Live media literate.

Join Understand Media to get access to our forums, the latest media literacy news, member-only articles, early access to our journals, and much more.

We will never give your info to anyone!

By Vicky B.

Racism in advertising has been happening for decades, there’s nothing new about it.  Sometimes it’s subtle other times it’s right in your face, blatantly.  You don’t even have to leave your home, just turn on your television, read your mail, catalogs, magazines or surf the web, advertising is apart of our life.  Advertisers are using gimmicks to sell their products, and those gimmicks often involve racism in some form.

The racism begins with the audition.  According to the article written by, Dan fastenberg: http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/04/24/is-the-ad-industry-as-racist-as-it-was-in-mad-men-era/  (Is the Ad Industry as Racist as it was in ‘Mad Men Era’.)  Acura had requested a “not too dark African-American” to play the part of a car dealer in its Super Bowl ad.   This is giving the assumption that dark skinned blacks are not attractive.  In Malay, the word for black is hitam commonly used to mean “ugly”.   Society as a whole doesn’t consider dark skin blacks attractive.  The people in charge of choosing what race will be in an advertisement or usually white.  So, you have white culture selecting what race of people will represent the ad.  Since most white-casting directors no little about black culture, except what they watch on television or at the movies.  There’s a higher possibility that the black actors they select will be stereotyped.  Such as, using a black family in a Crisco ad, eating fried and watermelon, singing gospel hymns.  This is what I call, right in your face black racism.   I found an old box of Aunt Jemima Pancakes online from the 1940’s.  Everything about the ad is disgusting to me.  According to Gawker’s website: http://gawker.com/397129/just-how-racist-was-aunt-jemima.  The front of the pancake box says, happifyin Aunt Jemima Pancakes sho’ set folks singin’.  Ads that stereotype blacks are often used to justify racial inferiority. 

Racism in advertising is hurtful, because it’s all about stereotyping and perception.  Stereotyping is driven by a need to project undesirable aspects of our own personalities onto others who appear different in order to avoid awareness of our own issues. Racism in advertising will always exist.  Maybe it won’t show up boldly in your face, but it will be subtle.  And it always starts at the audition.  The casting director might want to cast a black person that’s not too black.  This means they want to cast a light-skinned black person with relaxed hair and small facial features.  We always have to keep our eyes open to the little details in advertisements.  It’s the little things that matter in advertising when it comes to racism.