Language Says It All

Saying that the language maintained in the Cream of Wheat advertisements at right reinforces stereotypes is the equivalent of saying that water is wet and the sky is blue. The broken or slang English contained within the ad is a clear attempt at building a negative image of African Americans (I can almost here the faithful readers of the Media Log crying out in unison… thank you Captain Obvious). The ads delve deep in offering the inaccurate portrayal of African Americans as less intelligent than whites and uneducated. I have heard this linguistic cultural stereotype referred to before as “lazy language”. That phrase alone is bothersome because of its proclivity to further implicate those who use “lazy language” (in this case the ’Cream of Wheat’ man) as being lazy themselves.

After getting past the initial shock of phrasings such as “if they’s bugs they ain’t none in Cream of Wheat…” we can focus in on the other less pronounced, but equally as effective racial bias’ of the advertisement. The other thing that seems out of place is the ear-to-ear smile the man has. In pop culture there is a strange sense of coincidence in that many minorities (as depicted by whites) seem to have a similar, sprawling smile. It seems as if African Americans will forever be shown as the smiling, dutiful servant or the happy, enthusiastic entertainer.

I am again reminded of Cornell West’s Race Matters excerpt in which he says, “we have created rootless, dangling people with little link to the supportive networks--family, friends, school--that sustain some sense of purpose in life”. Although West is speaking of modern day racial relations, I think this thought is closely related to the plight of African Americans in the decades after slavery. Blacks in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s did not have any support networks and as a result were most likely last centuries version of the “rootless, dangling people” West describes in his quote.

No comments: