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Home arrow Political science arrow Dimensions of Racism in Advertising: From Slavery to the Twenty-First Century

Conclusion: Why Is Regulation of Minority Hiring Essential?

The African American community has experienced oppression and institutionalized discrimination in employment and in other spheres of life in the United States, from times of slavery to the present-day. Understanding the racist ideas that sanctioned the oppression provides only a partial explanation for the persistence of stereotypical or negative images of African Americans in the mass media. On review of the brief history of mandatory diversification and the long history of negative representation, our conclusions support the theory that encouraging and fostering significant ethnic diversity among advertising personnel is not just an important regulatory issue to address historical failures, but is essential to positively portray representational images of diverse ethnicities in order for cultural stereotypes to change.

However, since the 1960s when the Civil Rights struggles demanded institutional reforms so that minority populations could fully participate in all spheres of society, little has changed in the advertising industry in regard to equality in hiring practices. In fact, though significant efforts were made to train and recruit African Americans in the 1960s, real change did not materialize. By 1970, discussions related to minority hiring in advertising disappeared from the headlines and subsequently virtually disappeared from the boardrooms and human resources departments of advertising agencies.

Today, although there are still vestiges of racial discrimination, the perceptions of white Americans have started to change. The advertising industry has obviously seized this opportunity, evaluated and welcomed the growth of minority populations as potential customers, and begun to step forward and create some very culturally positive multicultural marketing campaigns. In the twenty-first century, multicultural marketing has become a necessity, given the multiracial and multiethnic characteristics of America. Despite this, as recently as 2006, the New York Human Rights Commission study showed that virtually no progress had been made in terms of employment. Again, only government mandates will force organizations to focus on and improve minority hiring practices. Many agencies have hired Chief Diversity Officers to ensure that diversity in hiring practices is a top priority. Chambers observes that “just as agencies used their creative power to encourage people to switch their brands of toothpaste, they should use those same powers to create an interest in the industry within the black and Puerto Rican communities” (2008: 178). We believe that advertising has tremendous power and influence in our community. In addition, advertising has a financial mandate and a moral imperative to promote diversity in its imagery. Ultimately, we expect that the changes discussed above will help lead to true respect for cultural differences in our society, and we hope that over time, employment discrimination will be entirely eliminated within the advertising industry. Perhaps then, one day, there will be no need for government agencies to serve as watchdogs.

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