In The News

The Second Great Shift

We Americans live in interesting times. It's been fifty years since the Voting Rights Act was passed, and fifty years since the infamous Watts riots in Los Angeles; fifty years have gone by since the mid-point of the “decade that changed everything” – the 1960s. It’s a good time to ask ourselves what has really changed, and what has not.
We Americans live in interesting times. It's been fifty years since the Voting Rights Act was passed, and fifty years since the infamous Watts riots in Los Angeles; fifty years have gone by since the mid-point of the “decade that changed everything” – the 1960s. It’s a good time to ask ourselves what has really changed, and what has not. We saw a great shift in awareness of racial divisions at that time. Though not everyone agreed that America should be proactive about narrowing the racial divide, the images of Dr. King, of riots in Watts and other cities, the image of LBJ signing legislation that was stunning in scope, did have an impact on the minds of Americans and showed them that yes, there was a racial problem. We've come a long way since 1965. Take a look at some attitudes back then, as compiled by Professors Lawrence Bobo, Howard Schuman, Charlotte Steeh and Maria Krysan, in their book Racial Attitudes in America: Trends and Interpretations, of data from the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago. In 1965: •30 percent of whites felt that blacks and whites should attend separate schools •23 percent of whites felt that blacks shouldn’t have the right to use the same parks, restaurants, and hotels as white people •60 percent of whites were in favor of laws against intermarriage (1964) Let’s face it. Racism is nowhere near as invidious as it was in the 1960s. And that decade represented a stunning leap in terms of racial tolerance as compared to decades prior. Few would argue that we are far from the days of Jim Crow segregation, with its signs "no colored's welcomed here." Yet many sociologists have argued that in its place has emerged a more subtle type of racism, what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls "color-blind racism." In his research, Bonilla-Silva found that while most whites outwardly proclaim that they don't see color, their statements were often prefaced with "Well, I'm not racist, but...". He writes: Compared to Jim Crow racism, the ideology of color blindness seems like “racism lite.” Instead of relying on name calling (n-ggers, sp-cs, ch-nks), color- blind racism otherizes softly (“ these people are human, too”); instead of proclaiming that God placed minorities in the world in a servile position, it suggests they are behind because they do not work hard enough; instead of viewing interracial marriage as wrong on a straight racial basis, it regards it as “problematic” because of concerns over the children, location, or the extra burden it places on couples. Revealing are some of the comments I received after posting a piece called “Why Do Conservatives Hate Talking About Race? Here’s one response, but a typical one:
I don't get how I can be considered a racist for viewing everyone equal and thus not giving two sh-ts about "race issues", yet someone can be called tolerant for continually bringing up a topic that serves to divide people on the assumption that one group is inherently racist and another a victim solely due to the color of one’s skin... Jesus Christ, it's 2015, we all bleed red blood, and the only thing I will judge anyone on is their actions, their morals/ethics, and their integrity... But no, I suppose that's somehow racist too... Or is it that being truly tolerant doesn't serve a financial/political interest for a select few who profit off of the continued strife this ridiculous issue has continued to generate?
Even the U.S. Supreme Court (the conservatives on the court) insisted that we’re so post-racial that there really was no need anymore for the protections of the voting rights act. So they gutted it in 2013. Surely, we wouldn’t go back to Jim Crow era poll taxes and other restrictions on voting that would largely affect African Americans in the south.
It took literally hours after that ruling before states, mostly in the south, moved to pass highly restrictive voting laws that would primarily affect African Americans and the poor. Now for the good news. New research shows that there’s been a marked shift in race consciousness over the past year. We are in what just might be a second great shift on racial awareness and a growing understanding of our divisions. Pew Research Center recently released a comprehensive survey of Americans’ views on race. It showed a big change in a short time. One finding: half of respondents said racism is a big problem in American society today. In 2010, a similar survey found just a third of respondents saying this. Pew also found a huge shift in attitudes in just the past year. Since Pew’s last annual survey on the race, the percentage of Americans across all groups who say the nation needs to continue making changes to achieve racial equality has increased by thirteen percent. In just one year. What’s interesting is that, while the longstanding gaps in attitudes between blacks and whites remain (and partisan and ideological divides also persist), every demographic in Pew’s study has shifted in the past year in favor of saying racism is a big problem in society. Young, old, Republican, Democrat, black, white, northerners, southerners. Every group. Another interesting aspect of Pew’s new survey results is that every group surveyed—race, age, education, political party—showed a higher percentage saying America “needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites.” What’s happened since Pew’s last survey? One big thing. The intense focus on racial bias in policing and the deaths, some with video, of unarmed black men. Ferguson and Michael Brown – we’re at that one-year anniversary now. Staten Island and Eric Garner. Cleveland and Tamir Rice. Charleston and Walter Scott. Baltimore and Freddie Gray. And, of course, a few months ago there was Dylann Roof, the young man who gunned down worshippers in a Black church, a man who had a trove of photos of him with guns and the Confederate flag Then there’s a growing awareness of African American incarceration rates. An alarming change in recent years has been the incarceration rate of young, African American males. Between 1980 and 2000, the rate of black incarceration nearly tripled. According to a study by the Pew Foundation in 2008, while one in thirty men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males the figure is one in nine. Writes Michelle Alexander, author of the book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, "The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. In Washington D.C. ... it is estimated that three out of four young black men can expect to serve time in prison." The awareness of the division between blacks and whites is being further exposed by Black Lives Matter. They certainly are having a profound effect on the Presidential race. In heckling Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – funny how they don’t even bother with the Republicans – they’ve sought to make these candidates address their issues, loudly and publicly. They also pressured Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton to meet with them to discuss what they want and what they think she should address. It a far cry from previous elections where, let’s face it, Democrats largely took the black vote for granted and almost never mentioned institutional racism. We’ll see how it plays out in this election season. Black Lives Matter could overreach – and some of their strong-arm tactics have been criticized from the left – but so far they are both riding the wave and pushing the wave. And we’ll see whether this new awareness really does lead to long-lasting change. But there are indictors that the second great shift might be imminent.

The GOP's New Latino Problem: Trump

Remember back in 2012, when Barack Obama won re-election and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, captured an anemic share of the Latino vote? The Republican national party did a post-mortem on what went wrong, and came up with a must-do prescription: reach out to more African American, Asian, and Latino voters. “We’ve done a real lousy job,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, said. Fast forward to the summer of 2015. The GOP front-runner is a celebrity businessman who launched his bid for the nomination by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers.
Remember back in 2012, when Barack Obama won re-election and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, captured an anemic share of the Latino vote? The Republican national party did a post-mortem on what went wrong, and came up with a must-do prescription: reach out to more African American, Asian, and Latino voters. “We’ve done a real lousy job,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, said. Fast forward to the summer of 2015. The GOP front-runner is a celebrity businessman who launched his bid for the nomination by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. Not surprisingly, a new Gallup poll found Donald Trump doing unbelievably awful among Latino voters, with 65 percent viewing him unfavorably and 14 percent favorably for a net favorable score of -51. Again, in a crowded GOP field, Trump is the front-runner. And he’s sucking up all the media oxygen. What’s more dispiriting to those who would like politicians of any party to engage in less incendiary rhetoric, the other GOP candidates are doing a “me too.” Jeb Bush dropped the “anchor babies” bomb last week. That’s where hordes of Mexican women cross the border and have their babies, thereby “anchoring” them in the U.S., giving them citizenship. It’s a pejorative, and frankly there’s not much evidence that this so-called practice is a big issue in immigration. But it sure does rile up nativist voters. Then this week Jeb launched his “insult every group” strategy by clarifying that in using the anchor babies term, he was really referring to Asians. In 2015, walk-backs apparently include a high-kick to the face of someone else. The GOP candidates are dancing to Trump’s tune. It’s ugly and it’s pathetic. And the longer it goes on the slimmer any GOP candidate’s chances are of capturing minority votes. So much for the 2013 post-mortem. The latest flap includes Trump removing Jorge Ramos of Univision from his press conference. For trying to ask a question about Trump’s immigration plan. “Go back to Univision,” he told Ramos. Sounds a little like “go back to Mexico,” doesn’t it? The political site Talkingpointsmemo.com makes the case that Trump’s actions will have a scorched earth effect, keeping Latinos and other minorities away from the party. Not just in this election, but for many elections to come:
It’s not just Ramos. Spanish-speaking media on the whole has been more critical of Trump than general market news. Analysis by the nonpartisan media analytics company Two.42.Solutions showed that 80 percent of Spanish-speaking media coverage of Trump focused on his immigration views — as opposed to 58 percent of Trump’s mention in mainstream news — and that coverage has been largely negative, according to the Times.
The article notes a soon-to-be published study by Sergio I. Garcia-Rios, a Latino Studies professor at Cornell University, which found that Latinos who pay close attention to Spanish-speaking media are more likely to be politically active. “This is not only media, it is media in Spanish, and for the most part we understand that as being Jorge Ramos,” Garcia-Rios told TPM. “This is even among English speakers, who prefer to use English at home. Those who watch news in Spanish, they’re more likely to be excited about politics and more likely to participate.” And they’re more likely to vote for the Democrat. If Trump prevails in winning the nomination, something unthinkable just a few months ago, he may have negative coattails, hurting GOP candidates’ chances down ticket across the country. In today’s America, with just over half of all babies born being non-white, and a Hispanic population of 55 million, for the GOP to brand itself as a nativist, anti-immigrant party is just plain dumb. The kind of dumb that can take an entire generation to undo.

