New Ad Puts Racial Taboo to Bed

“I don’t see color,” says David Wolfe, the co-founder and CEO of Leesa Sleep.

Ad from Leesa Sleep featuring interracial couple Leesa Sleep

In 1955, Emmett Till, a black 15-year-old, was abducted and beaten to death, his body mutilated, after he allegedly whistled at a white woman.

Until the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Loving v. Virginia case in 1967, it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry in Virginia and several other states. Both cases are mentioned in the new National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall.

On Sunday in the New York Times Magazine, a black man and a white woman, both only partially clothed, sat in bed together to advertise a mattress, and there was barely a ripple.

“The secret is in the springs,” the ad confided.

David Wolfe
David Wolfe

David Wolfe, co-founder and CEO of Leesa Sleep, LLC, which makes the mattress and placed the ad in the Times and in online outlets, told Journal-isms by telephone Wednesday that he wasn’t thinking of sociology or history when he put the black and white models together in bed.

“I don’t see color,” said Wolfe, 54, who was raised in England and whose company is based in Virginia Beach, Va. “I chose the couple [because] I thought they were great together. . . . It wasn’t a conscious decision that I put a black guy and a white woman on a mattress.”

The ad did hold significance for Martha Hodes, a professor of history at New York University.

“This ad immediately stopped me,” Hodes responded by email to an inquiry from Journal-isms. “Ever since I wrote White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South, almost twenty years ago, I’ve informally noted or collected images of white women and black men in present-day popular culture.

“It didn’t take me but a moment to interpret the ad. The copy refers to ‘your home,’ indicating that the couple has set up a household together, including purchasing a mattress. They’re both lightly clothed and drinking wine, making sex the underlying — if not the completely obvious — message.

Martha Hodes
Martha Hodes

“The white woman is looking provocatively at the camera, though admittedly many advertising directors position models this way (just look at any catalogue that sells lingerie). Marriage might legitimize the couple, but the fingers of their left hands aren’t visible enough to tell if they’re wearing wedding rings, no doubt on purpose.

“When I first saw the ad, my immediate thought was that the mattress company and the New York Times are going to get nasty reactions from some white readers.

“Such racism is far from passé, and it was only in 1967 that the United States Supreme Court ruled laws against marriage between people of different racial classifications to be unconstitutional. At the time, sixteen states had such laws on the books.”

For most of this country’s history, media organizations dared not step too far ahead of their customers on racial matters.

Perhaps that’s still the case. The ad was not an issue for the Times, according to spokeswoman Eileen Murphy.

“We believe that diverse representation of races, genders, etc. in advertising is a good thing, but we don’t get involved in the creative campaigns of our advertisers,” Murphy said by email.

Gene Demby, NPR “Code Switch”: That Cute Cheerios Ad With The Interracial Family Is Back (Jan. 30, 2014)

Editorial, Dallas Morning News: The African-American History and Culture museum is a timely balm for what ails us (Sept. 26)

Harold Jackson, Philadelphia Inquirer: Visit with history that’s worth the wait

Courtland Milloy, Washington Post: African American Museum offers chance to talk about slavery, but few people want to (Sept. 20)

Mark Paoletta, the Hill: Museum’s slight of Clarence Thomas does African American history a disservice (Oct. 4)

James Ragland, Dallas Morning News: Dallas-based musician Charley Pride, other Texans help make National Museum of African American History and Culture a success (Oct. 3)

Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: A museum that every American needs to see (Sept. 28)

Ernie Suggs, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Did the Smithsonian shun Clarence Thomas?

Bankole Thompson, Detroit News: Clarence Thomas belongs in national museum

Bankole Thompson, Detroit News: D.C. museum casts new light on Detroit’s Charles Wright (Sept. 29)

Armstrong Williams, Washington Post: Why doesn’t the African American Museum celebrate Clarence Thomas? (Oct. 19)

This Fox News Channel exchange Tuesday between Megyn Kelly and Newt Gingrich, which went viral, overshadowed Sean Hannity’s birther dog-whistle, Jennifer Rubin wrote. (Credit: Fox News Channel)

Conservative Says Fox News Mainstreams Racism

The degree to which Fox fake-news programming (e.g. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, ‘Fox and Friends’) has mainstreamed and defended blatant racism is shocking,” Jennifer Rubin, who writes a conservative column for the Washington Post dubbed “Right Turn,” wrote Wednesday under the headline, “The mainstreaming of racism on Fox News.”

