I started last week by being traumatized by an ad released by Mountain Dew, which I referred to as “the most racist ad in history.” The commercial featured a battered White woman being intimidated by a police lineup full of Black men, along with a demonic negro goat making a series of ebonic threats. As the goat told the woman that he was going to “dew her up” (sounds like s-xual assault to me),I remember sitting at my computer with my eyes crinkled and my bottom lip hitting my keyboard. I couldn’t believe the company had released this ad to the public.
That’s when I wrote an article that apparently got the attention of White America. To be truthful, I write most of my content for the 600,000 people who follow Your Black World, and I don’t care much about what anyone else is thinking. Crossover appeal can be highly overrated, and often leads one to become to a watered down version of who they once were. The man who initially stood firm for black America is suddenly bought off to go campaigning for gay rights and immigration reform, while black families continue to be surrounded by joblessness, a lack of education, poverty, violence, workplace inequality and the prison industrial complex. Honestly, I’ve accepted the fact that standing up against racism is going to create a few enemies, so I am comfortable with white America not liking me very much.
A conversation I had the other day with the rapper Rhymefest out of Chicago reminded me of just how silly the Mountain Dew situation actually was, and how silly it ended. It all starts off with my writing an article about the company’s racist ad and their decision to sign Lil Wayne. Then it proceeds to the company removing the racist ad, after which, they choose to dump Lil Wayne. The finale is that Mountain Dew/Pepsico executives can sleep better at night firmly believing that they’ve fully alleviated “the negro problem” in their company (similar to how Adidas responded when Rev. Jesse Jackson and I spoke out about their “brilliant” shackle on the ankle sneakers that no one seemed to connect to slavery).
Not so fast.
Sometimes when we address the symptoms of a problem, we believe that we’ve actually addressed the problem. I can say, as a person who has taught in business schools for 20 years, that the decision to release one of the most disrespectful pieces of corporate trash in history was indicative of deeper problems with the Mountain Dew/Pepsico corporate infrastructure. Their shallow response is even more indicative of their way of thinking.
The fact that this ad was able to ease itself through the internal review process without so much as raising an eyebrow shows that there are few, if any, individuals in the company who are either capable of, or empowered to, express meaningful cross-cultural sensitivity. If my grandmother knew that the ad was unacceptable after the first ten seconds of seeing it, why weren’t all those Ivy League MBAs able to pick up on the same thing? Possibly because their Ivy League MBAs led them to believe that black people don’t really matter (Lil Wayne thought the same thing).
Here is my advice for Pepsico as they move forward, so as to avert another multi-million dollar tragedy.