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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 4 Racism, Political Communication, and American Presidential Elections


George Klay Kieh, Jr.

Since the seventeenth century, racism has been an enduring and ubiquitous contour of the American capitalist political economy. The racist scourge is deeply embedded in every facet and sector of American life—institutions, law, and culture (Glick 2003: 1). Given the long history of the phenomenon, Cupich (2008: 1), using a biblical metaphor, refers to it as the United States’ “own original sin.” One of the major sectors that reflects the ubiquity of race in the American body politic is the electoral arena. John Judis provides a poignant description of the strangulating hold racism has on American elections—federal, state and municipal, legislative and presidential:

The issue of race is the longest-lasting cleavage in American politics. It is also perhaps the least understood. The open exploitation of racist sentiment by vote-hungry politicians was for centuries a durable American tradition. More recently race has assumed a subtle often unspoken form during campaign season (Judis 2001: 1).

Political advertisement serves as the instrumentarium through which the images that emanate from the architecture of racism are used as the terra firma for framing messages that seek to influence voting behavior. From the repository of elections, two cases are instructive. During the 1990 North Carolina senatorial race between white incumbent Jesse Helm, and Black Democratic challenger Harvey Gantt, Helms used a notorious racist political “White Hands” ad The ad showed the arms and hands of a white man opening and crumpling up a rejection...

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