Sunday, November 2, 2008

Politics: Ebonically Speakin'

Politics: Ebonically Speakin'

Paul Scott

For those outside of Durham, there is a current beef going on between those who want us to vote for a tax on food and those who want us to vote against it.

That's all well and good but what struck me was when I was flippin' the dial the other day on my boom box, I stumbled across the radio commercial that the anti food tax folks are running on black radio station, WFXC aka Foxy 107.

Picture Butterfly McQueen from "Gone With the Wind" and Aunt Jemima from the pancake box chewing the fat about politics.

The spot goes something like this...

"Girl, let's go out to eat."

"I can't girl, with this food tax, I won't be able to feed my kids !"

The commercial got me to thinking about how politics and products are marketed to black folks.

Now, I'm not against using a little swagga to push a political position or a product but there is a difference between sounding hip and sounding ig'nant.

I ain't mad at the Lou Rawls soundin' dude that they use to sell everything from burgers to Buicks. (Even though, I always expect him to bust out with a stunnin' rendition of "Groovy People" at the end of every commercial.) But when folks start talking like they're straight out the cotton patch, then I have a problem.

I wish I was a fly on the wall at one of those marketing meetings when they are trying to figure out ways to reach the black masses.

"Um, Tom..That's not black enough. Take it from the top with a little more ethnic energy."

"Yessa, Boss...I's tryin'....Eat Colonel Jack's fried chicken and chit'lins...."

Historically, how products are marketed has been an issue in the black community. For years we were not represented in marketing budgets at all since we were all considered to be broke. But when advertisers finally figured out that black folks did have some amount of disposable income what did we get? Cigarette ads and malt liquor commercials.

Who can forget the cool dude with the Kool menthol cigarette huggin' his main squeeze in Jet magazine or the smooth brother in the Colt 45 commercial that used to come on after your favorite Parliament record.

Thirty years later, the cool Kool dude is doing those anti-smoking ads and the malt liquor man is stumblin' across a city street somewhere trying to borrow a dollar.

This becomes even more problematic in the world of politics.

On every black radio station there are ads with the same overly sympathetic black dude bragging about how his candidate of choice cares about "our" issues. That way they can cater to black voters without overly identifying with black people.

The latest ad running on black radio deals with senatorial Democratic candidate, Kay Hagan, having once, allegedly, been a member of a lilly white country club.

Somehow, I just can't see her opponent, Republican Elizabeth Dole, hangin' out in tha hood, either.

Bottom line is we can no longer accept being mindless victims of marketing strategies, whether political or economic.

Until, we as black folks begin to control how we are represented, we will be forever be steppin' and fetchin' for the highest bidder.

Paul Scott's blog is He can be reached at (919) 451-8283