Home Political science Dimensions of Racism in Advertising: From Slavery to the Twenty-First Century
From the evolution of the United States, advertising was developed and practiced in the republic. In present-day America, it is still being practiced. The leading orthodoxy of the advertising industry has been to advertise to those who are willing and have the ability to buy; previously, this concept was widely limited to the mainstream populace—the predominantly white Americans. African Americans and other non-white Americans were sidelined, because the advertising industry regarded them as being financially incapable to buy any advertised products. This trend continued up to the end of the Second World War. When the Second World War ended, African Americans had significant purchasing power, the highest since the demise of slavery. Having worked in diverse industries during the war and having amassed capital and property, African Americans began to see more advertisements directed at them. In the second half of the twentieth century, advertising agencies extended their advertising campaigns in varying degrees to other racial and ethnic groups including Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Hispanics and Latinos.
In colonial America, African Americans and Native Americans were portrayed in derogatory ways in advertising. Similarly in 19th and 20th centuries America, the mischaracterizations of all non-white Americans and products aimed at them in advertising were equally denigrating. The majority of advertising agencies were owned by members of the mainstream culture who disavowed the idea of depicting the non-white populations in positive ways. Non-white Americans pressured the advertising industry to portray them positively in commercials as a part of the American populace. The structural changes in advertising to depict non-white Americans from a stereotypical identity to a positive one was based on the multicultural marketing concept that marketers must connect with the nonwhite consumers, including African Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Hispanics and Latinos. In so doing, diversity in advertising and American market democracy was enhanced.
In this volume, we illuminate the historical evolution of race in advertising and how racial identity in the communications media was formed. We discuss different topics—multicultural marketing, regulation of ethnic diversity in the advertising agency employment practices, modern newspapers and the formation of white racial group consciousness, racism and political advertising, and diversity in advertising. In response to the stereotypical portrayals of non-white Americans in the media, African Americans and others have fought against negative depictions and they continue to demand the advertising industry to present positive racial and ethnic images in advertisements. If the former is done, we believe the culture of diversity that that has made America a multicultural society will resonate in the advertising industry.
We think this volume will serve as a contribution to the existing literature that addresses inequalities and stereotypical characterizations of African Americans and other non-white Americans in advertising.
Edward Lama Wonkeryor
George Klay Kieh, Jr.
University of West Georgia
Natalie P. Byfield
St. John’s University
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