Sunday, February 13, 2022

An Unspoken Racial Subtext for the Rage of the US Right-- TV Advertising

In trying to make sense of the depth of the rage on the American Right, and its growing disillusionment with democratic institutions, it is easy to look to Fox News, conservative talk show hosts and social media figures as major instigators, but I am increasingly convinced that something most people are exposed to every day- television advertising- also plays a role As someone who regularly watches sports on television, one of the things that strikes me, on a daily basis, is how prominent interracial couples, and multi-racial families are in TV ads, especially those for automobiles, vacation rentals, insurance and other "big ticket" items. While as someone who is part of a multi-racial family, I find this gratifying and reassuring, I can only imagine how jarring this must feel to people who grew up thinking being white was the gold standard of American identity, and that "marrying white" was necessary to preserving their social status, already threatened by changes in the US and global economy If you grew up thinking that way, only socialize with people who think that way, and live in communities where multiracial families are rare, these ads could very well make you feel that the country has been taken over by people who despise everything you have grown up believing. When you couple the impact of those ads- which show a shrewd appreciation by major corporations of the multiracial, and global, audience they are targeting with their ads- with fast food advertisements where the majority of actors are people of color, along with the actual sports events being televised, where whites are a minority, and a shrinking one at that, you can get a sense of how what used to be a form of escape, for many white people, is now something that makes them feel angry and vulnerable If there is an expression that best describes their state of mind, it is this " When you grow up in a privileged position, equality seems like a demotion" If you've grown up thinking that being white, dating white, socializing white, and marrying white were not only the norm, but a precondition for keeping the country strong and secure, then watching TV ads, especially during sports events, might well have you thinking that the country has been taken over by alien forces. If you think I am wrong, imagine yourself as a fly on the wall in a bar in Breezy Point, an American Legion Hall in rural Ohio, or in living rooms in small towns across the US, when an NFL game comes on and you see an interracial couple, or a gay couple, in a TV ad The changes taking place in the country's race and gender patterns have far outpaced the ability of many people to embrace or accept them, even though they have liberated many others from age old patterns of subordination and exclusion. Unfortunately, what we have is a prescription for a culture war that is on the verge of evolving into a civil war

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