wearing of the veil, though the ban has yet to go into effect.

Given the heated argument the legislation provoked, you’d might think it was addressed to a widespread phenomenon. Yet having walked the streets of Paris, from tonier neighborhoods to immigrant ghettos, I suggest that if you’re looking to see veiled women, Chicago’s Devon Avenue is the place to go.

In Paris, the only eyes I saw starring out of cloth-draped faces were in lithographs and paintings hanging in Paris’ museums. Nineteenth century French artists romanticized the mysterious East, just as contemporary France increasingly fears it.

It’s not that the French don’t have something to fear. On a newly released recording, Osama bin Laden threatened France with violence for its support of U.S. policy in the Middle East. When I left last Wednesday, heavily armed soldiers were patrolling tourist sites and the airport.

Yet if the problem is real, it’s hard to see how outlawing the veil is the solution. Theoretically, it could be — but wouldn’t there have to be veils to ban? To at least this visitor’s eyes, it seems like the French are opting for a psychological solution to an all-too-real danger. The Swiss took a similarly big step in the direction of irrationality, approving a referendum in December forbidding the building of minarets. Wars haven’t been won or lost by shooting down from urban towers since the feuds of the Medici and Borgia families in Renaissance Italy.

In the U.S., meanwhile, it’s not a distinctive dress or building form that’s under irrational attack, but fear itself. NPR fired a longtime on-air personality, Juan Williams, for having said that seeing Muslim attire on an airplane scares him. Now, I have no idea whether Williams is a fair-minded or narrow-minded person. But I ask you: Who among us hasn’t sometime felt something akin to that?

On leaving Paris, I had to take off my shoes at the airport. We didn’t used to have to do that and, I’d be willing to bet, every time we do, it’s a troubling reminder that the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Ever since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we’ve been engaged in a two-front war: We’ve had to institute security procedures virtually unthinkable before this — and, at the same time, struggled to remind ourselves that not everyone who happens to share a religious conviction with the perpetrators of 9/11 is a terrorist.

That’s not an easy mental task. We weren’t able to make that distinction in World War II, and interned American citizens of Japanese descent. During World War I, anything German was verboten. Sauerkraut was rechristened Victory Cabbage.

We’ve been teetering on the brink of something similar lately. Islamophobia is alive in the land. Listen to talk radio, whose broadcasters and audience seem convinced there’s a terrorist in a turban or burqa hiding under their beds.

Yet the antidote for irrationality is not outlawing fear, or banning it from the airwaves, as NPR’s bosses seem to think. During World War II, it was said that Americans were fighting for freedom from fear. During the war on terror, we should be mindful of a parallel freedom: to be fearful, to have an emotional reaction to living with the threat of terrorist attack.

You don’t convince people that not all Muslims are violent by asking them to expunge their memory in the name of political correctness. The French tried that, which led to the current anti-veil backlash. Germany’s chancellor is now calling for an end to multiculturalism — a scarcely veiled attack on that country’s Turkish community.

If we want to keep that from happening here, we all — liberal, conservative and everything in between — need remind ourselves that the other person is entitled to his or her fears, however irrational they might seem. Or, to put it the other way around: Fearophobia is a surefire route to Islamophobia.

Ron Grossman is a Tribune reporter and former history professor.

8108: Designated Stereotypes.

This Budweiser billboard and online banner makes Black women look like beer-loving bimbos.

8107: Voters, Punch David Vitter. Literally.

Debating the news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• During a recent debate between Louisiana’s U.S. Senate candidates, Republican incumbent David Vitter insisted his racist TV commercial isn’t racist. “Let’s get away from this ridiculous political correctness,” said Vitter. “Let’s face the problem and solve the problem.” To face the problem, someone will have to give Vitter a mirror.

• In addition to stereotyping Latinos, Vitter was also involved with a Washington, D.C. prostitution ring three years ago—which makes Vitter a stereotypical politician.

• The Times-Picayune endorsed Vitter and proclaimed that despite his faults, “he gets things done on behalf of his constituents and his state.” Vitter stereotyped Latinos and solicited hookers on behalf of his state? Elliot Spitzer must be wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

• A new survey showed nearly two-thirds of U.S. Latinos believe they are being discriminated against. And nearly 100 percent probably believe Vitter is a moron.

Friday, October 29, 2010

8106: Ford Vampire Ad Sucks.

First, the Photoshop work in this ad makes the Ford Fiesta look like a Matchbox® car. Second, why would vampires need a car—can’t they fly?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

8105: Martinez Meets Mad Ave Minutemen…?

At Advertising Age, Laura Martinez examined a racist political ad from Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle that rivals the shit expelled by Louisiana Senator David Vitter—and Martinez ultimately ignited irate comments from Madison Avenue Minutemen.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

8104: Black Businesses Backsliding.

From The Chicago Sun-Times…

Black companies missing city business
City says it’s reaching out, but they’re not bidding

By Fran Spielman

Despite unprecedented community outreach, African-American businesses got a seven percent sliver of Chicago’s $1 billion spending pie through Aug.31, down from eight percent a year ago, re-igniting a perennial political controversy.

“Why do we keep backsliding? …It really gets tiresome singing the same song every year. … We have to do better,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the City Council’s Police Committee.

With Chief Procurement Officer Jamie Rhee on the hot seat at City Council budget hearings, Beale asked her on Tuesday to identify the biggest hurdle to boosting black contracting.

“The issue is, they’re not bidding,” she said.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) agreed—and she thinks she knows why. To weed out white-owned “fronts” in the wake of the minority contracting scandal, City Hall went overboard with a level of scrutiny that drove black contractors away, she said.

“It became very problematic for people to do business with the city. The city challenged everything. … It was the most mind-numbing experience that people just quit,” Hairston said.

“You have a perception problem. That’s why you don’t see as many people applying. It was such a hassle. …The city was the one that discouraged them.

