Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Racism? Or Marketing?

McDonald's is racist. The only way I could possibly explain this statement is in the choices that McDonald's made in advertising during the eighties and nineties. We all saw the Dave Chappelle take on the Calvin works at WacArnold's commercials, and what most people don't realize is that those commercials were based on true advertisements. For some reason, McDonald's felt that black people getting jobs there was the end of poverty in America. How much does McDonald's actually pay, that working there, even as a manager, means that you can now move your family out of the hood? I'm not dissing black McDonald's employees, because I'm sure some people have actually supported their family working there. But is McDonald's really supporting the black community by giving them jobs flipping burgers and dropping fries? How many black people work at McDonald's? According to a 2007 McDonald's fact sheet, 20% of McDonald's employees are African American, and 13.5% are owners/operators. This sounds impressive at first, but 13% of all Americans are Black. Because of affirmative action and equal employment, those percentages have to mirror each other. If McDonald's really was all about the Black community, wouldn't these numbers be higher? I'm not saying they should hire only Black people, but shouldn't those numbers be slightly higher if they truly are that committed to the Black community?

Another question this advertisement raises: is Calvin who hangs on the corner just a few years of hard work at McDonald's away from being a legitimate American citizen? What about college? Are black people only good for serving biscuits and hamburgers? What about black doctors, executives, architects? Am I taking this too far? I saw this commercial at 10 years old (it originally aired in 1992) What if I didn't have any positive influences in my home, or adult role models who stressed the importance of education? What if I honestly bought into the idea of serving food as being a goal in my life? I'm not knocking people who work in the service industry. I've worked in the service industry, but ask any waiter or waitress if they feel as if what they're doing is a "career".

This goes back to the idea of racial stereotypes being reinforced by advertisements. When you see tech guys in advertisements, how many of them are of Asian decent? When you see nondescript athletes, (non-famous) how many of them are black? These aren't necessarily "harmful" stereotypes, but they are stereotypes. Should every black person be athletes? Can't white people run and catch well too? Aren't black people capable of fixing your computer or being up on the latest gadgetry? How many Axe commercials show black guys musking up and getting chased down by young white girls? Remember the movie Hitch? Eva Mendes was given the role opposite Smith because the moviemakers were worried about the public’s reaction if the part was given to a white or an African American actress, according to Smith. The actor is saying that it was feared that a black couple would have put off worldwide audiences whereas a white/African American combo would have offended viewers in the U.S. Think that racism doesn't exist in mass media still?

As consumers, we have to bear in mind that we can hold corporations responsible. When we give corporations money they feel that their advertisements are working, and we are in a sense, participating in our own manipulation.

Spread the word.

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