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Chapter ten discusses racial dimensions as portrayed in contact images on commercial advertisements. The section reveals inequality in the portrayal of black and white races with the blacks represented to occupy a demeaning and a disadvantaged position. The chapter holds that commercial advertisements in the media are a mirror of the reality in society. Since the commercial ads want to portray the goodness of a product, the content developers are keen to communicate messages in a manner that is consistent with the cultural values and in recognition of the social taboos. The chapter reveals a declining trend in the inclusion of negative behavior of the blacks. However, the subtle differences including showing the whites to be in less romantic contact with whites, the tendency to prefer white hands while consumption is intended for both blacks and whites and the different roles played by blacks and whites in advertisements affirms that the commercials play a vital role in propagating racial segregation.
The author argues that commercials have an opportunity to promote cultural inclusiveness but most of them are performing on the contrary by supporting racial segregation. Ads feature Interpersonal contact that is vital to shaping feelings and attitudes that promote acceptance of cultural differences (Ledbetter, Samuel and Joseph 2016:149). Advertisements are essential in showing whites and blacks interacting with each other in business activities and through the consumption of products. The pattern of interactions depicted in commercials confirm the real fears and stereotyping. White characters in the advertisements are portrayed to have an emotional bond while the same lack on African American characters.
The author reveals subtle forms of racial stereotyping in the media and a significant change from the previous ways where blacks appeared to present outright negative characters. The authors found a rise in the number of black actors in advertisements but a consistent trend in racial stereotyping. Currently, racial segregation is hidden and noticeable only by a careful analysis of the roles played by individuals from the different ethnic groups (Shohat and Robert 2014:12). The authors analyzed commercials running through various television shows from ABC, Fox Network, and NBC. A total of one hundred six hundred and twenty code able ads were studied (Entman & Rojecki 2001:165). For inclusion of an advertisement to the sample it had to have identifiable characters from two racial groups, and the ad had to be product oriented. The results reveal that racial stereotyping is now taking subtle forms rather than the clear depiction used before.
The evaluation revealed that the population has trust with the dominant group as opposed to the blacks. The observation was evident from the fact that commercials depict a connection between the characters on the screen and the viewers. The disparity was apparent in hand model advertisements where a white hand appeared almost five times more compared to a black one. Advertisers targeting the mainstream audience avoided black hands owing to their connection with danger, contamination, and pollution (Entman and Rojecki 2001:175). Moreover, the ads depicted limited contact between the black American advertisers with both the white and the black population.
The findings affirmed dehumanization and depersonalization to be familiar with black actors. The depiction of the blacks in the analyzed ads followed a trend of depersonalization where for instance, a commercial advertising women underwear avoided showing the face and the head of the black woman (Entman and Rojecki 2001:169). By contrast, commercials depicting white women showed their pelvic areas as well as the face in lingering shots. Failure to portray black faces in the media is due to the view of people of color as unattractive.
The authors affirmed patterns of taboos on interracial intimacy in all advertisements including advertisements targeting the majority of the blacks' population. Only one of the analyzed ads showed blacks kissing evidencing racial hierarchy and separation on the screens. The existence of taboos in Blacks Entertainment Television affirmed that interracial intimacy would look controversial and disturbing among the black population just like it had on the white community (Entman and Rojecki 2001:173). The authors understood the portrayal of the blacks to mean that the white population is troubled by images involving romantic contact between whites and blacks in behaviors including kissing. The commercials were likely to depict blacks to be just sexy rather than representing them to be involved in romance including kissing.
The blacks appeared in the advertisement for necessity products while the whites advertised luxurious commodities. For instance, of seventy-three commercials featuring perfume products, one of them had all black actors. Most of the ads featuring black characters were advertising items in the necessity category including drugs, household items and food (Entman and Rojecki 2001:173). By contrast, whites advertised in the commercials featuring luxury and fantasy products including credit cards, perfume, and cars. The blacks are depicted to buy items that have a practical value in an individual life. The portrayal of the whites in luxury products shows that the business finds them to be more suitable in convincing the public in fantasy-related products since more than giving mundane information is vital in advertising such products.
The authors argued that the aspect of dehumanizing the blacks was intentional with the aim of preventing the effect of acceptance of commonality that would result in the portrayal of blacks to be equal to the whites. The authors support the argument with the findings of a research by Mary Douglas that affirmed exploitation fear and exploitation of black sexuality in the white culture. Douglas claimed that disorder including racial segregation is rarely condemned in the society since it breeds inequality for some and power for others. The media reacts in a manner that is consistent with group stereotypes and media casts are meant to propagate illicit vices and to promote immediate gratification (Ortega 2016:2). The media presents this type of reality by depicting the blacks to be dangerous and the whites to be dominant.
The authors affirmed that the racial divide in the media is consistent with the beliefs of the viewers including the association of blacks with negative behavior. For instance, twenty ads in the Blacks Entertainment Television advertised alcohol drinks over a period of two days. The portrayal shows a disproportionate presence of wines and spirits stores in blacks' neighborhood confirming the stereotypes associating blacks with drugs addiction. Most of the commercials follow the existing patterns in the society that include racial targeting and profiling. Recent research affirms that the whites apply the white racial frame in conceiving the social world and in viewing racial matters in daily life (Ortega 2016:2). The research affirms that the media apply the same pro-white frame to reaffirm the virtues connected to the whites and to demonize the blacks.
Racial stereotyping in commercial ads is consistent with racial segregation in the entire advertising industry. Often, the media keeps the responsibility to produce racially conscious material at the minimum (Shohat and Robert 2014:12). It is common for the press to produce racially segregated material to preserve their relevance and popularity. Corporations are likely to require ad agencies to avoid television stations that produce content designed to appeal to Black audiences.
To sum up, despite the increasing numbers of blacks in advertisements, racial segregation is still apparent in commercial ads. A close analysis of the frequency of images of the blacks in announcements involving luxurious and the necessity products reveals striking facts that the blacks are more involved in advertising products in the necessity category. The television stations earn from advertisements, and they are willing to implement social immorality including racial segregation to ensure profit maximization.
Entman, Robert, and Rojecki, Andrew. 2001. ''Advertising Whiteness''. Pp. 162-180 in The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America, edited by Susan Herbst and Benjamin Page. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
Ledbetter, Andrew, Samuel Hardman, and Joseph Mazer. "Enjoyment Fosters Media Use Frequency and Determines its Relational Outcomes: Toward a Synthesis of Uses and Gratifications Theory and Media Multiplicity Theory." Computers in Human Behavior 54:149-157.
Ortega, Frank J. and Joe, Feagin. 2016. "Framing in the Media." Routledge Handbooks. 2-5
Shohat, Ella, and Robert Stam. 2014. Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media. Routledge. 1-15
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