We’ve got all these programs. But once you get in it, they beat you to a pulp.”

Rhee noted that the city has held “outreach workshops” and distributed “buying plans” that alert companies to a full year of bid opportunities in an unprecedented effort to encourage greater participation from black contractors.

“It takes time to realize those result. … Next year, hopefully, we’ll see an increase based on our targeted outreach,” she said.

Every year, the Department of Procurement Services gets hammered during budget hearings by African-American aldermen furious about the dismal black contracting numbers.

No matter who the chief procurement officer is—and it’s been a revolving door—the numbers never seem to climb out of the single-digits.

The story is the same this year, only worse.

Of the $1 billion in contracts awarded during the first eight months of this year, African-Americans got seven percent, or $73.6 million, compared to eight percent, or $83 million, for Asian-Americans and 14 percent or $142.2 million for Hispanics.

Minority contracting fraud has also been a chronic problem during Mayor Daley’s nearly 22-year reign.

In 2005, James Duff pleaded guilty to masterminding a scheme to defraud the city of $100 million in contracts earmarked for minorities and women. A few days later, the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that a Duff-run company was continuing to perform a pivotal truck dispatching role on the city’s $4.9 million winter salt contract.

A string of revelations by the Sun-Times provided further proof that Daley’s minority set-aside program had been manipulated by the politically connected at the expense of minorities.

They included: a company brokering plumbing supplies owned by the sister of former Hispanic Democratic Organization chieftain Victor Reyes; a minority telecommunications company partially owned by Richard J. Daley’s longtime patronage chief Tom Donovan; and an O’Hare Airport restaurant owned by Billy Goat tavern owner Sam Sianis that was placed in the name of Sianis’ wife, apparently at the city’s direction.

Earlier this year, an internal audit conducted by Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded that blacks, Hispanics, women and Asians were deprived of at least $19 million worth of construction contracts in 2008 alone because of “widespread” fraud, abuse and mismanagement of Chicago’s minority contracting program

Ferguson compared actual participation in the city’s minority contracting program to statistics reported to the City Council. What he found was a program “beset by fraud and unlawful brokers” that has fallen far short of the city’s claims.

8103: Microsoft Multicultural Mistake.

…the winning advantage of a diverse team…? Oops.

8102: Oil Companies Rewrite Reality.

In certain states, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster has generated mixed reactions. Louisiana and Texas residents, for example, count on oil companies for jobs and other financial benefits. Why, local writers even create fairy tales with crude imagery. Of course, BP’s PR weasels have been publishing fairy tales too.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

8101: Dead Man Profiting.

Money matters in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Michael Jackson is the world’s highest-earning dead person, collecting $275 million in the past year—more than the next 12 celebrity corpses combined. Somebody should do a relevant re-edit of Thriller.

• BP has agreed to pay Florida $20 million over the next 3 years in order to cover the cost of seafood inspections and a marketing campaign. That’s a very cheap amount for a marketing campaign, given that estimates show BP has paid over $100 million for its own marketing efforts during the Deepwater Horizon disaster. This is eerily like Big Tobacco funding anti-smoking campaigns or liquor companies bankrolling marketing that warns of the dangers of drunk driving.

8100: Navajos Seek Sustainability.

From The New York Times…

Navajos Hope to Shift From Coal to Wind and Sun

By Mireya Navarro

BLUE GAP, Ariz. — For decades, coal has been an economic lifeline for the Navajos, even as mining and power plant emissions dulled the blue skies and sullied the waters of their sprawling reservation.

But today there are stirrings of rebellion. Seeking to reverse years of environmental degradation and return to their traditional values, many Navajos are calling for a future built instead on solar farms, ecotourism and microbusinesses.

“At some point we have to wean ourselves,” Earl Tulley, a Navajo housing official, said of coal as he sat on the dirt floor of his family’s hogan, a traditional circular dwelling.

Mr. Tulley, who is running for vice president of the Navajo Nation in the Nov. 2 election, represents a growing movement among Navajos that embraces environmental healing and greater reliance on the sun and wind, abundant resources on a 17 million-acre reservation spanning Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

“We need to look at the bigger picture of sustainable development,” said Mr. Tulley, the first environmentalist to run on a Navajo presidential ticket.

With nearly 300,000 members, the Navajo Nation is the country’s largest tribe, according to Census Bureau estimates, and it has the biggest reservation. Coal mines and coal-fired power plants on the reservation and on lands shared with the Hopi provide about 1,500 jobs and more than a third of the tribe’s annual operating budget, the largest source of revenue after government grants and taxes.

At the grass-roots level, the internal movement advocating a retreat from coal is both a reaction to the environmental damage and the health consequences of mining — water loss and contamination, smog and soot pollution — and a reconsideration of centuries-old tenets.

In Navajo culture, some spiritual guides say, digging up the earth to retrieve resources like coal and uranium (which the reservation also produced until health issues led to a ban in 2005) is tantamount to cutting skin and represents a betrayal of a duty to protect the land.

“As medicine people, we don’t extract resources,” said Anthony Lee Sr., president of the Diné Hataalii Association, a group of about 100 healers known as medicine men and women.

Read the full story here.

8099: NPR Can’t Unplug Juan Williams Debacle.


NPR’s disaster: The firing of Juan Williams

By Patrick Maines

OK, so right off the bat let’s deal with what NPR’s firing of Juan Williams is, and what it is not. It is a free speech issue, but it is not a First Amendment issue. This is an important distinction because while many First Amendment issues involve freedom of speech, and many free speech issues involve the First Amendment, it is not the case that all free speech issues are First Amendment issues.

At bottom, the Speech Clause of the First Amendment is a proscription on what government can do to the media, not on what the media can do themselves. As a practical matter what this means is that NPR’s management had the right to do what they did, and that, were this matter to go before a court, its resolution would not turn on First Amendment case law.