“Overshadowed by Newt Gingrich’s outburst on Megyn Kelly’s show last night was Sean Hannity’s birther dog-whistle. He directed his rant to President Obama:

” ‘You want to go to Canada? I’ll pay for you to go to Canada. You want to go to Kenya? I’ll pay for you to go to Kenya. Jakarta, where you went to school back in the day, you can go back there. Anywhere you want to go. I’ll put the finest food — caviar, champagne, you name it. I have one stipulation: You can’t come back.’

‘Now, do we think it’s coincidental that he picked Kenya, folks? Do we think Hannity is not ringing the birther bell, suggesting (affirming, actually) for the benefit of his alt-right audience that, in his mind, Obama is a foreigner, probably Muslim and definitely not ‘one of us’?

“We’ve noted before that Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric is an extension of the crackpot right-wing media, his appearance paved by years of conspiracy theories, dog-whistles, paranoia and, yes, appeals to racism and ridicule of women. In the final days of the Trump campaign, we are reminded where the toxic brew that Trump spouts originated.

“This is certainly not an isolated incident. Who can forget O’Reilly telling us ‘slaves that worked there [building the White House] were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government’? Most Republicans acknowledged that Trump’s accusation that Judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased against Trump because the judge was a ‘Mexican’ was racism, plain and simple. Yet Fox allowed O’Reilly to cheerlead for Trump’s racist demand that Curiel recuse himself. . . .”

For Blacks, Trumps Have ‘Existed for a Long Time’

When Tunette Powell, a black Ph.D. student in Los Angeles, hears Donald J. Trump speaking about African-Americans living in ‘war zones,’ she thinks back to a high school math teacher who used to tell her to ‘go back to the ghetto, ” Yamiche Alcidor wrote Tuesday for the New York Times, infusing the voices of everyday black voters into the presidential campaign coverage.

“Mr. Trump has called for the return of stop-and-frisk, the police practice that critics and a New York federal judge likened to racial profiling. Ms. Powell remembered how police officers once searched a car she and her cousin were riding in, joking that the vehicle resembled one used in a robbery.

“Mr. Trump has frequently retweeted messages from white supremacists. Ms. Powell recalled how a white college classmate informed her that his family got together at barbecues to ridicule black people.

“With his years of questioning President Obama’s birthplace, his insinuation of voting fraud in black neighborhoods and his refusal to absolve the Central Park Five, Mr. Trump has riled up and shocked voters not used to hearing black Americans’ sensibilities handled so dismissively on a public stage.

“But when Ms. Powell and other black Americans were interviewed recently about Mr. Trump’s candidacy, shock was rarely a word that came to mind.

“More often, they said, what they felt was a numbing familiarity: What the rest of America was now being exposed to are words and thoughts they have heard their whole lives.

“ ‘We talk a lot about Donald Trump because he is the person in front of us, but start looking at all the people who believe in these ideas and they are sitting in our classrooms, they are in our courtrooms, and they are pastors of our churches,’ Ms. Powell, 30, said. ‘I feel like Donald Trump is not a big bad wolf. He’s existed for a long time.’ . . .”

Freddie Allen, National Newspaper Publishers Association: NNPA, Howard University Team Up to Poll Black Voters

Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: Trump gets on my last nerve when he talks about ‘the African Americans’

Michael Barbaro, New York Times: What Drives Donald Trump? Fear of Losing Status, Tapes Show

Jamelle Bouie, Slate: The Most Astute Analysis of American Politics in 2016? SNL’s “Black Jeopardy!” Sketch.

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: In the coming battle between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, I’m with her

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune : Hooray! Dillard hosts Senate debate; Yikes! Here comes David Duke

Tom Kludt, CNN Money: Donald Trump says he wants libel laws more like the UK’s

Harlan McKosato, Indian Country Today Media Network: What Does an Indian Look Like?

Errol Louis, Daily News, New York: Economic foresight, not nostalgia: Service jobs supplant steelwork

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: How ‘SNL’ exposed the common thread of voter paranoia

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Don’t forget: Hillary Clinton is blazing a momentous trail

Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald: In supporting Trump, proud Bay of Pigs vets drag themselves into an unworthy battle

Dan Zak, Washington Post: Forget Trump and Clinton. ‘Black Jeopardy’ is SNL’s best political sketch this year.