Why Do Conservatives Hate Talking About Race?

Megyn Kelly finally asked the race question, more than halfway through Thursday night’s Republican debate.
Megyn Kelly finally asked the race question, more than halfway through Thursday night’s Republican debate.
Many in the Black Lives Matter movement, and beyond, believe that overly-aggressive police officers targeting young African Americans is the civil rights issue of our time. Do you agree? And if so, how do you plan to address it? And if not, why not?
It was a softball question for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. In Ohio, of all places. Kelly could have asked about the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice by a policeman in Cleveland last November. Or John Crawford, shot by police in Beaver Creek, a year and a day before the debate. Or Samuel DuBose, shot at a traffic stop for a missing front license plate in Cincinnati, just three weeks prior. Not surprisingly, Walker punted. It’s about “training,", he said, casually mentioning his black “friend", NRA darling David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County, who once accused the county executive, Chris Abele, of having “penis envy” and being on heroin when he crafted the county budget. Walker continued:
It's about making sure that law enforcement professionals, not only on the way into their positions, but all the way through their time, have the proper training, particularly when it comes to the use of force. And that we protect and stand up and support those men and women who are doing their jobs in law enforcement. And for the very few that don't, that there are consequences to show that we treat everyone the same here in America.
Not bad. But it's not as if Wisconsin treats everyone “the same." According to The Root, Wisconsin has the honor of being among the five “worst states for black people." The state incarcerates black people at the highest rate in the country -- 13 percent. Of its treatment of black men, 49 percent under 30 have been incarcerated, largely because of mandatory minimum-sentencing drug laws. So much for the Republican discourse on race – about half a minute of airtime. Ironically, immediately after Walker’s response, a commercial ran for the N.W.A biopic “Straight Outta Compton”, a film about the rap group who wrote the song "F-ck Tha Police" in response to police brutality and racial profiling. Well, in fairness, Kelly did come back to the race issue, in a question to the lone African American Republican candidate, neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson: One of the issues that the public was very interested in, and we touched on it earlier, is race relations in this country, and how divided we seem right now. What, if anything, you can do, you would do as the next president to help heal that divide. Carson gave the standard Republican response:
You know, we have the purveyors of hatred who take every single incident between people of two races and try to make a race war out of it and drive wedges into people. And this does not need to be done.
He continued:
You see, when I take someone to the operating room, I’m actually operating on the thing that makes them who they are. The skin doesn’t make them who they are. The hair doesn’t make them who they are.
Now, I’m no neurosurgeon, but I couldn’t agree more. We Americans, we human beings, are truly one and the same. But the wedge does not come from talking about race. The problem, pure and simple, is racism itself. The good news is that for the first time, maybe ever, a majority of Americans are in agreement. Last week, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that 59 percent of Americans agree that “Our country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites.” Just last March, that number was only 46 percent. Among whites alone, 53 percent agreed, up from 39 percent. Interestingly, when looking at the Pew results, there is little difference by age or education. Nearly 80 percent of blacks agree. However, among Republicans, 69 percent agree with the statement that the U.S. “has made [the] necessary changes” for equal rights -- truly amazing, given events over the past year. To paraphrase a poignant piece last June in the Daily Beast, conservatives “hate talking about race.” Not only is racial injustice not part of the narrative of self-reliance, the “self-made” man, and color-blind opportunity, ignoring race matters, or its more sinister companion, dog-whistle politics, has served Republicans well. It served Ronald Reagan, who talked about “young bucks” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks and “Cadillac-driving” welfare queens. It certainly served Richard Nixon, who appealed to the “silent majority” fed up with race riots and minority claims to entitlements, an integral part of his “Southern strategy.” But, thankfully, America has changed. After Ferguson, after Baltimore, and certainly, after Charleston, a majority of Americans has awoken to the reality that, indeed, we have a race problem. After last Thursday’s circus – and the near total silence on the race issue – it is hard to imagine Republicans retaking the White House. However, that will be for voters to decide.

He Goes Where No President Has Gone Before

On any given week it would have been the top story. But in a week dominated by the momentous nuclear agreement reached with Iran and another horrific mass shooting, President Obama’s visit to a federal prison in Oklahoma didn’t get quite the attention it warranted.
On any given week it would have been the top story. But in a week dominated by the momentous nuclear agreement reached with Iran and another horrific mass shooting, President Obama’s visit to a federal prison in Oklahoma didn’t get quite the attention it warranted. Marking a sharp break from politicians past, including Democratic presidents, Obama ditched the “tough on crime” rhetoric in favor of a “there but for the grace of God” tone. Here’s one of the key passages of his speech: “When they describe their youth, these are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different from the mistakes I made, and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made. The difference is that they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes. This speech, in which he noted how much more likely black and Hispanic men are to be incarcerated, was given days after his eulogy of Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims of the Emmanuel Church massacre on June 17. The eulogy helped put the issue of racial violence and hate before the national public in a way no president has ever done. After a couple days of hedging, Gov. Nikki Haley led the entire South Carolina political establishment in declaring that it was time to end the war of symbolism over the Confederate flag and retire it to a museum. In the next few days conservative Southern white Republicans agreed with Haley, something unthinkable only days before. Was this all due to the President’s eulogy? Not entirely. But it’s hard to ignore some profound and shocking statements he made in his address. Out of the horror of the killer's attack and his wish that it would spike racial hatred on both sides of the color line, the President saw something different. “God works in mysterious ways. God has different ideas. [Dylann Roof] didn’t know he was being used by God.” It’s something one might hear in the pulpit, but not from a president. Especially not an African American president who in his national introduction to the American people at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 eschewed the idea of red America and blue America and by implication, white America and Black America. It’s often been said that a president’s lame duck time in office – those two years between the last midterm election and the exit from the oval office – is, well, lame. But even the President’s most staunch critics could admit that Fourth Quarter Obama has racked up as many victories as he had in his vaunted first 100 days. And he’s using the political capital from those victories to do something quite astonishing. He’s not using it to woo his opponents or make political compromise. He’s speaking out about race and racial inequality, issues that, when he touched them when running for president and in his first term, he did so with delicacy intended to offend – or energize – nobody. He has the bully pulpit, and he’s using it to talk about things that the first Black President shouldn’t talk about: race, racial hatred, and America’s need to lock away Black men. In short, Fourth Quarter Obama is becoming, still, in his polite way, the Angry Black Man that his haters feared and many of his supporters hoped for. Following up on his trip to the Oklahoma federal prison, Obama addressed the 106th national NAACP convention where he proposed a criminal justice reform plan including a reconsideration of who we send to jail and why. But he didn’t stop there. He said that the justice agenda needed to resolve the huge disparities in school quality and discipline that begins as soon as kids set foot in their first classrooms. And he pointed out other racial disparities that determine who gets hired, who graduates from college, who gets a police force that protects them and who gets police that think of themselves as an occupying force. Does anyone remember how Obama once chastised young Black men for looking gangsta by wearing saggy pants? That Obama hasn’t been seen in a while. He’s not lecturing Black men to behave better. One may get the idea that Obama has been playing the long game, and now, freed of another election and the need to be polite, calm and “not too Black,” he’s able to aggressively push ideas to address racial inequality. Or it might be that he’s riding the crest of a wave. In the last two years, the issue of racial disparity in law enforcement has broken open in the national consciousness, convincing even the most pro-police Americans to admit that something’s not quite right. It’s also possible that it’s both. It's possible that the confluence of events in Charleston, Baltimore, Cleveland, New York, Ferguson (the list goes on even as I write), plus the need to leave a strong legacy as the first African American president, has led to this new, fearless Obama, one who comes across not so much as testy but as someone who has a job to do and can’t be bothered apologizing for telling the truth. He is increasingly indifferent to the scorn of his political foes and focused on what he can do on his own or with reliable political supporters. There’s one more thing that happened recently – Obama using the N Word in his podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron. It’s something that, of course, no White president could do, but it’s also something that was, just a few months ago, inconceivable for a Black President, this black president, to say. But he went there. And it looks like he’s going to keep going there. Some of us couldn’t be happier. We have a long way to go, America. But Obama is taking us to worlds uncharted, at least by an American president. Hang on and enjoy the ride. My hunch is that we haven’t heard the last from President Barack Obama on racial matters.