This said, the wisdom of the action taken, and what it suggests about the future of freedom of expression generally, are very much at issue here.

People of a certain age may remember the sad case of Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder, who was fired by CBS for some bizarre off-the-cuff comments he made about black athleticism while having a meal at a Washington restaurant. Other similar cases are those of Don Imus, and more recently Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez.

So while there are some important differences in these cases, we’re beginning to see a pattern here: When reporters and commentators say things that arguably offend minorities (and thereby disturb the politically correct equilibrium) they get fired. And the question is whether this is the right, or even the intelligent, way to deal with such issues, especially for media companies?

It used to be believed that the best way to handle speech that is unfair or false was for more speech, not less, and by that measure a better way to have resolved many of these matters would have been for management to issue comments that mock, or directly challenge the falsities, in the offending comments.

Though the dust hasn’t even begun to settle, it’s already clear what many people, of varying political stripes, think of the way NPR has handled the Williams affair: They think it’s a disaster. As Howard Kurtz put it in a Daily Beast piece: “His firing has backfired, handing FOX a victory and making Williams a symbol of liberal intolerance — on the very day NPR announced a grant from George Soros that it never should have accepted.”

Indeed, the Soros revelation, combined with Republican and (especially) conservative antipathy for taxpayer support of PBS and NPR, guarantee that the Williams flap is not going away any time soon. As lamented here, there has been a coordinated and richly financed effort underway for months that has, as part of its aim, a substantial increase in government funding for public media generally, and that would oblige PBS member stations to redirect their news programs to more local coverage — the very thing that Soros’s contribution is designed to facilitate at NPR.

But that is a story that will play itself out in days to come. Front and center now is the question of the impact of the Williams affair on NPR, in which regard it might be useful to examine a couple statements; the offending one, made by Williams, and another, made after his firing, by the president of NPR, Vivian Schiller.

Here’s Williams’ comment: “Look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

And here’s Schiller’s: “Juan Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself and his psychiatrist or his publicist.”

Under pressure, Schiller later apologized for her remark, but going forward that may not mean much. Put it this way, of these two comments which one do you think is the most mean-spirited and intemperate? And of the acts at issue — Williams’ comments or his firing — which one do you think does more damage to NPR?

Yes, I think so too.

Patrick Maines is president of The Media Institute, a non-profit organization that is funded by media and communications companies, including Gannett, parent of USA TODAY. The institute promotes a strong First Amendment, sound communications policies and excellence in journalism. The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Media Institute, its Board, contributors, or advisory councils.

Monday, October 25, 2010

8098: The Obama Of Piran.

From Politics Daily…

First Black Mayor Elected in Eastern Europe

By Lauren Frayer

An African-born doctor known as the “Obama of Piran”—after the small coastal town in southwest Slovenia where he lives—has been elected as Eastern Europe’s first black mayor.

Originally from Ghana, Peter Bossman came to Slovenia in the 1970s, when it was still part of Yugoslavia, to study medicine. Running for mayor under the ruling, center-left Social Democrats, Bossman said that his race was never an issue and that he never faced discrimination because he’s from Africa.

That his new countrymen didn’t focus on his race shows the “high level of democracy in Slovenia,” Bossman, 54, told the BBC.

“There are always small groups of people not accepting people who are different, and in the first months after coming to Slovenia, I felt that some people did not want to be with us,” Bossman told Reuters.

“But for the last 10 or 15 years, I experienced nothing like that anymore. I have no problems at all, and I think people no longer see the color of my skin when they look at me,” he said.

Bossman beat narrowly beat the mayor of Piran, Dr. Tomaz Gantar, in a runoff election Sunday. After the vote, he told The Associated Press he was “happy and proud.”

“I based my campaign on a dialogue, and I think the dialogue has won,” Bossman said.

He’s pledged to bring electric cars, an airport and a golf course to Piran.

About 12 percent of Slovenia’s 2 million citizens were born abroad, but a very small number are from Africa. Nestled between Italy, Austria and Croatia, Slovenia declared independence in 1991 and is now part of the European Union and NATO.

Bossman said he initially planned to return to Ghana after earning his medical degree in Slovenia, but decided to stay after he married a fellow student of Croatian origin.

“I fell in love with this country. Slovenia is my home,” he told Reuters. “Even my first impression of the country was good, it was so clean and green.”

8097: More Yuck From Yum! Brands.

Yum! Brands is responsible for some bizarre promotions. For example, the recent KFC and Susan G. Komen team-up ignited plenty of criticism. But the latest humanitarian effort is nothing short of obscene, particularly when viewing the questionable media placement in Parade magazine. The first advertisement spotlights the From Hunger To Hope campaign. Turn the page and you’ll discover a coupon for a Free Doublicious from KFC. Remember, Yum! Brands has also hatched things like the infamous KFC Double Down and The Fourth Meal at Taco Bell. To play the concerned corporation in impoverished countries while hyping ultra-gluttony at home displays hypocrisy of the highest order. Yum! Brands wants to have its Chocolate Chip Cake and eat it too.

8096: Dignity = Diversity = Not Every Day.

In response to the story on Global Dignity Day, Bill Green of
Make The Logo Bigger asked, “Shouldn’t [Global Dignity Day] be every day?”

For most people, you’d think treating others with dignity wouldn’t require setting aside a special date. But when Madison Avenue is involved, well, let’s not get too idealistic. After all, our industry considers diversity about once every decade. So showing dignity once a year is downright progressive.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

8095: Rock & Rollé At BET.

