Minorities Under Siege: The Art of the Super Bowl Commercial

By on February 7, 2008 @ 12:00 am

I, Too, Sing America

I, too, sing America
I am the darker brother
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well
And grow strong.

This was one of my favorite poems growing up, not just because Langston Hughes was the only poet that we studied in depth for Black History Month, but because at this point in our history it is truly poignant.  Instead of the darker brother being those who are Black (of African descent), it has now extended to those who are brown and tan – Hispanics and Arabs.  If the commercials that surrounded the Super bowl were any indicator of how deep seated racism is in this country, then I have to let my other darker brothers know to watch their backs.

So this Super Bowl experience started off completely innocently – I decided to do something completely different, so I went to my co-worker’s home (whom happen to be Jewish) and sat an watched the Super Bowl with her and her friends.  Everything was fabulous, great food, interesting company and engaging conversations abounded.  Everyone had put in for their respective work pools hoping that there score would come up so they could win money.  At that point, I felt completely at home – truly enjoying an American pastime with other Americans.  Seemed completely tranquil right, well that was until the first commercials started to come on.

I guess somebody, probably the host channel (FOX) gives all of the advertisers the assignment to somehow create an ad that will promote the theme of the game or will match the political climate of the US boosting morale.  If I had to guess, this year’s theme was America the beautiful. . . big bad, Black and Brown busting machine because a good majority of the commercials featured men of a brown hue being shot at or embarrassed or harassed.  If it wasn’t brown men being shot at or living in caves, the other themes were how powerful the US is – cut to revolutionary war inspired commercials or how “seemingly” diverse Americans are – having the required Rastafarian, black woman, etc in one out of 4 or 5 shots.  And then the commercials that reflected the “greatest times” in American the 1950’s where women stayed at home and cookies, cleaned and looked beautiful or how those of color didn’t exist (pre Civil Rights, MLK, Malcolm X, Hugo Chavez, Woodstock, bra burning, and Fidel Castro).

If I weren’t from the US, I’d think that this country was made up only White people and there were a few “other” people sprinkled in the buttermilk.  Then if that wasn’t enough reinforcement about how White and conservative America believes itself to be, the half time show was done by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Tom Petty, that man can croon a good song and the production values of a Half-time show are spectacular, but he is also a throw-back to the “golden” era where American ruled the world, wonder bread, TV dinners and all that jazz. 

So I am sitting in my co-worker’s home and for the first time I realize that I am not only the only Black person in the room, but I am also the only person who is visibly offended by the commercials that I am seeing.  While they got one about “The FOX channel conspiracy” I am left to contemplate our cultural differences.  I am not only a Black person and inherit all of the blessings and burdens of that history, I am also the child of an immigrant who came here illegally – who took a bus from Belize City, all through Mexico and literally walked across the border past the border patrols.  Without lax borders and the need for cheap labor, I wouldn’t exist.  Needless to say, my view is completely colored.

Couple that with an “innocent” crack that someone made – “At least there aren’t nipple bearing Black Women – oh wait, Orange Phoenix could you bear your nipple for us?”  – I feel that America has not only spat on me, but betrayed my beliefs too.

The only redeeming quality of the night was the fact that the Giants won – not just because I’m a New Yorker, more because they were the underdogs.  No one gave them a shot is hell of beating the mighty Patriots aka America’s Team, but sometimes it takes the belief of those of the underbelly, those that we count out to rise up and win. 

If the Giants are any indication of American politics or their place in the Global world – can anyone say Barack Obama?

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

             Langston Hughes

Categories: Entertainment | Observation

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James Seay February 7, 2008

Good points, but I respectfully disagree. The Super Bowl add showed what has become an integrated society. It showed that Black Culture (Michael Jackson, Namoi Campbell, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes) have come a far way. These people are entertainers, the are people that bring a smile to our face. Others commericials depict Whites as bufons as well, should you be upset about that?

While I believe that some (can you say Flavor Flav) complete betray the Black race, I believe the Super Bowl commericials were “fair and balanced” (for lack of a better term) in taking a snapshot of America today.

As for Barack Obama….YES WE CAN!!!

Ricardo February 10, 2008

I don’t care what anyone says but if were a white woman flashing her boob with a white guy there would not have been as much of an uproar. I mean there would have been but not with the venom that that incident held. Do recall the feigned outrage over the Nicollette Sheridan/Terrell Owens skit before Monday Night Football. Was that any worse than what’s on a typical episode of Desperate Housewives? No, so what’s the problem? You know it, I know it and the American people know it but won’t face it.

I opted out of watching the Super Bowl. When people try to produce events in a patriotic manner like you describe, I never feel included. There are 2 Americas.

The Orange Phoenix February 11, 2008

Thanks for the comments.

James I see your point about all of the Black superstars that were featured in the commercials and I was happy to see them, but they are truly an anomaly. When they start to feature stars of Mexican and Persian/Arab descent, then I feel like we have transcended the legacy of fear 9/11 has caused.

At this point in history Black people are “acceptable” (not to downplay any of our advancements), but Americans always have to have an “enemy” to separate who is American and who “isn’t” – Arabs just happen to currently fit the bill.

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