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Hot and Bothered: The Weird New Fetish for Historical Racism Porn
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June 08, 2015, 04:22 PM
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One of the stranger developments of the last decade or two is the emergence of a widespread public taste for historical racism porn: the younger generation gets titillated in a quasi-sexual fashion by depictions of things in the past that set off their Warning: Problematic brain alarms. You can hear it in movie theaters with young audiences: in a period piece, when a bad person says something racist or sexist, the teens react with the same gasps and titters as 1970s teens did when an actress took her top off.

Not surprisingly, clickbait sites such as The Atlantic Monthly cater to this 21st Century fetish by searching out Inappropriately Fraught media moments from the past. For example, somebody at The Atlantic named Lenika Cruz met her content generation quota by reviving a Tsk-Tsk frenzy that had been launched in 2012 by Buzzfeed over fast food ads from around 1976:

‘Dinnertimin’ and ‘No Tipping’: How Advertisers Targeted Black Consumers in the 1970s

In an attempt to reach African American customers, many U.S. businesses began integrating their commercials—often by relying on fraught stereotypes.

But the way many agencies went about this demonstrates how little they understood about their target demographic—and the results, like so many vintage ads, appear deeply misguided to modern audiences. To McDonald’s, for example, appealing to African American consumers specifically meant, in part, ads such as “Makin’ it” and “Dinnertimin,’” which made extensive use of “g-dropping.”

SJW’s have been getting hot and bothered over this ad that ran in Ebony and Jet in August 1976 for the last three years. NPR’s CodeSwitch responded to this ad in 2014 with:
Wow. Just. Wow.
A few facts, however:
  • Of course, these ads didn’t run in The Atlantic Monthly or Readers’ Digest, they ran in Ebony and Jet, black-owned and written magazines.
  • This 1976 ad was almost certainly created by Burrell Communications, the black advertising firm founded in Chicago by Thomas J. Burrell that won the black advertising accounts for Coke and McDonalds in the early 1970s. (Burrell also handled advertising for Johnson Publishing’s Ebony and Jet.)

Mr. Burrell was a big deal in the marketing industry. I can recall the market research firm I worked for in Chicago in the early 1990s putting out a press release boasting that they had talked him into joining our Board of Directors.

  • McDonald’s is not in the business of insulting black potential customers, as their huge sales to blacks demonstrate. They spend a lot on marketing research. If that’s the ad they ran in 1976 in Ebony and Jet, that is presumptively what black readers found appealing at that moment.
  • Black culture cycles through a lot of a verbal fashions. In 1976, the blacks who subscribed to Ebony and Jet tended to have been born in the South, where both races tended to drop their terminal Gs. This ad is a way to reassure them that McDonald’s was a friendly place where they wouldn’t be judged on their down home accents.