Beyond Marriage

Marriage has been the loudest and most visible fight. Right now, the fact is that same sex couples can marry on Sunday, and still be fired on Monday. That’s because only 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In most of the country it is still legal for members of the LGBT community to be harassed, fired or denied a job, simply for disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Right now, there is no federal legislation being proposed to combat this discrimination that has any chance of passing with this Congress.
It's been about a week since the Supreme Court’s momentous decision making same sex marriage legal in all fifty states. I'm ecstatic. I've been ecstatic since I heard the news. But reality is starting to settle in. It's not quite time to spike the ball and go home. The struggle is just beginning. Marriage has been the loudest and most visible fight. Right now, the fact is that same sex couples can marry on Sunday, and still be fired on Monday. That’s because only 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In most of the country it is still legal for members of the LGBT community to be harassed, fired or denied a job, simply for disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Right now, there is no federal legislation being proposed to combat this discrimination that has any chance of passing with this Congress. Nor is there any legislation that has a chance of becoming law to prohibit conversion therapy, the practice of “reversing” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been found by the broader medical establishment to have no proof of efficacy, and it can do a lot of psychological harm. California has banned it, but in much of the country, worried, sometimes well-meaning parents are still shipping their kids off to these centers to be “cured.” Two other issues are still on the LGBT rights table and may have a much harder time getting attention, let alone broad public support: trans-phobia and racial discrimination of LGBTs. For transgender people, it’s likely that protections against persecution and discrimination may have a more immediate impact on their lives than marriage equality. Ditto for LGBT youth on the streets. Recent studies have estimated that up to 40 percent of homeless youth in the U.S. are LGBT. In many cases, it’s due to parents kicking kids out for identifying as queer. For them, marriage is one of those nice things that other people are enjoying. Likely higher on their agenda is having a place to live and a community and family who can accept them and give them a leg up on finishing their education and making their way in the world. If they’re LGBT homeless youth of color, they’re really in for a rough time. LGBT minorities, homeless or not, face a disproportionately high rate of unemployment than straight people of color or white LGBTs Americans. Full equality isn’t here yet. When I say marriage equality has been an easier lift than these issues, it is because marriage is a happy cause. It’s is a celebratory experience ingrained in our culture. It’s people having cake, walking down the aisle, being happy together. Many straight people have been persuaded that gays and lesbians deserve what they themselves have. And we do. But homeless gay youth? They're not getting face time on national media. They’re on the fringes of society, trying to survive. Transgender people got a boost in visibility with the very public transition of Bruce Jenner to Katlyn Jenner. But Jenner has, as my late grandmother used to say, more money than God, and has all the privileges that come with that status. Most transgender people are barely getting by. Some are getting murdered. Almost all are still marginalized in society. Those issues are not front and center, and it will take some heavy lifting from the sometimes less-than-cohesive LGBT community. Yes, we will see lots depictions of happy same-sex couples in advertising. The ruling and outpouring of support from straight allies gives brands permission to consider narratives that include LGBT consumers, families, products and services as part of integrated campaigns. But you’re not going to see ads featuring transgender people (probably) and definitely not LGBT homeless youth or people who have been fired and kicked out of their apartments for being queer. It’s just not going to happen. Those issues are downers, and people don’t talk about them. So, let us drink the champagne, dance, sing and celebrate the victory from last week. It's huge. But let us not forget the other struggles. As we have seen recently with the ugly resurgence of racist violence in this country, the fight for justice and equality for all is never really over. At least not in the foreseeable future.

Affirmations of a Gay Marketer

I used to laugh at the gay jokes.  In fact, I used to tell them.  I laughed in high school when the jock toughs proudly showed up at school with black eyes -- they had gone gay bashing at the local bar.  That's how it was in Manchester, New Hampshire in the 1970s.  That's how it still is in a lot of places.

I used to laugh at the gay jokes.  In fact, I used to tell them.  I laughed in high school when the jock toughs proudly showed up at school with black eyes -- they had gone gay bashing at the local bar.  That's how it was in Manchester, New Hampshire in the 1970s.  That's how it still is in a lot of places.

I got married.  To a woman.  I liked women.  If I were coming of age now, I might identify as the "B" in LGBT.  Maybe not.  I liked men more.  Still do.  I've been with my partner Jimmy for 26 years.  We have two beautiful girls.  We're not married, but we're talking about it.  Especially after today.

You see, I took the step, back in the late eighties, that every non-closeted LGBT person must take.  I came out of the closet.  I lost a few friends.  My mother cried.  I went into therapy.  Being Jewish, the Christian stuff didn't bother me.  But being a fag did.  I slowly came to terms with it.  Living in San Francisco helped.

"Equal Justice Under Law" says the engraving on the front of the Supreme Court .   Today is a great day.  May God bless the Supreme Court.  May God bless America.

I'm a market researcher by trade and I do a lot of work in the LGBT segment.   I wrote a book subtitled "Marketing to Race, Ethnicity and Sexual Orientation" in 2009.  Including the last part seemed like a risky move at the time.  It meant outing myself to the world.  I did, but in coded form.  With a wink.  That was then.

For years, companies have been asking me about how to approach the LGBT market.   Should we do it?  Don't we risk alienating the mainstream?  My answer has always been, "Do it, but do it with your eyes open.  You will alienate some people.  But you'll win over many more."

Today, on this monumental day, I am changing my mind.  I'm stealing Nike's tagline.  Just Do It!

Do it because it is the right thing to do.

Do it because the 17 million or so LGBT adults in the United States will demand that you do it.

Do it because for an entire generation of young Americans, there is nothing wrong with it.

Do it because those who will oppose you are becoming increasingly irrelevant to mainstream opinion.

It used to be that being gay was about sex.  If you were a man, you were a sodomist, a sinner.  And by posting this, I'll get a lot of comments saying that this is still true.  I won't respond.  Because you are wrong.

Today, our nation's highest court has affirmed that as gays, we are entitled to the same rights as all Americans.  The right to love whomever we choose.  The right to raise our kids without our state telling us we're doing wrong.  The right to pursue happiness.

Marketers, take note.  The days of sitting on the fence are over.  For we will be saying "Support us, or we will not support you."

Those companies that took a risk and supported the gay community before it was kosher made the right move.  They will be remembered and embraced by LGBT folks.  Those of you on the fence, now is the time to embrace the opportunity.  Take a stand.

As for me, I will go home and celebrate with my gay family tonight.   For I now know that I will be raising my girls in a country that truly supports family values.   Oh, I know the sneers won't stop overnight.  But as a nation, we took a giant leap forward today.  America, I am proud of you.

On Charleston, Willful Ignorance and History

The massacre of nine women and men at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last week has laid bare some ugly realities lurking in the underbelly of our great nation. Once again, we are confronted with the murder of innocent people in a society that holds guns to be an inalienable right. Again, we are reminded that for African Americans, race can be a ticket to poverty, imprisonment, and all too often, death. And perhaps for the first time, a modern American subculture, forged in hatred, embracing a haunting, enduring memory of the slave-holding Confederacy, has been exposed for all the world to see.
I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races --that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people, and I will say in addition to this that there is physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior. I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. Abraham Lincoln, 4th Lincoln – Douglas Debate, September 18, 1858
 To know that a seemingly normal, ordinary American is capable of such brutality implies making a judgment about the nature and quality of our everyday American experiences which most Americans simply cannot do. For, to admit that our individual experiences are of so low a quality in nature as to preclude the deep, organic satisfactions necessary for civilized, peaceful living, is to condemn the system that provides those experiences. Richard Wright, 1945

The massacre of nine women and men at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last week has laid bare some ugly realities lurking in the underbelly of our great nation. Once again, we are confronted with the murder of innocent people in a society that holds guns to be an inalienable right. Again, we are reminded that for African Americans, race can be a ticket to poverty, imprisonment, and all too often, death. And perhaps for the first time, a modern American subculture, forged in hatred, embracing a haunting, enduring memory of the slave-holding Confederacy, has been exposed for all the world to see.

Over the weekend we learned that the killer, Dylann Roof, left behind a collection of racist selfies and a racist manifesto explaining his actions. They were found on the website LastRhodesian.com. The manifesto has not yet been authenticated. But the photos, at least should clear up a few things.

  • - Roof was purely and completely driven by racism.
  • - He was inspired by other racist hate groups and philosophies.
  • - He was rational, articulate, and knew who he was and who he wanted to kill.

Yet what is most astounding to me – and I imagine much of the civilized world – is the great lengths that some Americans will go to deny that racism is alive and well in the United States, which like a barely detectable metastasized cancer, gnaws at our innards and pollutes our souls.

Some notable examples:
  • Rick Perry, running for the GOP nomination, called the massacre an “accident” possibly caused by the overuse of prescription drugs.
  • A Fox News panel said it was a war on Christians.
  • Many pundits said Roof is mentally ill; so sad, we should do something about mental illness.
  • Erik Erickson, a right-wing but widely followed pundit, blamed Roof’s murders on Bruce Jenner’s gender reassignment.
  • Better have more guns in churches!

The problem is not the idiocy of these comments in the wake of a truly baffling human tragedy. It is the ongoing denial of racism that underpins the ethos and rhetoric of today’s America, with Fox News serving as indoctrinator in chief.

Eric Boehlert cites a few priceless gems in a great piece, “Guns, Race, and Fox News' Pathological Denial” http://bit.ly/1CogYsW:

Bill O’Reilly: "We are not a racist nation.   Fair-minded Americans should be deeply offended, deeply offended that their country is being smeared with the bigotry brush."

Steve Doocy: "I don't know that Barack Obama could have been elected president if he was living in a racist nation."

Eric Bolling: It's getting tiring. We have a black president, we have black senators, we have black heads of captains of business, companies. We have black entertainment channels. Where – is there racism? I don't think there's racism. The only people perpetuating racism are people like this gentleman from the NAACP, are the Al Sharptons of the world. Let's move on. Let's move on.

Let’s move on, indeed, beyond slavery, beyond Jim Crow, beyond the ghettoization of a people due to redlining and restrictive real estate covenants. Let’s move beyond Ferguson. And Charleston.

But isn’t there something hypocritical about, on the one hand, moving on, and on the other hand, sordidly venerating the Confederate flag, a so-called symbol of bravery and honor?

South Carolina U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham – another “visionary” running for president – said that he didn’t think the Confederate flag was a big problem. “It’s who we are,” he said, presumably meaning South Carolinians and southerners in general. Seeing that his remarks were not quite in tune with the zeitgeist of our country, he did a hasty retreat, not long before South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has defended the Confederate flag in the past, said she will ask the legislature to finally take it down.

What they don’t seem to realize is that the Confederate flag IS hate. It’s been used that way for more than 50 years. It was put up to celebrate the centennial of the Civil War in 1961, and stayed up as a protest to school desegregation throughout the south, and as a tool to intimidate people during the Civil Rights movement. It became the symbol of white supremacy.  Georgia and Mississippi incorporated the Confederate flag into their state flags, and they're still flying at the statehouses, although with the momentum from South Carolina there is renewed pressure to change them.

By flying the flag for so long, the white powers of the state are saying that their pride and power means more than black pain and frustration. And other white South Carolinians who’d prefer to keep the flag up as a symbol of southern “history” have been willfully ignorant at best. It’s not about race, they’ll say. It’s historical.

If we’re going to hang our hats on the mantle of history, let’s get our facts straight. First of all, unlike every other non-indigenous group of people in our past, Africans did not immigrate to America. They were brought here in chains. Perhaps Molefi Kete Asante, the renowned scholar of African American studies, best describes the insidious trans-Atlantic voyage:

Often when a person was captured, she was marched to the coast and held the dungeon until the ship was available for transporting Africans to the Americas and the Caribbean. Once on the ship, she was chained on the deck, made to bend over, and branded with the red hot iron in the form of letters or signs stilted and oily preparation and pressed against the naked flesh to burn the deep and in a fixable scar. The brand was for identification.   Every African taken aboard a ship had to undergo the same treatment. Those who screamed were lashed in the face, breast, thighs, and back with cat-o’-nine-tails wielded by white sailors. These blows brought the returning lash pieces of grieving and agonizing flesh. It is easy to see how our African ancestors must have felt abandoned when they saw mothers with babies branded, lashed, and scarred. What could be in the 338 tormentors’ minds and who would measure out to them the doom they richly deserved for the abuse of men, women, and children?

Asante is pretty graphic – I get chills just sitting at my keyboard typing the words. Maybe a less colorful approach will better appeal to our modern sensibilities. Like the description of African American slavery by historians John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr.:

Slaves had no standing in the courts: they could not be a party to a lawsuit; they could not offer testimony, except against another slave or free black; and their irresponsibility meant that their oaths were not binding. Thus, they could make no contracts. The ownership of property was generally forbidden them, though some states permitted slaves to have certain types of personal property. A slave could not strike a white person, even in self-defense; but the killing of a slave, however malicious the act, was rarely regarded as murder. The rape of a female slave was regarded as a crime but only because it involved trespassing.

That was a long time ago. How could the descendants of slaveholders possibly be held accountable for the sins of their ancestors? Then again, how do some southerners see fit to take credit for the alleged glory of those who fought a battle one hundred and fifty years ago?

It's pretty clear that Dylann Roof chose to live in an even more precarious bubble than that inhabited by Fox News, a bubble where supremacist beliefs are nurtured. He told others he wanted to start a civil war. His hateful views on race, including, but not limited to Blacks, was not something he arrived at on is own. These views were encouraged and amplified by other young and older white men who nursed grudges against something and then found white supremacy to be a nice ideological bucket with which to toss all of their rage. Go to one of the supremacist sites where Roof is said to have been active, if you can stand to.

And these views were nurtured just a bit by the larger society he lived in and the symbols that society projects. It’s no coincidence that in almost all of Roof’s selfies, he’s pictured with the Confederate flag. The same flag that flies just outside the South Carolina state house, at least for now.

What does flying this flag in South Carolina really mean when so many African Americans have said so clearly that it hurts them to see it?  Let me be blunt. Germany does not now adorn its public buildings with swastikas to celebrate its special “history.”

Symbols matter. And removing the Confederate flag is the least that the state can do. But the conversation must not stop there. Assuming the South Carolina legislature follows Governor Haley’s lead and does take it down, we must not let them do a victory lap and be happy that all this nasty race business is finally done with.

Rather, I pose another question. Is not the “colorblindness” of Fox News, and millions of Americans who deny the pervasiveness of racism, a form of racism itself, as have argued sociologists such as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Lawrence Bobo? Don’t events of the last year – Charleston being the most repulsive example – convince us that racism is alive and well in America?

