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Dimensions of Racism in Advertising

From Slavery to the Twenty-First Century

Edited By Edward Lama Wonkeryor

Advertising has had a racial dimension from slavery to the present. Contributors to this book explore the role of institutionalized racism and bigotry in multicultural marketing since its inception in the 1920s. Promoting ethnic diversity in the advertising industry is not just an important regulatory issue but essential for representation of ethnic images in marketing.
Dimensions of Racism in Advertising will be useful for both research and teaching purposes. It can be used as a textbook in upper-level courses in African American studies, ethnic studies, advertising, mass media, public policy, sociology, and history. For policy makers, it will provide an alternative explanation for the stereotypical portrayal of Africans and African Americans in the United States and elsewhere. It will be similarly useful for nongovernmental organizations in fighting institutional racism and the marginalization of ethnic and racial groups in advertising and marketing.
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Chapter 1 Introduction


Edward Lama Wonkeryor

Given the history of race relations in the United States, it is not surprising that racism has contributed a great deal to the evolution and continual reinforcement of racial and ethnic stereotypes in advertising from the development of this country up to the present day. This book examines the history of race in advertising and also discusses the development of African American identity as it relates to media. An effective discussion is predicated upon the clear definitions of advertising, racism, and multicultural marketing.

Advertising is defined in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary “as the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements” and also as “the business of preparing advertisements for publication or broadcast.” Advertising is the most widespread form of public communication in contemporary societies. It is a major presence in many areas of public space, including urban centers, retail spaces and stadia, less so in residential suburban areas, public buildings and parks, and in most news and entertainment media (Richards et al. 2000: 14). In order to persuade or be effective, the advertisement must communicate to the audience the message it wants to relay. If for example, the advertisement is trying to sell a particular product than it must persuade the audience that for whatever functional or emotional reason they need to purchase the product. Not only must the advertisement effectively communicate the desired message, but the individual audience must be willing to “buy into” the desired...

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