Recently, Duncan Hines, extraordinaire of cakes and the like, decided that it would be financially beneficial to air an advertisement showing cupcakes adorned with chocolate and big pink lips. The only thing missing were the cupcakes rapping and beatboxing.
Hip hop cupcakes. That’s where we stand in this post-Sarah Palin, post-Waka Flocka world.
Collective indignation over unflattering racial imagery and allusions are as American as . . . America. While one group of people serve as watchdog for all things that discriminate and stereotype, another decries the former group as being too sensitive, while still another could care less.
It’s high time for some sanity to pervade these discussions. But since sanity is boring and polarization spices things up, what we end up with is more contention over the reaction to the advertisement than over the actual advertisement itself.
An open wound is being exposed every time African Americans are reminded of their “standing” in the economic pecking order of this country. Wounds form scabs, which naturally heal. Problem is, the scabs caused by White supremacy never heal. They are constantly irritated, pricked, pulled and removed.
Situations like this one, however irrelevant it may be, don’t help.
So, what role does racial hurt and disrespect play in the world of marketing and revenue?
And here we are again, left to grapple with market forces that seem to be satisfied with demeaning and boxing the images of minorities for profit. For Duncan Hines and many other capitalists, there isn’t a reason to stop reinforcing the easy characterizations of Black culture. Or, stated another way, pissing off Black people isn’t a bad business strategy.
If it was . . . well, let’s just say that we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
The outrage is used to raise profile, and prove to business owners that many consumers care less about marketing oversights, and more about what gives them physical utility. So what if a certain segment of the market gets a backhand in the process?
“We’re making money! Shareholders are cool.”
And the cycle continues.
A month ago, Amazon published The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct. Naturally, thousands of people poured in expressions of their displeasure and caused the retail giant to pull the book off its site. This was a prime example that examined if the market valued morality over the acquisition of low-cost goods (Amazon’s specialty).
From a unofficial, armchair, cursory look at various families (cough, cough, mine), child pedophilia isn’t on the minds of cost-conscious, Christmas spirit-filled customers as they peruse the site, seeking to avoid disappointing close friends and family. Although different circumstances surround Amazon and Duncan Hines, the point is the same: People’s forgiveness can be bought. Either through time or money.
McDonald’s execs hear the complaints regarding their blatant pandering to certain demographics. They just hear the rings of the cash register louder. The sustained “hip hop and sports and dancing comprises Black culture and we can’t reach them without it” mindset held by marketing departments is simply an indication of what their “research” yields.
Black Americans aren’t buying books at the same ratio as they’re buying clothes, cars and food. While every group in the country hits the malls and outlets, and negotiates with car salesmen with astounding frequency (America is a consumer-based economy after all), the sensitivity quotient is lower among African-Americans.
Wounds and scabs and scars.
Irish uproar over constant depictions of incessant Irish insobriety doesn’t get played up nearly as much as Black anger over “ghetto” stereotypes. Of course, Irish Americans don’t have ancestors who were forced to eat pig brain and feces in the process of expanding a country that could care less about them.
A country like that isn’t likely to change its course because of some moral condemnation. After all, abolitionists, as well as anti-Jim Crow and anti-people-getting-screwed-over public sentiments, always existed. Businesses and their strategies—and, in essence, the country—will change if money in the cash registers starts diminishing because of reckless, or ineffective, marketing.
Duncan Hines is a pawn playing the game. And any chess beginner knows that the game isn’t won by capturing pawns.