What's encouraging is how quickly this movement to ban the flag has spread. Politicians who defended it before are stumbling over themselves saying it's time to take it down.  There has been anger and resentment over the flag for decades but it took one gunman to end the practice – assuming it will end. So, if that happens then at least one positive thing will come out of this.

Embrace our history, yes. Let’s heed the words of philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Or the warnings of W.E.B. Dubois concerning “the negro problem,” written well over a hundred years ago:

It is these problems that we are today somewhat helplessly—not to say carelessly—facing, forgetful that they are living, growing social questions whose progeny will survive to curse the nation, unless we grapple with them manfully and intelligently.
May the memory of the nine people lost in Charleston awaken us from our slumber.  May this tragedy force us to realize that the legacies of slavery and racism live on. Until we collectively grapple with this issue, cursed we may very well be.

America, Hispanics and Multicultural Marketing

As appeared in HispanicAd.com My grandmother’s parents emigrated from Romania in the early twentieth century. They spoke only Yiddish. My grandmother grew up in Boston and was bilingual, though clearly English preferred. My father understood a little Yiddish, but never spoke it. Your average New York goy speaks more Yiddish than I do.

As appeared in HispanicAd.com

My grandmother’s parents emigrated from Romania in the early twentieth century. They spoke only Yiddish. My grandmother grew up in Boston and was bilingual, though clearly English preferred.   My father understood a little Yiddish, but never spoke it. Your average New York goy speaks more Yiddish than I do.

My grandfather was born with the last name Morss, hardly a name for the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland – it was an Ellis Island name. He changed Morss to Morse when he joined the army during World War I. My other grandmother was a redhead, and proud of the fact that she could “pass” as a Gentile. Such was “ethnic” America in the twentieth century.

Substitute the word “Italian,” “Polish,” or “Czech” and the story is pretty much the same for the descendants of early twentieth century immigrants. Assimilation. Add the post-World War II exodus to the suburbs, intermarriage, and the 1950s ethos of conformity, and it’s easy to see why this occurred.

But what about today’s Hispanics? Will they go the way of prior immigrants and amalgamate into the category of “white,” “black” or “Asian?”

Not likely. Hispanics are not a race, the Mexican term “la raza” aside, and a solid argument can be made that at least genetically, the very concept of race is baseless. But in the racial structure of the United States, race is a very real thing, and at least on most official forms, Hispanics are already treated as such.

Unlike African Americans, Asians, or American Indians, however, the U.S. Census Bureau does not consider Hispanics to be a race. Right now, the Bureau says that Hispanics can encompass any race, though it is actively considering classifying Hispanics as such, maybe as early as 2020.  Most Hispanics bristle at the thought of identifying as white – in the U.S., that means Anglo – though about half of all Hispanics checked that box on the last census. That’s because the census offered few other options, other than “other,” and racial identification is different in Latin America. Having a box to check on the census’ race questions would only solidify a distinct racial identity.

But talk of race does little to help marketers understand where the future of Hispanic marketing is headed. We have to ask ourselves what does it mean to be Hispanic. And what will it mean in ten or twenty years, given the profound demographic shift toward a U.S. born population?

In our research, when we ask Hispanics what makes them unique, the first thing that many say is the possession of a unique culture and set of values. Family. Respect for others. Politeness.   Hard work. The food.   The music. The traditions. The parties.

But that’s not especially helpful either. Most cultures, when asked, would say their values and culture make them unique. Most would name at least several of the attributes listed above.

Then consider language. Will Spanish have the staying power in the United States that so many other languages have lacked? 95% of Hispanics say that it is important for future generations of Latinos to speak Spanish.  Important?  Absolutely. But will it survive generations in the U.S.?

There is some pretty compelling data in from Pew Hispanic about how English, not Spanish, is the dominant language of Hispanics in the U.S. (http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/05/12/english-proficiency-on-the-rise-among-latinos/) According to Pew, a record 33.2 million Hispanics in the U.S. speak English proficiently, making up 68% of all Hispanics ages 5 and older, up from 59% in 2000. The data for this study was compiled in 2013.

Pew also found that the share of Latinos who speak Spanish at home declined significantly from 2000 to 2013. In 2013, 73 % of Latinos over the age of five said they speak Spanish at home, down from 78 percent in 2000.

On the other hand, nearly 40 million Hispanics speak Spanish at home, a number that continues to increase as the nation’s Hispanic population has grown. On theother other hand, again, a larger share of U.S.-born Hispanics live in homes where only English is spoken: 40 percent in 2013, up from 32 percent in 1980.

Confusing? That’s because when you talk about Hispanics, you are talking about a population in flux. Three-quarters of Hispanics today are either immigrants or second generation. With immigration from Latin America declining, the explosive growth in the population will be from those born here. And increasingly, their children.

So how do you market to a diverse group such as Hispanics today?

I know few Hispanic marketing professionals who would disagree with the premise that Hispanics are a heterogeneous group, comprised of individuals who need to be engaged on their own terms, using either English or Spanish – or both. Ten years ago, there was a strong consensus that Spanish was the only way to go.

We’ve come a long way, but apart from language, there is little consensus on what Hispanic marketing will look like in the future. It’s understandable. The historic precedent offered by other immigrant groups can provide some insights, but there is much that makes the Hispanic situation unique.

We can, however, make a few solid assumptions about where this population is going. Among them:

  • Hispanics will make up 30 percent of the population by 2040.   Well before that year, the term “minority” will hardly be an apt descriptor. Hispanics will be part of the mainstream. Hispanics will redefine what the American mainstream is. And targeted marketing, especially in Spanish, will become irrelevant, except as a means of reaching Latin American immigrants.
  • Hispanics will drive the growth in the U.S. population. As Boomers retire, they will vacate senior positions in both the private and public sector, which it will be up to Hispanics to fill. Millennial Hispanics will become tomorrow’s power brokers.
  • Hispanic median income and educational attainment will rise precipitously as the population acculturates. As consumers, Hispanics will drive future increases in consumer demand, and have an increasingly greater voice in the products, services, media, and marketing messages that companies offer.
  • While language will have dubious staying power, a Hispanic worldview will become more salient in mainstream culture. While “abuelita” will no longer be the familiar face in advertising that she once was, marketers will increasingly appeal to Hispanic values and traditions in mainstream advertising.
  • Expect the trend toward embracing actors with racially ambiguous looks to be the rule in the new America. Predominately brown and black faces will be the norm on television, if it is still around, and in any new medium that may emerge. The prototypical American will no longer be considered white. The typical face we see in media will look more and more … well, Hispanic.
  • It’s hard to say where advances in technology will take us, but the demand for customized content across multiple platforms will increase exponentially. Hispanics, like mainstream consumers, will dictate the terms under which they will be engaged by corporate America. The days of marketing to Hispanic consumers as a culturally homogenous group in traditional media will become a historical relic.

There are exciting times ahead for us as marketers. Those of us in multicultural marketing will have to adapt to the times or go the way of the dinosaurs. The demographic changes we are going through are indeed profound. Let us rise to the occasion with imagination, vision, creativity, and vigor.

Being Gay and Mainstream

It’s June, the month that cities around the country celebrate LGBTQI pride. Lots of corporations celebrate too, because they don’t see the risk in supporting the gay community that they once did. Gay has gone mainstream. And that’s great. But whenever something is gained – in this case, acceptance in the general public – something is lost. What’s lost, or at least slowly disappearing, is what was once easily recognized as a separate gay culture.

It’s June, the month that cities around the country celebrate LGBTQI pride. Lots of corporations celebrate too, because they don’t see the risk in supporting the gay community that they once did. Gay has gone mainstream. And that’s great. But whenever something is gained – in this case, acceptance in the general public – something is lost. What’s lost, or at least slowly disappearing, is what was once easily recognized as a separate gay culture.

It hit me in a recent visit to the Castro district in San Francisco, a city that I left fourteen years ago for the sunshine of southern California. Fourteen years ago there were men in leather chaps, with and without jeans underneath, shops that sold “campy” items – or gay S&M gear, and feather boas. The bars reeked of poppers. Leather and handcuffs. I used to think to myself, “If the folks back in New Hampshire could see me now.”

You can still find rainbows in the Castro. But the people in the bars aren’t necessarily going to be gay men or women. In fact I was astounded at how many baby carriages I saw on the street. And straight couples, hand in hand. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But I had to ask myself: As the U.S. quickly evolves to be more humane and accepting of gays and lesbians, what happens to gay culture?

I’m far from the first to raise the question. Andrew Sullivan did that almost a decade ago. (http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/the-end-gay-culture).  And the disappearing gay culture has been a hot topic among academics like Amin Ghaziani, a sociologist who penned the 2014 book “There Goes the Gayborhood?” and Gary Gates, a demographer at UCLA's Williams Institute. These scholars have hard numbers that show what we’ve been seeing for years: gay ghettos are becoming frankly, not much more fierce or fabulous than the random Midwestern mall.

Their consensus is that three trends are responsible for de-gaying gay culture:
  • Rapidly growing acceptance in the general population.
  • Millennial LGBTs who are less likely to cite sexual orientation as the most important part of their identity.
  • Greater use of social media to find each other – and hook up – eliminating the need for gay bars and other gathering places.

Just last month, Gallup released a survey showing that Americans’ acceptance of gay relationships is at an all-time high – we passed the 50 percent threshold in 2010. (http://www.gallup.com/poll/135764/americans-acceptance-gay-relations-crosses-threshold.aspx).

It must be stated that with all the gains in recent years, the LGBTQI community hasn’t yet won equality. According to the Trevor Project, LGB youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers. Last month, London Chanel became the eighth trans woman murdered in the U.S. this year, in what advocates have labeled an "epidemic" of transphobic violence. Last year, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence programs reported over 2,001 incidents of anti-LGBTQ violence in 2013. In many parts of the country one can be fired for sexual identity or gender identity. But the general trend continues to be greater acceptance generally.

But as Americans become more accepting of gays, gays are becoming, well, less gay. Or, more accurately, gay culture is being diluted and gay and lesbian Americans are losing much of their culture and history.

So what? What was the point of gay culture to begin with? And what is, or was, gay culture?

The gay ghettos of Castro, West Hollywood, Chelsea, Chicago’s Boys’ Town were, for people like me, refuges from the feeling of apartness we had felt in our suburban hometowns, a place to fight loneliness by being with their “tribe.” It was also be like a gay finishing school, a place where uniquely gay identities could be formed. Gay men flocked to these neighborhoods throughout the late 20th century, dancing – or not – drinking – or not – having sex – if they wanted to. But even if they engaged in none of those things, they stayed because they felt solidarity with those who shared a sense of gay identity.

Now the Castro is on its way to becoming an artifact. West Hollywood and Chelsea are increasingly expensive playgrounds for straight trust fund kids – many of whom enjoy the gay bars, but just for the music. These ghettos are going the way of Little Italies and Chinatowns – important in their day, now… something else.

What about the rest of gay culture? Well, what is gay, anyway? Think of that hit show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” For many straight Americans, that’s what gays were: sophisticated, witty, fashion mavens who knew how to coordinate and decorate and pair the right wine with an entrée. Even then, only ten years ago, there were plenty of straight people who knew this was an exaggerated stereotype that not every gay man fit. Gay men for the most part knew it was a minstrel show. That urban sophisticate archetype was, for decades, the only positive portrayal of gays, but those who were gay knew that not everyone was going to fit that mold.

So, good riddance to the gay esthete stereotype? Maybe.

What about the divas, the movies, the touchstones of gay life that would always get gay men singing in a piano bar. Liza! Who? “No wire hangers, ever!” What are you talking about? Auntie Mame! Who’s aunt? Drag queens? If they’re not really trans, then what’s the point of drag?

Again, does any of this matter? Gays and lesbians are about to, if Supreme Court watchers are right, achieve the victory of marriage equality nationwide very soon. That was something unthinkable a generation ago. Of course, not every gay man or lesbian wants to marry. Not every straight man or woman wants to marry. But marriage has been the number one goal of the gay rights movement for over a decade now. We have been pounding on the door of what has been a straight institution for a long time.

I think we can compare the assimilation and fragmentation of gay culture to the assimilation of most minority cultures into the mainstream.  Assimilating into the predominant culture has traditionally been a prerequisite for fuller acceptance and recognition of rights. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article about this in the New Yorkerlast year:


"Mainstream American society finds it easiest to be tolerant when the outsider chooses to minimize the differences that separate him from the majority. The country club opens its doors to Jews. The university welcomes African-Americans. Heterosexuals extend the privilege of marriage to the gay community. Whenever these liberal feats are accomplished, we congratulate ourselves. 

"But it is not exactly a major moral accomplishment for Waspy golfers to accept Jews who have decided that they, too, wish to play golf. It is a much harder form of tolerance to accept an outsider group that chooses to maximize its differences from the broader culture. And the lesson … is that Americans aren’t very good at respecting the freedom of others to be so obnoxiously different." 

If we define culture as the things that people of a certain persuasion hold dear, the activities they engage in, or the shared understanding of what makes the world tick, then what binds gays now? Could the general shared experience of gays be nothing more than hookup apps? Okay, I’m dating myself. But I miss that sense of being an outlaw, and the feeling of togetherness and shared identity that went with it.

What is essential to gay life will survive. But as with all cultures, what is not essential will pass. Perhaps to be only minimally remembered, and the term "gay" will seem quaint and outdated, a relic of the past when sexual identity mattered more, and gays and lesbians needed a common set of cultural touchstones to remind them that they belonged somewhere.

Yet, compared to when I was a kid, youngsters can come out of the closet and not necessarily face ostracism or get beaten up. Our president tweets “All people deserve to live free from fear, violence and discrimination, regardless of who they love.” Companies don’t dare portray gays as laughable stereotypes. And I can walk down the street with my partner and our two young girls and not get jeered at.

We’re mainstream now. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Why We Can Expect More Baltimores

I’ll start with a caveat. Not every police shooting of an unarmed black man is just about race. Ferguson, Missouri may have been an exception; an investigation uncovered a history of ugly racial bias in the mostly-white police force – not to mention the entire city power structure – that ruled the mostly black population like a plantation.

I’ll start with a caveat. Not every police shooting of an unarmed black man is just about race. Ferguson, Missouri may have been an exception; an investigation uncovered a history of ugly racial bias in the mostly-white police force – not to mention the entire city power structure – that ruled the mostly black population like a plantation.

But Baltimore? It has a black mayor. Half of the officers are black. There isn’t a history of overt anti-black bias on the part of law enforcement there, as far as we know.

Some big city police departments might have a better record. Baltimore, as we’ve learned, was one of the worst, with a culture that’s led to 100 police brutality lawsuits since 2011. But Baltimore isn’t a complete outlier either.

Beyond the dysfunctional practices of police departments and vigilante cops, there are bedrock problems that exist in Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, (name your city) that put young black men, whether or not they’re doing anything wrong, in the crosshairs. Those problems are extreme poverty, drug-ridden neighborhoods and a war on drugs which hasn’t put a dent in the drug problem in 40 years. Add in a bias that black men commit most crimes and therefore are probably guilty of something, and you’ve got a deadly mixture just itching to explode

Rioting seems irrational, doesn’t it? Why would someone think something good would come from looting and destruction and violence?

Well, here’s the short answer. No matter what they do, nothing changes. Not by voting, not by peaceful protests, not by demanding the appointment of more black officers. Not by electing a black president. They’re expressing rage and frustration at a system where young blacks are grabbing for crumbs under the table after the feast has been consumed. And then yelled at and called thieves for grabbing the crumbs. In many of these neighborhoods you’re a “success” if you reach age 25 without dying or being sent to prison.

