I took this picture of this billboard owned by CocaCola on the corner of Eagle Rock and Colorado Blvd. The text reads “Tomahawk to the Temple” and shows a black man executing what looks like a slam dunk.
In light of our recent discussions of race and racism in the media, this caught my eye. This ad uses the stereotype of a Native American tool to sell Sprite. A tomahawk is an all-purpose tool that is mainly known in the media as the weapon of choice of Native American men. Using this word evokes the image of a violent Native American man at war. This is a misrepresentation of that race and using this controlling image in an Ad furthers their subordination in American society.
Furthermore, by combining the violent image that this word evokes with the actions of a black man insinuates the violence of black men. After slavery was made illegal, white people used images of violent black men to paint black men as savages who lost control without white supervision. They used these images to justify the violence against black men that occurred during this time. While different today, these images are still seen on TV and in Advertisements. The stereotypical violent black cop that is present on many of today’s TV shows is an example of how these images have changed but are still present. This billboard is another example of this same phenomenon. When one pictures a “tomahawk to the temple” he or she is likely to think of an ax striking someone in the head. Combining this violent notion with a picture of a black man equates him to being the perpetrator of this violence. Once again, the black man is being painted as savage and violent.
And somehow, that is supposed to make you want sprite.
This billboard emphasizes the stereotypes of two races in equating them to violence. By perpetuating the controlling images of both Native American and Black men, CocaCola is maintain systems of oppression that serve to deny personhood to non-white Americans.
How do TV and print advertisements use stereotypes to sell products and how do these images influence their consumers?
How have the controlling images of black Americans changed since the start of the internet age?