John Ziegler, Mediaite: The Ten Most Unreported Stories About Donald Trump

Commissioner, Owner to Meet Over Chief Wahoo

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN’s Mike & Mike sports show Tuesday that he plans to meet with Cleveland Indians owner Larry Dolan after the season to discuss the team’s controversial team logo, Chief Wahoo, which some people say demeans Native Americans,” Mark Naymik reported Wednesday for cleveland.com.

Meanwhile, the Native American Journalists Association called on media professionals “and others in the sports industry to eliminate the use of Native American-themed mascots and imagery.

Chief Wahoo
Chief Wahoo

“We believe that the Cleveland team’s ‘Chief Wahoo’ logo, in conjunction with its name, perpetuates a stereotype based on the race and ethnic identity of Native people,” the NAJA statement continued. “It is dehumanizing imagery that leads to dehumanizing actions against Native people, and its continued use by mainstream and sports media is wholly unethical. . . .”

Chief Wahoo has been relegated to a supporting role for the Cleveland Indians this season, another step in the team’s de-emphasis of the logo, Cindy Boren reported in April for the Washington Post.

“ ‘We have gone to the Block C as our primary mark,’ owner Paul Dolan said (via Cleveland.com). ‘Clearly, we are using it more heavily than we are the Chief Wahoo logo.’ . . .”

The Chicago Cubs beat the Indians, 5-1, at Progressive Field on a cold Wednesday night in Game 2 of the World Series, Paul Hoynes reported for cleveland.com. “The series moves to Wrigley Field on Friday for Game 3 with the series tied, 1-1. . . .”

Al Jazeera: Cleveland Indians: Native Americans rally against logo

Tim Giago, indianz.com: No one feels honored by racist and offensive mascots

Sterling HolyWhiteMountain, ESPN: The great failure of the Indians mascot debate? Thinking of it only as racism

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Cleveland Indians are a perfect metaphor for a city’s quest for resurgence (Oct. 19)

Paul Thornton, Los Angeles Times: Don’t root, root, root for the racist, red-face team from Cleveland

Ex-CNN Employee Claims Racial, Religious Bias

Another CNN employee has accused the Atlanta-based network of racial and religious discrimination in a lawsuit filed earlier this month,” Rodney Ho reported Wednesday for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Omar Butcher
Omar Butcher (Credit: Twitter)

Omar Butcher, who worked at CNN from 2010 to 2015, filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court Northern District of Georgia.

“This is at least the third lawsuit filed by employees at CNN against the company over discrimination over the past year. The others were filed by Ricky Blalock and DeWayne Walker.

“According to the lawsuit, Butcher joined the network as an associate producer and tried to get a writing position but said he was passed over multiple times and discouraged from training.

“A devout Christian, he said in the lawsuit he was offended by the use of profanity by other staffers, including terms regarding God and Jesus Christ. He asked that they stop doing so but was ignored.

“He said he was also unfairly called out for not attending a meeting that white colleagues had missed. . . .”

Michael Tow, a financial planner who moonlights as an actor, posted this parody response to the Bill O’Reilly and Jesse Watters “Watters’ World” segment in Chinatown last week. “This is my imagined version of what really happened,” he wrote. (Credit: YouTube.com)

‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’: Fox Meets Asian Americans

Representatives of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations met with Fox News executives today to present a community letter signed by 134 national, state and local AAPI organizations and allies, as well as a petition with nearly 24,000 signatures, in response to the racist ‘Watters World: Chinatown Edition segment that aired on The O’Reilly Factor earlier this month,” the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, a coalition of 35 groups, said in a statement Tuesday.

Mary Tablante, a spokeswoman for the group, which met privately with Fox News in New York, told Journal-isms by telephone Wednesday, “We’re still trying to figure out a specific follow-up.”

Ron Kim, a New York state assemblyman in attendance, told the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple Blog “that a representative from ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ and a senior representative from the news side of the channel attended the meeting,” Wemple reported on Tuesday.

“Together they played a ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine, said Kim. ‘The gentleman from O’Reilly’s show was defending what they were doing and trying to explain that this is a part of the opinion section of Fox News and sometimes edgy humor can go too far,’ said Kim. . . .”

Jeff Guo, Washington Post: Every Asian American has been asked this question. A computer gives the best answer.

On Sept. 3, the Dakota Access pipeline company attacked Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray as they protested against the $3.8 billion pipeline’s construction. (Credit; Democracy Now!)
On Sept. 3, the Dakota Access pipeline company attacked Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray as they protested against the $3.8 billion pipeline’s construction. (Credit: Democracy Now!)