In 1978, the eminent sociologist William Julius Wilson published The Declining Significance of Race, in which he argued that class had supplanted race as the primary reason for the continued subordination of underprivileged blacks. Yet even Wilson admitted that the toxic impact of prejudice could not be completely ignored. He began his 2009 book More Than Just Race by writing:

"I am an internationally known Harvard professor, yet a number of unforgettable experiences remind me that, as a black male in America looking considerably younger than my age, I am also feared. For example, several times over the years I have stepped into the elevator of my condominium dressed in casual clothes and could immediately tell from the body language of the other residents in the elevator that I made them feel uncomfortable. Were they thinking, 'What is this black man doing in this expensive condominium? Are we in danger?' I once sarcastically said to a nervous elderly couple who hesitated to exit the elevator because we were all getting off in the same floor, 'Not to worry, I am a Harvard professor and I have lived in this building for nine years." When I am dressed casually, I am always a little relieved to step into an empty elevator, but I am not apprehensive if I'm wearing a tie.'"

When you’ve exhausted every avenue for change, you resort to rage. The next step, psychologically speaking, would be catatonic depression. In a sense, rioting is about as hopeful a reaction as you’ll find.

If you look at it that way, rioting, though unfortunate and illegal, makes sense. And that’s why we can expect it to happen again. We just don’t know where. Because these conditions have not changed for decades.

Last week, a New York Times / CBS poll found “profound” racial divisions in views of how the police use deadly force. Blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to say police in most communities are more apt to use deadly force against a black person — 79 percent of blacks compared with 37 percent of whites. Are we living in the same country?

According to one report:

Race prejudice … now threatens to affect our future. White racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities … Pervasive discrimination and segregation in employment, education and housing … have resulted in the continuing exclusion of great numbers of blacks from the benefits of economic progress …The black ghettos [are] where segregation and poverty converge on the young to destroy opportunity and enforce failure. Crime, drug addiction, dependency on welfare, and bitterness and resentment against society in general and white society in particular are the result … [There is] a widespread belief among blacks in the existence of police brutality and in a “double standard” of justice and protection—one for blacks and one for whites.

How true. Except the report wasn’t written in 2015. It is a quote from the Kerner Commission, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots. (Okay, I changed the word “negro” to “black.”). It concluded: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal.” Move we did.

We can expect another Baltimore because we as a nation are more eager to speak up in defense of property than to speak up in defense of another brutalized black man. We can expect another Baltimore because we don’t want to see what black people are so angry about and can’t see that the systems in place for decades – economic, drug enforcement, legislative – have made setting fire to cars and singing civil rights hymns the logical outcome.

Will We Ever Ask The Right Questions About Race?

The Baltimore riots post-mortems are in, and the results are predictable. Pundits are questioning whether the mayor should have done this, or the police should have done that. And, of course, there is the widespread condemnation. President Obama said there was no excuse for the rioting and that it was not helpful. The new Attorney General Loretta Lynch condemned it. Those are appropriate responses from national leaders who are responsible for keeping law and order. And Obama may be correct that it is not helpful, but surely we can find a reason, if not an excuse for the anger. And it really doesn’t take much digging in order to find i

The Baltimore riots post-mortems are in, and the results are predictable. Pundits are questioning whether the mayor should have done this, or the police should have done that. And, of course, there is the widespread condemnation. President Obama said there was no excuse for the rioting and that it was not helpful. The new Attorney General Loretta Lynch condemned it. Those are appropriate responses from national leaders who are responsible for keeping law and order. And Obama may be correct that it is not helpful, but surely we can find a reason, if not an excuse for the anger. And it really doesn’t take much digging in order to find it.

Just as with the Ferguson riots – and all riots – there has been a lot of criticism from people who could, if they really wanted to, take a step back and ask why people are rioting in their own neighborhoods.

How about this? Instead of demanding an excuse, why don’t we look for a rationale? Maybe that’s too much for sensation-seeking cable news to accomplish.

Fortunately, some people are exploring the issue with some insight.

Baltimore Orioles team executive John Angelos, sent out a flurry of tweets that defended the violence as a reaction to long-term economic hardship and the diminishment of civil liberty protections.

Deadspin transcribed Angelos’ tweet-blizzard:

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

Let’s put this another way. When you talk about the Boston Tea Party, you never think to ask “why are they destroying their own tea?” Remember September 11, yes. But let’s not pick at old wounds like slavery and Jim Crow. Let’s not talk about what is going on today.

Ta-Nehesi Coates, a candidate for U.S. Senator from Maryland, put it this way:

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.

The media doesn’t deserve all of the blame. A big part of the problem is that Americans, specifically white Americans, are deeply uncomfortable talking about race. Even when we do talk about it, we talk with judgment, safe in our rhetorical bunkers, sure in our opinion about what those people are doing, and why. Seldom do facts enter the equation.

Let’s talk about separate and unequal.   According to a recently-released Pew Research Center analysis of Federal Reserve data, white households had a median net worth 13 times greater than black households in 2013, compared with eight times greater in 2010. From 2010 to 2013, while white wealth increased 2.4 percent, from $138,600 to $141,900, black household wealth declined of 33.7 percent, from $16,600 to $11,000.

When it comes to our perceptions of social justice, blacks and whites could not be more different. In a 2009 study by Lawrence D. Bobo and Alicia Simons, 61% of Caucasians felt that African Americans have already achieved equality. Only 17% of African Americans agreed.

Long-roiling grievances are out in the open. But mainstream America is shocked at what’s going on. Peaceful protest also went on for days in Baltimore. But that wasn’t covered much. Who cares? Much better to cover, wall-to-wall, the correspondents’ dinner and Obama’s funny  monologue with his Angry (Black Man) translator.

President Obama is right. It is time for Americans to do “some soul searching.” Our country has faced a “slow-rolling crisis” over race for too long. If the mainstream media – and mainstream America – really wants to know why such anger is bubbling over into violence, they might try asking some tough questions. And they shouldn’t be afraid to hear the answers.

TotalMarketTalk: David R. Morse / New American Dimensions, LLC

Welcome to the first episode of, #TotalMarketTalk, a new Digital Series created by NGLC and NGL Media exclusively for HispanicAd.com. Hosted by industry thought leader, David Chitel, the show is intended to shine a light on the hottest topics impacting Latino media, marketing and entertainment in today's world. Conducted via Google+ Video Hangout, monthly episodes will feature one or more guests ranging from marketing and agency executives to celebrities, entrepreneurs and beyond.
Welcome to the first episode of, #TotalMarketTalk, a new Digital Series created by NGLC and NGL Media exclusively for HispanicAd.com. Hosted by industry thought leader, David Chitel, the show is intended to shine a light on the hottest topics impacting Latino media, marketing and entertainment in today's world. Conducted via Google+ Video Hangout, monthly episodes will feature one or more guests ranging from marketing and agency executives to celebrities, entrepreneurs and beyond. If you're interested in learning more or participating as a guest please email david@nglc.biz. For those who enjoy the show, feel free to help us spread the word by using hashtag #TotalMarketTalk and sharing links to each episode.  

Does ‘Total Market’ Make Any Sense After Ferguson?

A week ago, thousands of people descended on Washington, and throughout the United States, demanding justice for black men who have been killed by police. Watching demonstrators march down streets chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe,” I had to ask myself if Total Market is still relevant. Or if it ever was.

A week ago, thousands of people descended on Washington, and throughout the United States, demanding justice for black men who have been killed by police.  Watching demonstrators march down streets chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe,” I had to ask myself if Total Market is still relevant.  Or if it ever was.

In July 1967, in Newark, two white policemen arrested and beat a black taxi driver, John Weerd Smith, for improperly passing them on 15th Avenue.  After six days of rioting, 26 people were dead, 725 people injured, and nearly 1,500 arrested.   While last week’s demonstrations were peaceful, they still beg the question, “How much has changed?”

In response to the riots in Newark, as well as Detroit, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the Kerner Commission. Its conclusion:  “Our nation is moving towards two societies: one white, one black — separate and unequal.”  While our country has made tremendous progress in terms of race relations, a strong argument could be made that minorities and whites continue to live in two worlds.

While this concept may be patently obvious to most Americans, indeed most citizens of the planet, for some reason we marketers are stuck on an idea that relegates cultural differences to the background, while emphasizing that which binds us together.  Are we not missing the multicultural boat?

Let’s talk about separate and unequal.   According to a just-released Pew Research Center analysis of Federal Reserve data, white households had a median net worth 13 times greater than black households in 2013, compared with eight times greater in 2010.  From 2010 to 2013, while white wealth increased 2.4 percent, from $138,600 to $141,900, black household wealth declined of 33.7 percent, from $16,600 to $11,000.

