Commentary

Things Are Not Always Black Or White

In a week when Ann Coulter said the widows of 9/11 were "broads... millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities.... enjoying their husband's death"; Black Enterprise magazine's Earl "Butch" Graves Jr. said that "Agencies are licensed to practice racism..." and MediaPost ran a headline that read "Handling Pecker Key For Bonnie," I was shocked when Eugene Morris, head of a Chicago agency that specializes in targeting blacks, said: "I can tell you that, for years, 'Seinfeld' was the No. 1 TV show. I've never seen it."

WHAT? How is this possible? Does Chicago have the finest local news in America--so compelling that Eugene doesn't even sneak a peek at what Kramer is up to in syndication--even during commercials? How does Eugene react when one of his pals drops into a conversation: "Not that there is anything wrong with that..."? Is he the only one in the group not to get it? Does the man realize that he is culturally deprived and at a serious disadvantage when talking with nearly everyone else in the nation? Just think: Junior Mints are only candy to Eugene; he doesn't know who Bubble Boy and Pig Man are; he doesn't even know about shrinkage or big salads, who won "the contest," or how to properly pronounce "Newman!"

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One wonders if Eugene was implying that blacks do not watch "white" shows on TV. I am a white guy, and I routinely go to movies and watch TV shows aimed at "black" audiences. Am I alone? These days, it is pretty hard not to find a hit show without a multicultural cast. Is "24" a white show because Jack Bauer is white--even though David Palmer (R.I.P.) was black, as is Curtis, who bails Jack out about every third episode? Maybe it should be called a "Chechen" or "Arab" show, since most of the terrorists--who get a lot of airtime--are from there? Next season it will clearly be a "Chinese" show--for a while, anyway.

I think the nation is polarized quite enough without having to now browbeat media buyers into racial profiling of TV shows. Sure, some shows get a bigger white audience than others do, just like some get more black viewers. Eugene and "Butch" think that ad agencies underbuy black-owned media, citing stats like this from "Butch": "More than 20 percent of consumers who have bought a Chrysler 300C are black, yet far less than 20 percent of the vehicle's ad budget is being spent to target blacks directly." What if, before Chrysler can adjust its media plan, blacks read that Car and Driver mileage tests on the 300C resulted in 17 miles to the gallon, and their purchase "share" drops like a stone? Does the agency readjust and take money out of black media? If it's being called racist now, just imagine if it cuts spending.

Maybe "Butch" could ask Ann to help him wordsmith his response.

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