From Advertising Age…

CMO Rolle Explains Changes That Have Lead to Network’s Ratings Renaissance

By Andrew Hampp

LOS ANGELES -- It’s barely fourth quarter, and BET Networks is already having its best year ever. The Viacom cable network has seen record ratings growth for the last 18 months and a bigger, wider audience tuning in than ever before on the strength of shows such as “The Mo’Nique Show,” “Sunday Best,” “Tiny & Toya,” “106 & Park” and its signature BET Awards, 2009’s highest-rated non-sports cable telecast and one of 2010’s most-watched events of the summer.

But getting to that point has not been easy for the network for Exec VP-Chief Marketing Officer Janet Rollé. As recently as 2007, BET’s ratings were at a standstill and the network was viewed as a risky environment for major marketers like State Farm and Home Depot, who pulled their ads from a reality show called “Hot Ghetto Mess.” Not to mention Procter & Gamble Co., which was urged by watchdog groups to pull its ads from controversial shows (it ultimately resisted).

But 2009 called for a refreshed, more culturally relevant BET Networks, which meant it had to get back to its roots: its audience. Ms. Rollé teamed up with BET’s research team to better understand what the BET brand meant to black consumers in a post-Obama America. After polling more than 70,000 African-Americans, Ms. Rollé was able to identify five key consumer segments, or “brand pillars,” of BET’s audience: “We Are Family” (family-oriented, parent-friendly), “Fresher Than That” (trend-setting, music-focused) “Shine a Light” (politically aware), “Backing Black Dreams” (aspirational, career-focused) and “Not on Our Watch” (socially conscious, cause-minded.) These would be the five key tenets on which everything at BET was measured against, from programming to marketing messages to talent.

“The pillars were created to help guide us to not do certain things. If it didn’t respect, reflect or elevate our audience, we had to ask ourselves, why are we doing this?” Ms. Rollé said.

The pillars also coincided with BET’s robust, risk-taking new programming slate that saw the network expanding outside its core audience of young, music-leaning consumers to become a more general-entertainment network for African-Americans and beyond. Reality series “Tiny & Toya” and “Frankie & Neffe,” a spinoff of BET’s top-rated “Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is,” both meet the “Fresher Than That” criteria and became buzz-worthy hits last year. “The Family Crews,” a series profiling football player-turned-actor Terry Crews, embodies the “We Are Family” pillar and also drew strong Sunday numbers for the network.

That approach has also made BET more marketer-friendly, with P&G teaming up with the network in 2009 for a co-branded makeover series, “My Black Is Beautiful,” to promote its product line of the same name targeted toward black women. Grey Goose (“Rising Icons”), NASCAR (“Changing Lanes”) and Smirnoff (“Master of the Mix”) have all since signed up for their own co-branded shows with the network.

Jan. 11, 2011 brings a pair of scripted series, the original “Let’s Stay Together” and new episodes of “The Game,” a CW sitcom picked up by BET after its cancellation in 2009. Because of the considerable anticipation for both series (“The Game” has more than 2.4 million fans on Facebook), Ms. Rollé will use those series’ debuts as an opportunity to debut a new tagline and on-air look for BET, which she says will reflect the network’s changing voice.

It’s all the latest stepping stone in Ms. Rollé’s nearly 20-year career in entertainment marketing. Prior to joining BET in 2007, she headed up programming for AOL’s Black Voices and Women’s and Lifestyle networks. She also had a five-year stint at MTV Networks overseeing new business opportunities for VH1 and CMT, introducing new brands and franchises such as the VH1 Radio Network, and spent her first nine years in the industry with HBO in various roles, including marketing for the company’s home-video division.

Read the full story here.

8094: Politicians Qualified For Ad Careers…?

The political races are exposing ugliness nationwide, and Illinois is no stranger to attack commentary. State Senator Rickey Hendon (pictured above) zinged Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady at a Saturday rally. “I’ve never served with such an idiotic, racist, sexist, homophobic person in my life,” said Hendon of Brady during his introduction of Governor Pat Quinn. “If you think that the minimum wage needs to be three dollars an hour, vote for Bill Brady. If you think that women have no rights whatsoever, except to have his children, vote for Bill Brady. If you think gay and lesbian people need to be locked up and shot in the head, vote for Bill Brady.” Yikes. Don’t know if the accusations are true, but if Brady fails in his bid for governor, he’s certainly qualified to lead on Madison Avenue.

8093: Ghost Bustiers.

This strip club Halloween ad offers tricks, treats and titties.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

8092: Appealing Rejections.

Weekend News in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• The Nevada Supreme Court rejected O.J. Simpson’s appeal. “This is but the first step in a very long line of appeals that Mr. Simpson has before him,” said one of Simpson’s attorneys. And yet another day Simpson is denied the ability to hunt for ex-wife Nicole’s real killers.

• Irate NPR listeners are responding to Juan Williams’ firing by curbing donations to radio stations nationwide, prompting board members to comment. “I agree with the principle, but am not happy with the execution,” said an NPR board member about the termination. “The execution was very poorly timed. You have a lot of stations who are in fund drive mode now and that’s making it difficult.” Or maybe NPR should make a fundraising appeal to Muslims.

8091: Problems Of Racism Defined By Race.

From The Chicago Sun-Times…

Blacks, Latinos agree racism a ‘major problem,’ whites say no

By Stefano Esposito, Staff Reporter

Nearly two years after the nation elected its first black president, Americans remain deeply divided on how big of a problem racism is, a new survey finds, with most blacks and Latinos saying it’s a “major problem” and most whites saying it’s not.

Sixty-nine percent of African Americans and 51 percent of Latinos said they consider racism a “major problem,” according to the findings of the University of Chicago study released last week.

That compares with 29 percent of whites and 32 percent of Asian Americans.

That “polarization” suggests that President Obama needs to do more to bridge that gap, said Cathy J. Cohen, a U. of C. political science professor who was one of the survey’s lead investigators.

“This is another missed opportunity on the part of the president,” Cohen said. “I’m a supporter of the president … but his unwillingness to lead around issues of race, instead of just reacting to crises, has left a void there that has been filled by the right wing, in many ways.”

