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Even as the Obamas ascend, stereotypes persist

Posted: June 28, 2008 9:18 p.m.
Updated: August 30, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Contrary to popular and delusional thought, African-Americans — to be politically, not culturally, correct — do not comprise a monolithic camp, with twin charlatans Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson tag-teaming the role of Moses, and Cornell West manufacturing cerebral arms.

Despite the intellectual hallucinations of Jeremiah Wright, which the NAACP fattened themselves on, black Americans are not a different stamp of humanity that is, for example, biologically predisposed to hip-hop and soul music and biologically disinclined to the European pedagogical methods of American schools that have supposedly rendered blacks "inarticulate" and inferior learners.

That foolishness amazes me all the more because it thrives even while being stared down by the Obamas, who embody a glaring rejection of such philosophical retardation.

The Obamas have consistently failed to live up to the stereotypical billing of being black. Beyond proving makeshift sociologists Wright et al. inane — Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard, damn that European pedagogy — they have taken the path of Sidney Poitier, Nat King Cole, Condi Rice, Opray Winfrey, Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, and countless others in confirming that most black people are not the gaudy, gyrating militants that many parade themselves as.

If nothing else, Obama’s presidential bid is yet another vindication arguing that black people, as much as any other race, can be and often are eloquent, reasoned, and dignified.

Yet Allstate Insurance and Wal-Mart are of a different understanding. Despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, those companies endorse the caricature, often self-inflicted, that brands black people.

That conclusion is necessitated by two commercials; one from each company.

Allstate’s advertisement features four black men riding in an SUV, and throughout, their conversation is riddled with slang that in no way could be appreciated as articulate or intelligible.

After averting an accident, a back-seat passenger angrily barks more slang, and then expletives, toward the driver, re-enforcing the caricature of blacks as angry and inarticulate street people.

The Wal-Mart commercial paint-brushes black people as hip-hop addicted individuals crouched and ready to "bust a move" (whatever that means). Although smartly dressed and buttoned-down in demeanor, these actors, presumably portraying a backyard family barbecue, go about their festivities with rap music as a foreground attraction.

More to the point, the actors have no speaking lines and there is no other sound given to the advertisement — except for the rap music.

Similar to a silent movie, it insinuates that at any moment the smiling young daughter, grandmother, etc., might break into some dance step. The stronger insinuation is that the music of choice for black people is hip-hop. How shallow and cheapening.

It is the point of any for-profit organization to maximize profits for shareholders and board members. Allstate and Wal-Mart are no different. And that is not a bad thing.

Gordon Gekko caught more than a grain of truth. Even if Allstate’s and Wal-Mart’s respective commercials — certainly Allstate’s — were directed at target audiences, the objective is still to lure as many new clients as possible and retain all current ones.

And in the highly competitive markets of insurance and retail, the essential target audience is normally everyone. Bottom line, Allstate and Wal-Mart only employ advertisements that they are convinced will deliver the most clients; that is, the most money.

Both companies, like BET entertainment channel, are banking on the "hood" perception handcuffing the black persona in America. What angers me is the pandering to that perception and the existence of that perception.

Yet I cannot fault corporations for their pandering without faulting many black people for perpetrating that myth by their conduct.

But trust me, Santa Clarita, the Obamas, Sidney Poitiers and MLK Jrs. are not the exceptions to the rule. And to be truthful, the 50 Cents, Kanye Wests, and Allen Iversons of the world are members of the "black community," but are surely not representative of that community.

Politically, the Obamas and me are on completely opposite sides of constitutional interpretation. But I take pride in how they carry themselves.

Andre Hollings is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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