Standing Rock Dog Handlers Not Properly Licensed

The dog handlers who provided security for Dakota Access LLC during a Sept. 3 clash with protesters were not properly licensed to provide security in North Dakota, a Morton County investigation found,” Amy Dalrymple reported Tuesday for Forum News Service.

“Names of the unlicensed security officers have been forwarded to prosecutors for possible charges, but investigators were only able to identify two of the seven dog handlers, said Capt. Jay Gruebele of the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

“Providing private security services without a license is a Class B misdemeanor in North Dakota.

“Six pipeline opponents were bitten by the guard dogs and a dozen or more people were pepper-sprayed when the group clashed with security officers in a pipeline construction zone on Sept. 3, according to a protest organizer with the Red Warrior Camp. . . .”

Dalrymple also reported, “The two dog handlers’ names that have been forwarded to prosecutors include Ashley Welch, who appears in video captured by reporters with the independent news program ‘Democracy Now[!]’ with a dog that has blood on its mouth and nose.

“Prosecutors attempted to charge ‘Democracy Now[!]’ journalist Amy Goodman with rioting, in part basing their affidavit on statements from Welch that said Goodman was actively protesting and ‘trying to get the protesters riled.’ A judge refused to sign the complaint. . . .”

Sheela Allen-Stephens, left, and Betsy Hoffman (Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Archives)
Sheela Allen-Stephens, left, and Betsy Hoffman (Credit: Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Archives)

Sheela Allen-Stephens, Philly TV Veteran, Dies at 73

Steela Allen-Stephens, a longtime entertainment and features reporter and anchor at Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV, died of cancer Oct. 21 at suburban Bryn Mawr Hospital, her daughter, Desiree Murray, told Journal-isms on Wednesday. She turned 73 on Sept. 10.

“Sheela Allen-Stephens worked at NBC10 / WCAU for nearly 30 years as a news anchor, news and features reporter and infotainment co-host reporter, alongside Matt Lauer, before she retired in 2005,” a WCAU-TV spokesperson told Journal-isms by email.

“She covered a wide array of issues and topics, and was as comfortable interviewing superstars as she was reporting a story about a local seamstress. Sheela was a one-woman people magnet.

“Our viewers have not forgotten her since she signed off 10 years ago. Since her passing, we have been flooded with messages of condolence and funny memories. We were fortunate to have had Sheela on our NBC10 team.”

Murray said her mother, who grew up in New York, worked in Buffalo television before her arrival in Philadelphia. She loved to write and “had an uncanny way of lighting up a room,” she said.

In a tribute, WCAU chief meteorologist Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz, a good friend, began, ‘She survived breast cancer, three heart attacks, brain surgery, and diabetes. She told people that she had more than 25 surgeries in her life. She was as happily married as any person I ever saw. . . .”

Services are public and scheduled Saturday at 1 p.m. at Sharon Baptist Church, 3955 Conshohocken Ave., Philadelphia 19131. She leaves a sister, two children and three grandchildren.

Short Takes

Something that is usually unspeakable is a conversation starter at a meeting of Racists Anonymous,” John Blackstone reported Wednesday for the “CBS Evening News.” Pastor Ron Buford started the weekly meetings last November at his Congregational Church in Sunnyvale, Calif. “In less than a year, more than 50 churches in 22 different states have started Racist Anonymous meetings using Buford’s model,” Blackstone reported.

“Today, Mother Jones publishes another exclusive feature by senior reporter Shane Bauer,” the publication announced on Tuesday. “Four months after his groundbreaking investigation behind the walls of a private prison, Bauer offers another gripping look at a hidden world—America’s militia movement. ‘Undercover With a Border Militia’ provides a firsthand glimpse into the resurgent right-wing paramilitary movement. Bauer buys a rifle and camouflage fatigues to train with California militia members, and then travels to Arizona for a week of ‘operations’ along the US-Mexico border with the Three Percent United Patriots (3UP). . . .”

“28 Days in Chains: In this federal prison, inmates have a choice: live with a violent cellmate or end up in shackles,” the Marshall Project headlines a joint investigation by NPR and the Marshall Project, published on each site Wednesday. “Seven prisoners said that they were threatened with or subjected to a punishment far more painful than ambulatory restraints, a form of punishment that at other prisons is used as a short-term last resort for uncontrollable inmates. It is known as ‘four-pointing’ and consists of having each limb cuffed to a corner of a concrete slab or bed frame. . . .” Christie Thompson of the Marshall Project and Joseph Shapiro of NPR reported.