When it comes to our perceptions of social justice, blacks and whites could not be more different.  In a 2009 study by Lawrence D. Bobo and Alicia Simons, 61% of Caucasians felt that African Americans have already achieved equality. Only 17% of African Americans agreed.

Nor could we more different in how we view the decision of two grand juries not to indict white police officers in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. In the case of Brown, who died in Ferguson, Missouri in an altercation with police officer Darren Wilson, 64% of blacks, compared to only 16% of whites, said race was a major factor in the grand jury’s decision not to indict.   In the case of Garner, who died after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold, 62% of blacks, compared to 18% of whites, cited race as a major factor in the ruling.

One explanation for the difference in viewpoints was voiced by Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, who died in 2012 in Florida, when neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman shot him.  Said Fulton:

It’s not happening to them, so they don’t quite get it… They don’t quite understand. They think that it’s a small group of African-Americans that’s complaining… The people say that all the time: ‘What are they complaining about now? What are they protesting about now?

Until it happens to them and in their family then they’ll understand the walk. They don’t understand what we’re going through. They don’t understand the life and they don’t understand what we’re fighting against. I don’t even think the government quite gets it.

Not surprisingly, African Americans see the world differently than whites when it comes to advertising.  A 2013 Nielsen report, “Resilient, Receptive and Relevant,” indicated that:

•    91% of blacks believe that “black media are more relevant to them”; •    81% believe that “products advertised on black media are more relevant to them”; •    78% would like to see more black models/actors used in ads.

Of course, it would be a mistake to consider African Americans as consisting of a single, homogenous group.  A groundbreaking study in 2007 by Pew Research Center found that nearly four in ten African Americans said that blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race.  Additionally, only a quarter felt that middle class and poor blacks share “a lot of values in common.”

In his 2010 book, “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America”, journalist Eugene Robinson bemoans that instead of one black America, there are now four:

•    A mainstream middle-class majority with a full ownership stake in American society; •    A large, abandoned minority with less hope than ever of escaping poverty; •    A small transcendent elite with enormous wealth, power, and influence; •    Two newly emergent groups – individuals of mixed-race heritage and recent black immigrants who question what “black” even means.

The same case should be made for the Hispanic market.  When socio-economic differences are added to the panoply of other variables – country of origin, acculturation, political party, gender, age and sexual orientation – could it rightly be said that a Hispanic market even exists?

While a total approach to marketing might seem admirable, and offers the fantasy of economies of scale, in a country divided by so much, an integrated approach, rather than one grounded in cultural differences, hardly seems to fulfill the dream of better connecting with consumers.  Yes, a brand’s essence, its personality and messaging, should be unified and consistent.  But it is also likely to signify different things to different people.

I am prone to agree with Esther Franklin, who opined in a recent article in the Journal of Advertising Research:

Today’s Total Market efforts are tactical in nature.  Based on casting, music, and celebrity ploys, they lag decades behind the strategically grounded, culturally vibrant, winning approaches of a bygone era. These reflections do not represent advancement in multicultural marketing; they are not future-forward and additive; they are reductive and regressive.

In today’s America, racial and ethnic minorities now make up half of those under the age of five.  We live in a social environment characterized by fragmentation and polarization.  It is time for marketers to step forward with creative and innovative approaches that speak to our differences, not move backwards toward an illusory time when our similarities overshadowed our differences.

Requiem for the Total Market: We Hardly Knew Thee

United by their mutual skepticism about attempts to define "Total Market," indeed wary of the concept itself, Pedro de Córdoba / Eventus and David Morse / New American Dimensions began a regular correspondence via e-mail and text about a month ago. The following is a distillation:

United by their mutual skepticism about attempts to define “Total Market,” indeed wary of the concept itself, Pedro de Córdoba /  Eventus  and David Morse /  New American Dimensions began a regular correspondence via e-mail and text about a month ago. The following is a distillation:

Pedro:  I was a skeptic about this Total Market thing from day one. I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, but in my book it was off to a rocky start from the beginning. Just try to read the torturous definition of what it is and you’ll see why I think this definition had to go the way of the Dodo bird.

David:  I agree that Total Market’s destiny is to die a slow death.   What amazes me most is that it has lived this long.  It is a catchy phrase without meaning, a nebulous idea with ambiguous content.

Pedro:  I’m still perplexed by the need to suddenly create and define a total market approach to begin with. What was the driving imperative to do so?

David:  I think part of it was defensiveness on the part of multicultural agencies that saw more and more general market agencies encroaching on their turf.  But part of it was a reaction to the silo-like approach of clients.  Back in the day, so many companies had their general market agency, with their Hispanic, African American and Asian American agencies off in the wings.  They fought over dollars and hardly spoke to each other.  There was a legitimate need for integration and consistency.

Pedro:  I suspect the consensus necessary to coin this approach in a manner that is satisfactory to all involved. I quote “a broad coalition of clients, agencies and associations” competing and adversarial entities by definition, is the seed of its own undoing.

David:  To attempt to define it was an exercise in futility.  You can’t define that which was fancy from the inception.

Pedro: But maybe all that effort by this broad coalition is not entirely lost.  Lately I’ve seen a different term out there being batted around:  New Mainstream.  While I have a feeling I’ve heard it before, the first “aha moment” for me was when I read Nielsen’s latest report, “The Multicultural Edge: Rising Super Consumers.” Then I saw it again in Adage.com.

David: I have trouble with the term “new mainstream.”  What is the old mainstream?  White heterosexuals?  As if such an entity existed.  Are African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans similar enough to form a targetable market segment?  White people certainly never were.  Just look at how divisively white people vote.

Pedro: For anyone like me with a remotely rebellious streak, the word mainstream is cringe-worthy and conjures images of country club guys in plaid pants. This is not the image that I would want to be associated with.

David: And where do emerging segments fall:  Middle Easterners, Africans, people of mixed heritage?  They are changing the national landscape but somehow seem to elude mention.  America is becoming too heterogeneous, too nuanced and too complex in its demographic and ideological character to merit such simplicity.   We see it in the realm of politics.  Why not in marketing?

Pedro: But this “mainstream” sounded different. I went back to read how Nielsen defined the term, which they got from the title of a book.  I quote:

“New Mainstream* is used to describe the emerging multicultural U.S. marketplace. As the population shifts, and the old mainstream becomes more diverse, it is no longer a valid business strategy to assume that ethnicity and race will eventually become irrelevant and dissolve into a homogenous “general market.” Instead, marketers should adjust and update their efforts to address a new mainstream marketplace that reflects and acknowledges consumers of all races and ethnicities as the source of new social trends and business growth and develop activation strategies based on this reality.”

Until you pointed out the whole New Mainstream vs. Old Mainstream dichotomy, I thought all that needed to be done was to add the Anglo market to the mix and we had ourselves a definition. But you have a very valid point and so back to the drawing board we go.

David:  I like the Nielsen definition.  It’s ambitious but not pretentious.  It accurately and succinctly describes what is going on in the marketplace.

Pedro:  We recently heard from industry stalwart Luis Miguel Messianu, who in my opinion added another nail to the coffin of the Total Market Approach definition when he very eloquently described having an issue with the word “Total” and his deep aversion and well–founded distrust for anything “totalitarian.” As the son of Romanian immigrants raised in Mexico, his distaste for the term in well-founded.

David:  I agree that Luis Miguel is on to something.  There is something totalitarian about the term.  Maybe not in the Mussolini sense, but more like Charlie Chaplin in “The Great Dictator.”

Pedro:  Luis Miguel went on to register his preference, and call it “All-inclusive Marketing” which while being technically correct, sounds too much like a Caribbean resort package to me. So, like Goldilocks I am still in search for the perfect terminology to define something that is constantly in flux.

David:  All I ask is for real dialog, not catchy phrases or buzzwords.  As a marketing community, we face the challenge of interpreting a yet manifest national identity. We are confronted with identifying consumer segments that are yet evolving and defining themselves.  We might be mistaken in the assumptions we make.  But, at the very least, we should not shirk from the task of making true sense of it all.