The project—sponsored by the Ford Foundation—included surveys of a nationally representative 3,000 people from 2008 to early this year, according to the researchers.

The survey also asked whether the growth of minority populations strengthens the United States. Sixty-four percent of Latinos said yes, along with 51 percent of blacks, 50 percent of Asian-Americans and 18 percent of whites.

Friday, October 22, 2010

8090: Madison Avenue Feigns Dignity.

Advertising Age published the story below. A brief MultiCultClassics response immediately follows.

Donating Dignity
BBDO N.Y. Campaign Focuses on Spreading Respect for Global Dignity Day

By Karen Egolf

To mark Global Dignity Day today, people around the world are being asked to donate something valuable: dignity.

Global Dignity Day, which takes place each Oct. 20, was launched in 2008 to celebrate “oneness” in being human. It’s the brainchild of H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon of Norway; John Hope Bryant, founder and chairman-CEO of U.S.-based Operation Hope; and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland, and is conducted in association with the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders. BBDO New York is the effort’s pro bono agency.

This year’s celebration is expected to bring together thousands of youth in more than 40 countries to celebrate the universal right to respect and fair treatment.

“At a time when no one seems to agree on anything, all around the world, when east—China—and west—America—can’t seem to agree, and when Islam and Christianity seem at odds, when politics seems more about dividing than collaborating, the one thing we can all agree on is we all want more dignity,” Bryant says. “Dignity truly is the universal language that we all need to learn, and one that brings us together, as you cannot have dignity until you first extend it to others.”

To promote Global Dignity Day, BBDO New York created a campaign asking people to donate dignity by sharing thoughts, feelings and experiences in leading a dignified life. The effort encourages people to donate dignity online or follow on Twitter.

“Our hope is that by celebrating a Global Dignity Day, every day can become a dignity day,” says John Osborn, president-CEO, BBDO New York. “Most cause-related campaigns ask people to donate either money or time. Our work for global dignity doesn’t ask for either. Rather, it asks people to do something much easier and which could arguably make a bigger impact: donate dignity.”

As part of its message, Global Dignity Day offers the Five Dignity Principles:

1. Every human being has a right to lead a dignified life.

2. A dignified life means an opportunity to fulfill one’s potential, which is based on having a human level of health care, education, income and security.

3. Dignity means having the freedom to make decisions on one’s life and to be met with respect for this right.

4. Dignity should be the basic guiding principle for all actions.

5. Ultimately, our own dignity is interdependent with the dignity of others.

Global Dignity Day evolved from Global Dignity, a program that asked volunteers to teach courses in dignity to their classrooms, houses of faith, nongovernmental organizations and schools to improve the state of the world.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not just a great moral leader with a great message, he was also a great strategist, and a significant part of his strategy involved the power of media and communications,” Bryant says. “The Global Dignity movement to spread a new language of dignity, here and around the world, is no different.

“Communications and media interests, such as BBDO NY and Clear Channel as an example, are playing a powerful role in advancing Global Dignity Day on Oct. 20, 2010, as we teach ‘A Course in Dignity’ in 50 countries around the world on one day,” he adds. “This is doing well by doing good, at best. Or, as they say in South Africa, Ubuntu, ‘I am me because you are you.’”

Wow. Can’t criticize the effort here. That is, Global Dignity Day is a cool concept. But when you consider BBDO parent company Omnicom’s history of cultural cluelessness—plus, the organization’s endless struggles with diversity—you have to ask the hypocritical participating advertising executives, “Have you no dignity?”

8089: Taking Back And Talking Back.

Working toward the weekend in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, has asked that her name be removed from the memo criticizing the new healthcare law as being unconstitutional. Wonder if she’ll soon request that the bizarre apology message be deleted from Anita Hill’s voicemail.

• Ginni Thomas’ message for Anita Hill likely inspired other unintended responses from women who knew Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A former colleague and girlfriend declared Mr. Thomas was “obsessed with porn” and the bodies of female associates. “He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners,” said the ex-girlfriend. “It was a hobby of his.” Yes, he’s always appeared to be a hobbyist.

• Juan Williams is firing back at the NPR CEO who fired him over his comments about Muslims. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller stated that NPR reporters and news analysts should not forward controversial opinions. She also snipped that Williams’ feelings about Muslims should remain between him and “his psychiatrist or his publicist—take your pick.” Williams argued Schiller’s remarks were made because she had a weak case for firing him. “I think it’s a very weak case,” said Williams. “And so ultimately what I think she had to do then is to make it an ad hominem or personal attack.” Gee, Williams even gets nervous when he encounters NPR CEOs.

• Mickey D’s plans to increase the prices of menu items by at least 2 percent in 2011. Look for similar increases in global obesity rates.

8088: Juan Williams’ Defenders Make You Nervous.

From The Chicago Tribune…

Defenders of NPR commentator miss the point

By Rex W. Huppke
Tribune staff reporter

National Public Radio, usually one of the less controversial outlets in today’s noisy media world, has found itself at the center of a political firestorm, launched by news analyst Juan Williams’ televised admission that he gets “nervous” when he sees Muslims on planes.

NPR wasted no time firing Williams, saying his comments on Fox News weren’t in line with NPR’s ethics and that he had been warned previously to not express public opinions on controversial issues. Later, Fox News handed Williams a contract worth nearly $2 million, a considerable bump from his previous salary.

Predictably, Republican talkers like Mike Huckabee pounced on NPR, saying today that the news organization was guilty of censorship. Newt Gingrich encouraged Congress to investigate NPR and consider pulling its federal funding, saying, “Every listener to NPR should be enraged that there’s this kind of bias against an American.”

And in her now easily recognizable Twitter voice, Sarah Palin posited: “NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it. Juan Williams: u got taste of Left’s hypocrisy, they screwed up firing you.”