The New York Times’ Michael Luo is heading to The New Yorker,” Hadas Gold reported Wednesday for Politico. “Luo, currently with the Times’ metro desk leading a team focused on investigations, will be a senior editor in charge of investigations, leading a stable of writers aimed at upping The New Yorker’s game on investigative reporting. . . .” An open letter that Luo wrote this month to a woman who yelled at him and his family to ‘go back to China’ prompted thousands of Asian Americans to come forward with their own experiences with racial prejudice.

Janet Lomax
Janet Lomax

Janet Lomax “has decided to step down from the News10NBC anchor desk following 36 years of service to the Rochester community,” WHEC-TV in Rochester, N.Y., reported on Wednesday. “A celebration and week-long series of special Rochester moments through Janet’s eyes is planned for the week of November 14th. . . .” Lomax founded the Rochester Association of Black Communicators, now the Rochester Association of Black Journalists.

In July 2015, Clinton ally Neera Tanden, head of the progressive think tank the Center for American Progress, passed along advice that Hillary Clinton should try to meet with New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., to get more favorable coverage from the newspaper, Kelsey Sutton wrote Wednesday for Politico. Sutton was reporting on WikiLeaks’ ongoing release of emails from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta. “Tanden also wrote that [Howard] Wolfson ‘thinks the brown and women pundits can shame the times and others on social media’ for their coverage, and suggested that ‘cultivating’ The Nation’s Joan Walsh, Vox’s Matt Yglesias, The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent and NBC’s Perry Bacon, among others, would be ‘helpful.’ . . .” Wolfson is a former New York deputy mayor and longtime Democratic strategist.

Quartz on Wednesday launched its first non-English product, a Spanish-language version of its . . . Daily Brief email newsletter that [targets] readers in Latin America and Spanish speakers in the United States,” Joseph Lichterman reported Wednesday for Nieman Lab.

Leyla Santiago joins CNN as a correspondent based in Mexico City, the network announced on Tuesday. “Prior to joining CNN, Santiago was an anchor and reporter for WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she and her team won the prestigious Alfred I. DuPont award for the documentary ‘The Journey Alone,’ about the surge in illegal immigration of unaccompanied minors from Mexico. Santiago traveled to the Rio Grande Valley, and traced the path of the children and investigated how the crisis impacted North Carolina. . . .”

“A new documentary presented by NBC Asian America, and in production with International Secret Agents (ISAtv), will make its debut at the San Diego Asian Film Festival in San Diego, Calif., on Nov. 6,” NBC announced on Monday. “’AKA SEOUL’ is a follow up to the documentary series ‘AKA DAN,’ which chronicled the 2013 journey of alternative rapper and Korean adoptee Dan Matthews as he reconnected with his biological family, including a twin brother he never knew about. Three years later, audiences will follow Matthews and four other Korean adoptees from diverse backgrounds as they visit Korea during the summer of 2016 and shed light on other aspects of the adoptee identity. . . .” Trailer

Black women won all three prizes in the second annual National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) Pitch Black Forum, [PDF] a pitching session in front of panels of industry executives,” the consortium announced Wednesday. “The winners, who personify #BlackGirlMagic, will each receive between $50,000 and $100,000 from NBPC’s 360 Incubator + Fund to develop their television, web and transmedia series. . . .” Winners include “Saltbox,” a broadcast series by Shirlette Ammons; “So Young, So Pretty, So White,” a broadcast series by Chanelle Aponte Pearson and Christiana Mbakwe; and “Beyond the Book,” a web series by Dominique Taylor and Stephanie Fields.

The Latin American journalists honored at the 2016 Maria Moors Cabot Prizes ceremony in New York highlighted the region’s diversity of media platforms and range of coverage,” EFE reported on Oct. 19. “Conferred by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, this year’s awards went to Rodrigo Abd, an Argentine photographer working for the Associated Press; Brazilian journalist Rosental Alves, who heads the U.S.-based Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas; Colombian independent filmmaker Margarita Martinez; and Oscar Martinez, a reporter with Salvadoran newspaper El Faro.

The Addis Standard monthly, “An Ethiopian English-language magazine which has been critical of the government has ceased publishing its print edition saying restrictions imposed when emergency rule was declared early this month made it ‘impossible’ to continue,” Aaron Maasho reported Tuesday for Reuters.

Comments