Why no Black History Month commercials?

Two Super Bowl commercials were light on black issues


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By Arlene Jones


Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone and so have the commercials that went along with it. I saw two commercials whose underlying theme was immigration.

The first, by 84 Lumber, seemed to promote/validate "illegal immigration." There was a mother and young girl who took off on a journey. They traveled in a truck after obviously paying someone. Next they jumped on a train, traversed a river, walked where the coyotes howled, traveling day and night while the young girl picked up scraps of plastic bags along the way.

As I wondered where the commercial was going, I got the impression it was saying the children are the ones who will pick up the litter left by adults. The commercial ends with an invitation to go to the website to see the rest. I'm not into propaganda, so I'll never know what else happens.

The other commercial was for Budweiser, featuring Adolphus Busch leaving Germany for America. His arrival in America has someone hollering at him to "Go back home!" There is a later scene where he is on a riverboat and both he and a black man are at the front of the boat watching as it traverses the river. I was bothered by that scene as it seems to imply that both were traveling with the same equal opportunities, except the year Busch arrived in America was 1857 and slavery was still the law of the land until 1865. It is also interesting, that Busch was told, "Welcome to St. Louis." It is the corporate home of Budweiser.

No one could ever say the Super Bowl commercials were "so white." But it was where I didn't see many black people that had me wondering. Like the Hyundai commercials and the troops stationed in Poland. They highlighted a white male, a Hispanic male and a white female. The commercial is almost a minute and a half long, so although blacks are shown as backdrops, we weren't included in the featured stories. It is a telling observation that when there has to be a "minority" characterization, it will be a Spanish-surnamed individual.

There was a time when the advertising agencies would seek to highlight the contributions of the descendants of enslaved Africans. I have the complete set of Budweiser's "Great Kings and Queens of Africa." But as time passes and African American numbers are dwarfed by the increasingly large Hispanic community, we are becoming side notes when a minority presence is desired.

Perhaps it shouldn't bother me, but it does. Immigration and illegal immigration have many taking sides. The latter is of particular interest because when Busch arrived here, the ability to pay passage alone was the great qualifier to come to this country. It was a make-it-or-not-make-it situation where there wasn't a plethora of social service safety nets. But over 150 years later, that is why a woman and her young daughter like in the 84 Lumber commercial can risk a trip to a foreign land. The government won't let them starve and the taxpayers are expected to be there to pay for them.

Super Bowl commercials just like everything else are a reflection of the times. Our reactions to them, however, are a better judge of the mood of the country. 

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