Firing someone for violating company protocol doesn’t seem like a First Amendment violation, but such nuanced legal arguments are best left to scholars. What should be agreed upon swiftly by regular folks is that there’s rarely, if ever, anything to be gained by painting people with a broad brush.

We’ve been dealing with this issue for months now, since debate began raging over the construction of an Islamic cultural center several blocks away from Ground Zero in New York City. It seems the country is divided over whether it’s fair to peg responsibility for the atrocities committed by a group of extremists on an entire faith, one that comprises 1.5 billion people worldwide.

It’s not fair. We should know this. It’s a basic tenet of human decency to not damn the masses for the actions of the few.

If there’s a complaint to be made about Williams’ firing, it may be that his comments were out of character. Many have already stood up to defend him against cries of bigotry. It’s even fair to argue his comments were taken out of context, as he went on to say that America has “an obligation to protect the constitutional rights of everyone in the country.”

But Gingrich and Palin and Huckabee said nothing to indicate they were bothered by Williams’ assertion that it’s OK to lump all Muslims in with the 9/11 terrorists.

Juan Williams’ comments, however he meant them, were offensive. But the swift responses from his defenders on the right may have been, in what they failed to say, even worse.

8087: Amtrak Rides A Familiar Track.

Amtrak honors the 65th anniversary of Ebony magazine by rolling out a recycled print advertisement.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

8086: Open Mic Madness.

Crazy talk in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, is in the news again, now insisting that the recently passed healthcare law is unconstitutional. Maybe she’ll leave a message on President Obama’s voicemail.

• Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell said she regrets making a campaign ad where she declared, “I’m not a witch.” Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the magical ability to make it disappear.

• NPR analyst Juan Williams was fired after making comments about Muslims on Bill O’Reilly’s TV show. “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” said Williams. “But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” No word on how Williams reacts when confronted by O’Donnell the Witch or Ginni Thomas the Nutcase.

• The NAACP released a report raising concerns about racism within Tea Party groups. The report argues that Tea Party groups “have given platform to anti-Semites, racists and bigots.” At this point, these folks make Alice in Wonderland’s tea party look downright tame.

8085: AT&T Should Rethink Possibilities.

For Ebony magazine, AT&T declares, “65 years of history, cultural and inspiring tomorrow.” With an uninspired concept.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

8084: Most Web Series Deserve Cancellation.

Kotex and Kathy Griffin are teaming up for a 5-episode Web series titled, “Project Makeunder.” Kraft and Anita Renfroe are running the “You Gotta LOL” Web series. BeingGirl and other girls are launching the “Talk It Out” Web series—sponsored by Tampax tampons and Always sanitary pads. There’s something inherently lazy about these digital efforts, as if the wannabe viral videos are buying entertainment value versus actually conceiving an entertaining concept.

Kraft’s director of consumer relationship marketing, content, strategy and integration Julie Fleischer said her company’s videos are designed to “find other relevant and compelling conversations we can have with our customers” besides the typical recipes. Um, a macaroni and cheese recipe would be more compelling than this shit. Ms. Fleischer also acknowledged that “there’s an extraordinarily fine line” between entertainment and an ad. OK, but this stuff is neither entertaining nor advertising. And the attempts at comedy are, well, laughable.

8083: Toni Morrison Tackles Racism.

From The Chicago Sun-Times…

Morrison: the truest eye
Library Honoree | Novelist aims to reveal racism’s ‘lethal’ ways

By Maudlyne Ihejirika, Staff Reporter

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”
—Toni Morrison

Like a lioness, really, Toni Morrison—the first African American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature—is reclining in the corner of a plush leather sofa at the Park Hyatt hotel, her mane of silver dreads cascading.

She’s in Chicago for two days of celebration of both her newest novel, A Mercy, the most recent selection in the Chicago Public Library’s “One Book, One Chicago” program, and of the Pulitzer Prize-winning East Coast author herself, who has a son living in Chicago.

“Most knowledge is narrative, except for music and math,” she says, discoursing on the power of the written word and her goal as an African-American woman writer.

“Constructing a story—writing—is an extension of what humans do to improve the human race. To me, it’s not a selfish, congratulatory process. It’s not solving problems. It’s opening them up,” she says, using as an example her very first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), about a black girl who goes mad wishing she had white folks’ eyes.

“I wanted to identify real ways in which racism creates a sort of self-loathing, and is lethal. It’s crippling. Each of my subsequent works similarly explores such themes,” she says. “The characters work it out.”

One of the most provocative and respected novelists of the 21st century and a leading black literary voice, Morrison, 79, who retired as a Princeton University professor in 2006 after 17 years, is known for her epic novels, brilliant dialogue and richly hued characters.

She’s also known for unapologetic Afrocentricism and feminism.

Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, one of four children of parents from sharecropping families who migrated north. Her interest in literature sparked at an early age, and she would earn from Howard University and Cornell bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English.

A divorced mother of two, she was a senior editor at Random House for 18 years, where she is credited with bringing African-American authors to the forefront.

Her award-winning work includes 1987’s Beloved, which earned the Pulitzer and was in 2006 chosen by the New York Times as the best work of American fiction in the last 25 years. “I like different ones for different reasons,” she says when asked the favorite of her nine novels. “But the one I love the most is always the one that I’m engaged in at the moment.”

That would be A Mercy, which explores slavery in late 17th century America, when it was not yet defined by race. Like Beloved, it centers on a mother who sacrifices her daughter to save her, and that daughter’s struggle with it.

Morrison’s free lecture packed Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center Tuesday night, and tonight, at the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner, she’ll accept the title award and hold an onstage conversation with Chicago powerhouse Oprah Winfrey, who in 1998 produced the movie of Beloved, starring herself and Danny Glover.

