America and Americans love money. For many, the only value is the bottom line. Others boast about seeing only the color green. I must add that some of our money is brown. Nevertheless, God said, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” That is why it seems the ultimate contradiction for us to stamp “In God We Trust” on our on the money we love. Given this love of money, nothing and no one is immune from the possibility of being commoditized. The ugly shame of America is that my ancestors were “imported” to this country. They did not migrate here. They did not come of their own volition. My ancestors were stolen, bought, sold, and insured as if they were cattle or inanimate objects. You import things, not people; this how the value of green thought about my ancestors. Yet, it is America’s shame. It is not my or my ancestors’ shame. The Constitution and the Dred Scott decision both use the term “import” when talking about my people. This is clear evidence of how my ancestors were objectified. The human trade in African was legally ended in 1807. However, the illicit trade continued. Human trafficking for the purpose of cheap labor has not abated even in this year of 2018. The American enslavement of Africans came to a constitutional end in 1865. African labor was still highly needed but devalued so as not to pay a fare wage to those transitioning from enslaved labor to wage labor. The social companion to this economic calamity was racism. Society, as a whole, was engaged in the devaluation of the Black Aesthetic. Jim Crow laws served as the rectification of a White mindset that wanted to legally separate every aspect of Black life from every aspect of White life.
Interpersonal relationships between the races were particularly forbidden. Such a ban on these relationships were enforced and defined selectively. For example, Strom Thurman preached segregation, but fathered a child with his family’s Black housekeeper. White males could have liaisons with Black females but there were laws against marriage. Black males could be killed for having liaisons with White females. White females could be disowned by families and ostracized by communities. White males who ventured into marriage with Black females could also be ostracized. With this history in mind, the recent airings of multiple commercials featuring interracial couples become extremely interesting.
Corporations spend considerable sums on advertising in order to sell their products, goods, and services. We have also seen corporations snatch ads from radio and television outlets when such outlets become plagued by either racial or sexual scandals. In other words, these business enterprises are very guarded with their advertising dollars. Consequently, American historical realities coupled with the recent high rate of interracial corporate ads create somewhat of a paradox. I am not sure if the Cheerios ad featuring an interracial couple was the first in generation of interracial ads; however, it received a great deal of attention. The Cheerios ad was based on a Black husband, a White wife, and the couple’s daughter. The daughter’s appearance implied that she was interracial. Some of the attention that the ad received was racist. However, Cheerios did not back down or pull the ad. As a matter of fact, the company doubled down by doing a follow up ad with the same family. Other companies such as Tide/Procter-Gamble and Humira have followed with similar interracial couples. Does the presence of these ads on television and print media signal a major shift in racial attitudes in the United States? For example, let us examine the anatomy of such an ad; can we or should we assume that a majority of the creators of these ads are White? The ad has to be conceived. The company has to agree to fund the project. Actors have to be hired. Scripts have to be written. Commercials have to be filmed. Simply stated, ads featuring interracial couples are no accident. They are very intentional. Moreover, once the ad is completed, there has to be an agreement between the makers of the ad and the outlet through which the ad will be shown. It is at this juncture that we have to ask ourselves whether the makers of the ads are trying to send a message other than simply selling their products. In addition to this, a more profound question has to be asked. Who is more in step with where America is today on the race question? Is it the politician or elected official who runs a racist campaign and attempts to establish racist policies? On the other hand, is the politician or elected official who seeks to be more inclusive and promote policies that are progressive taking into account America’s multicultural reality?
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he published a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”