For the past couple of months, we've inhabited a George Zimmerman universe. The murderer's acquittal on the strength of a Florida jungle gun law was an outrage to the state and the nation.
Since race was the reason for Zimmerman's interception of Trayvon Martin, it is shocking that the prosecution was so reticent about using it. Every lawyer, prosecution or defense uses everything — let alone something as potent as race.
After each racial outrage, such as this or the beating of Rodney King, activists call for a "dialogue about race." It's something we're accustomed to, like eating comfort food. We discuss race relations on Sunday morning shows and in town-halls. I bet several books about the case are already in print.
So it's time to judge race by a different yardstick. At the Graduate School of Journalism at UCLA, we spent two semesters analyzing television commercials. These, said the professor, deliver the truest picture of America. Commercials are not about love — they're about money. Your money, and whether you'll spend it on the product the advertiser offers. It's not about ideas — it's about cash.
My first visit here from Israel was in 1959. I found commercials more fascinating than Dr. Kildare. Naturally, everyone in the commercials was white, from the woman who told her mother that she would rather do it herself, to the nitwit who was proud of her floor.
Then, in the '70s, a change: Black people trickled into commercials. I recall an ad for Burger King or McDonalds where a young black couple dressed like rhinestone cowboys, entered slithering and gyrating in quest of a burger. (Today people of every race prance and shake not only for french fries, but for adult undergarments.)
Anyhow, at long last, commercials were integrated.
Well, maybe not. Looking back 40 years, we realize nothing substantial has changed since that bejeweled pair danced into a fast food joint.
For instance: 20 years ago some preppy Ralph Lauren-type boys go sailing. One of the bunch is black. Swooping off the horizon come wind-surfing girls, equally preppy. One of them is black. What a beautiful symmetry these gods of advertising have created.
Recently, an elegant thirty-somethings' cocktail party advertises Chex Party Mix. The munchers are white yuppies. In comes a beautiful yuppie black couple. Hugs and kisses all around. Have some party mix! Don't mind if I do. Memo to advertisers — this crowd would never serve Chex Mix. But, hey, it's not about race, but hydrogenated cereal and pretzels.
Apparently Cialis has thrust itself way ahead of Viagra, and is blanketing both networks and cable with ads touting a magical "Cialis For Daily Use." The ad tells a poignant story: a man and woman, aged 45 - 50, eye each other seductively across a crowded room. The voice-over intones: Even after all these years you still love her as the day you met. But your erectile dysfunction may get in the way ...
Suddenly they're together, nudging each other and smiling in anticipation. In these commercials, everyone smiles. Next: man playfully puts a baseball cap on the woman's head; she turns it around — and smiles. A man is sweating from a tennis game, towel around his neck, he pulls her closer with it. They smile. Dissolve into twin tubs on the beach — I guess they're naked — silhouetted against the setting sun.
Of course these commercials are integrated. I counted one African-American couple for every two white couples. See a difference from the '70s? I don't.
Here's what I suggest you guys and gals in the Cialis think-tank do for America: Give us an interracial couple stupidly ogling each other and salivating. How about a black woman and a white man riding a carousel and motioning that they can't wait for the ride to be over. Or better yet: a white woman and a black man — the bigot's worst nightmare — even if the black man needs "Cialis For Daily Use."
Email Rachel Patron at firstname.lastname@example.org