“I remember she called me up on the telephone about wanting to do the movie, and I said, ‘How’d you get this number?’” says Morrison.

“I’ve always admired her, of course, like everybody else. Her instincts are not just good, but elevating. Her Book Club changed the literary world. I mean, here she is on TV telling people to turn off the TV and read a book. It’s phenomenal.

“We’re not really friends in that way,” she adds in that political-correctness-isn’t-my-thing style. “I’m not close to her, but she can always call on me for anything, and I believe that I can call on her.”

8082: Sorry Statements.

Checking messages in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas left a bizarre message on Anita Hill’s voicemail:

Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginny Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay have a good day.

Um, what did Thomas slip into his wife’s can of Coke?

• Native American farmers will receive $680 million as the result of a lawsuit claiming the government denied them the same low-interest rate loans awarded to White farmers from 1981 and 2007. No word if any of the farmers left a message on President Obama’s voicemail asking for an apology too.

8081: Scary Halloween Flyer.

This page from the Halloween flyer of a costume store features fun-filled variety for the whole family—baby can be a pumpkin while dad’s a pimp.

8080: Motorola Phones It In.

Motorola celebrates the 65th anniversary of Ebony magazine by emphasizing a shared history of innovation. Um, Motorola hasn’t produced anything innovative since the RAZR mobile phone.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

8079: Tiger, Tyson And Assorted Knockouts.

Quick hits in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Devon James, a hooker who claimed having sex with Tiger Woods, produced a video where she has sex with a Tiger Woods look-alike. The body double says he didn’t realize James was going to release the tape with a Tiger Woods angle. “I had no idea she was going to set up a tape of Tiger Woods,” said the Tiger twin. “I wanted to make some money—not ruin someone’s life.” Oh, this video is hardly going to mess up Woods’ life at this point.

• A photographer is suing Mike Tyson for $25 million, claiming the fighter punched him with a closed fist, delivering a concussion and spinal injuries. Tyson should argue he was impersonated by a body double.

8078: Kohl’s Not So Fab.

Daily Finance recently praised Kohl’s Department Stores for the chain’s strong sales:

Kohl’s (KSS): In a good example of not letting a crisis go to waste, retail experts seem to agree that Kohl’s has been doing all the right things lately.

Oops. Spoke too soon.

8077: Northern Trust Has A Dream.

Northern Trust salutes Ebony magazine’s 65th anniversary with a famous quote referencing dreams—from Eleanor Roosevelt…?

Monday, October 18, 2010

8076: Germany Mimics Madison Avenue…?


Merkel: German multiculturalism ‘utterly failed’
Remark fuels conservative camp’s debate over immigration and Islam

By Sabine Siebold

POTSDAM, Germany — Germany’s attempt to create a multicultural society has “utterly failed,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday, adding fuel to a debate over immigration and Islam polarizing her conservative camp.

Speaking to a meeting of young members of her Christian Democrats (CDU), Merkel said allowing people of different cultural backgrounds to live side by side without integrating had not worked in a country that is home to some four million Muslims.

“This (multicultural) approach has failed, utterly failed,” Merkel told the meeting in Potsdam, south of Berlin.

Merkel faces pressure from within her CDU to take a tougher line on immigrants who don’t show a willingness to adapt to German society and her comments appeared intended to pacify her critics.

She said too little had been required of immigrants in the past and repeated her usual line that they should learn German in order to get by in school and have opportunities on the labor market.

The debate over foreigners in Germany has shifted since former central banker Thilo Sarrazin published a book accusing Muslim immigrants of lowering the intelligence of German society.

Sarrazin was censured for his views and dismissed from the Bundesbank, but his book proved highly popular and polls showed a majority of Germans agreed with the thrust of his arguments.

Merkel has tried to accommodate both sides of the debate, talking tough on integration but also telling Germans that they must accept that mosques have become part of their landscape.

She said on Saturday that the education of unemployed Germans should take priority over recruiting workers from abroad, while noting Germany could not get by without skilled foreign workers.

In a weekend newspaper interview, her Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) raised the possibility of lowering barriers to entry for some foreign workers in order to fight the lack of skilled workers in Europe’s largest economy.

“For a few years, more people have been leaving our country than entering it,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. “Wherever it is possible, we must lower the entry hurdles for those who bring the country forward.”

The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) says Germany lacks about 400,000 skilled workers.

Yet Horst Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU’s sister party, has rejected any relaxation of immigration laws and said last week there was no room in Germany for more people from “alien cultures.”

8075: Citi Needs A Creative Bailout.

Citi congratulates Ebony magazine on its 65th anniversary with the sincerity of royalty-free stock photography.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

8074: Mad Men Mention.

The final episode of AMC series Mad Men presented a few scenarios that reflected the advertising industry today.

First, longtime housekeeper Carla was fired. To her credit, Carla stood her ground and maintained her professionalism while Betty Draper flipped out. As always, creator Matthew Weiner portrays the few Black characters on the show with a certain respectful, heroic quality. Regardless, the minorities on Mad Men—like their modern-day counterparts on Madison Avenue—ultimately get the shaft.

Second, Harry Crane hit on an acquaintance of Peggy Olson, damn near giving her a job without even knowing her qualifications. This represented the kind of hiring practices still present in our industry now.

Third, Don Draper fucked his secretary again while vacationing with her in California. While his girlfriend was in New York. Then Draper asked the secretary to marry him. Next, he dumped the girlfriend. This spectacle demonstrated how White men abuse their power and authority to get whatever they want. OK, that last point might not be completely relevant to our present business environment. Or maybe it is.

8073: Upholding The Marketers’ Constitution…?

At Advertising Age, ANA President-CEO Bob Liodice concluded his Top Ten series with a column titled, “10 Heroes of ‘Marketers Constitution’ Uphold Tenets of Successful Marketing.” According to the column, “At ANA’s annual Masters of Marketing conference, we underscored the enduring importance of these principles by honoring 10 companies and their marketing leaders that have effectively embraced one of the tenets of the Marketers’ Constitution.” The following excerpt is worth examining:

7. Marketing professionals must become better, highly skilled, diverse leaders.
At Johnson & Johnson, diversity and inclusion are more than just company values—they’re competitive advantages. As one of America’s most enlightened and diverse companies, Johnson & Johnson deserves our utmost respect, and we are delighted to honor its CMO, Brian Perkins, and its chief diversity officer, Anthony Carter, as the heroes of this Marketers’ Constitution tenet.

Okey-doke. But at some point, if clients are going to embrace diversity, shouldn’t they also apply the same standards of excellence to their partners—namely, their advertising agencies? How can advertisers continue to practice the hypocrisy of conspiring with White agencies where inclusion is invisible and exclusion thrives?

8072: Dap Is Pap.

The dimpled State Farm character is annoying enough, but letting him try to hang with the Black dudes is painful to watch.

8071: Bullies & Bullshit.

Weekend Web News in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Facebook is teaming with a gay-advocacy group to reduce hate speech and bullying on the social media site. Based on the movie detailing the founding of Facebook—The Social Network—the site’s creator certainly produced his fair share of online mischief bordering on bullying during the early years.

• T.I. is heading back to jail, ordered to serve an additional 11 months for probation violation. The rapper/actor had previously been released four years early from prison, striking a deal whereby he’d to spend time telling young people about the perils of drugs, crime and gangs. Guess he’s now offering an advanced lesson to the kids.

• Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell is whining that the Republican establishment in Washington is not helping her out. Um, the woman’s nuttiness is not helping either. Perhaps it’s time for O’Donnell to tap into her witchcraft skills.

• Moronic Florida pastor Terry Jones is collecting a free car in exchange for agreeing to halt his plans to burn copies of the Quran. There’s a car bomb joke here, folks.

• A new study indicates up to 17 percent of U.S. medical costs—about $168 billion—can be blamed on obesity, which is nearly twice the impact on medical spending versus figures from previous studies. Of course, Mickey D’s and other fast feeders would argue that people choose to spend more on medical costs.

8070: Post-Racial Perspectives.


Race remains hot topic despite Obama presidency

By Shannon Mullen, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

The election of the first black president in U.S. history was supposed to usher in a post-racial era in America.

But a series of controversies since then, from the White House “Beer Summit” to the conflicts between the tea party and NAACP, shows that race is still a hot-button issue.

“As a society, clearly we’re not over race,” said Hettie V. Williams, lecturer in the African American History Department at Monmouth University.

Unlike the racial disturbances of the 1960s and ‘70s, the race-related controversies of the past two years have, for the most part, played out over the airwaves and across the blogosphere, not on the streets of America’s cities.

And virtually all of these episodes have, directly or indirectly, involved President Obama, whose historic election raised hopes of a sea change in U.S. race relations.

That hope has dimmed considerably since November 2008.

Since the summer of 2009, the percentage of U.S. voters participating in a Rasmussen Reports survey who think relations between blacks and whites are getting better has fallen from 62% to just 36%.

In the same poll, blacks were more pessimistic than whites. While 39% of whites saw improvement, just 13% of blacks share that view.

But Williams, of Monmouth University, and others still see reason for optimism. Mixed marriages are on the rise, she noted, and more Americans of mixed parentage feel comfortable identifying themselves as multiracial.

In New Jersey, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse states in the country, nearly 2 of 3 residents say it is important for people of different races and ethnic groups to live, go to school and work closely together, according to the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media poll. Forty percent say blacks and whites are now treated equally.

Obama backlash
To what extent race figures into the backlash against Obama is difficult to assess, scholars say.

“When we listen to the vocabulary, where people are talking about ‘taking our country back,’ it does sound like a veiled reference to race,” said Wayne Glasker, director of the African American Studies Program at Rutgers University, Camden.

Yet the broader context of Obama’s presidency is that Americans are deeply unhappy about the state of the U.S. economy and many are understandably resentful about the bailout of the big banks that helped cause the recession in the first place, he said.

“Race is in the mix, but it isn’t all about race,” Glasker said. “There’s a whole lot of populist anger out there, and unfortunately for him, he’s at the center of that vortex, all of that is whirling around him.”

But Deepa Kumar, associate professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, sees disturbing parallels between the rise of right-wing, “anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim” groups across Europe and the rhetoric of the tea party and Pamela Geller’s Stop Islamization of America group, which has led the fight against the ground zero mosque.

“I think they’re taking a page from their European counterparts,” she said. “They’re saying, ‘OK, people are frustrated, they’re anxious about the economy.

How can we get them to direct their anger at certain groups of people and thereby increase our audience for our ideas?’”

Kumar, for one, faults Obama for not doing more to counter this trend.

“He has had a tendency to not want to talk about race and to thereby give the impression that we in fact do live in a post-racial society where racism is a thing of a past,” she said.

Deeper issues ignored
Tukufu Zuberi, a sociologist and professor of race relations at the University of Pennsylvania, says the media presents a superficial view of the role of race in America.

“There is a tremendous disconnect between what we see and hear and read in the media and the racial realities that people are experiencing in society,” Zuberi said.

He cited Gates’ arrest — and the “Beer Summit” that followed — as an example.

“Even though they had a beer, that beer did not resolve the question of African-American men and the problems they have in their confrontations with police,” Zuberi said.

Among black men between the ages of 20 and 34, 1 in 9 is behind bars, according to 2008 report by the Pew Center on the States.

“The issue of race is not solved by the election of President Obama, it’s not solved by having a beer,” Zuberi said.

“Is there a change? Yes,” he said. “Obama symbolizes the hope. The question is, do we have the resolve to change the world to realize what that hope means.”