Racism in Ads

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.

Research questions:

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?


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8 thoughts on “Racism in Ads

  1. I am glad that you recognized this billboard.
    Last week upon seeing this billboard it really stood out to me but I was unaware of what a “Tomahawk to the Temple” meant so thanks for clarifying that. Now upon understanding that main slogan on the billboard, I definitely see how it perpetuates the stereotypical notion of black men as “violent savages.”
    I am curious as to if that terminology of “Tomahawk to the temple” is widely understood by the billboard’s audience, or to what extent are others, like me unaware of the terminology. I ask this because if not many know what a Tomahawk is, they will not make a connection of violence (as I did not initially), and will not be able to see the issue of this Black athlete’s “savage” portrayal. And this speaks to how the “teeth is pulled out of criticism”, and how cleverly disguised racist notions in media can be.
    I also wonder what affects there are for racist media messages that are not easily recognizable. Thoughts?

    • I think the affects for racist media message that are not easily recognizable are just as destructive, if not more so, than ones that are blatant. With blatantly racist images, there will be people who see and understand how these images are harmful. However, when people see an image and don’t understand why it is problematic and they cannot recognize the racism in it, then they are more likely to take it as the truth.

  2. When i saw this billboard I didn’t see anything wrong as the black man who is dunking the ball isn’t any regular person, it is arguably the best or one of the best basketball players on the NBA right now. As for the slogan that they use “Tomahawk to the Temple” I thought they were referring to the type of dunk he is performing in the ad and what he is known for, which is called a tomahawk dunk. The dunk is name the tomahawk dunk because the player looks like he is going to cut a piece of wood when he reaches back and brings his arm forward. The reference to the temple might also come from the fact that his nickname is King James, which can play into the 1600s King James that is synonymous with the Christian Church. I feel like not all adds are being racist but people look at them without understanding the context and who are not part of the targeted audience of the ad and assume that it is promoting something that it is not.

    • But they are adds that do, do this practice where they try to make something that seem innocent when it subliminally sending a different message. I had not thought of the tomahawk dunk receiving its name from the nature of the ferocity of the dunk. The images of blacks on the internet i think can be compared to that we see in everyday adds. As for this weeks visual portfolio i wanted to do something relating to what is perceived as beautiful in the United States as one of our articles, Racialized Social System Approach To Racism, stated that “the race placed in the superior position tends to receive greater economic remuneration and …, is granted higher social estimation (e.g., is viewed as ‘smarter’ or ‘better looking’)”. So I went onto google and googled beautiful women and the vast majority of the searches resulted in white women. So the internet does what is done in any other type of media it tells us the the “superior” race or the race in power is what beauty is.

    • ” I feel like not all adds are being racist but people look at them without understanding the context and who are not part of the targeted audience of the ad and assume that it is promoting something that it is not.”

      I agree that not all ads are racist but this begs the question about, does intent matter? My point in showing this picture was not to argue that the advertisers at sprite intended for this ad to promote racism, but rather that the use of controlling images is happening on a large scale, regardless of their intent.
      I would argue that intent is irrelevant. I had no idea what a tomahawk dunk was and while I guessed that the man was an NBA player, I don’t follow the NBA so I didn’t know much more than that. So for people like me, the only message in this billboard is what the text and image provoke. If this ad was only intended for a basketball audience who would understand its meaning, then it should be at a basketball game not prominently displayed.
      Regardless of the intent of the billboard, it uses terms and images that insinuate violence for a specific group of people, thus furthering the use of controlling images.

  3. No, I understand what you are saying that not all advertisements are trying to be racist. I just came off the wrong way, I was originally trying to give some background context of the billboard and that to me, a huge basketball fan, the advertisement seems innocent to me. I just shrug the billboard as nothing but if i looked at through a different lens their is something with wrong with making him seem super aggressive as he is known for being a very calm person of the court that is always giving back to his community. They do not portray him in this manner but instead make him seem as if he were a very violent person. Looking through another lens this billboard is just following the trend of making African American males seem as hyper aggressive people.

  4. Go to YouTube and you will find that there are channels owned by white racists that understand how propaganda is used effectively by the media so they are uploading lots of videos from the media, but it’s one video after another that make black men & women look bad. Almost all their comments are all the typical stereotypes, but they really push it on white people, but they don’t stop there.

    Almost all these racist gangs, groups, and organizations are encouraging their members in a concerted effort to help in their viral campaign of causing racial tension. Their ultimate goal is to is to make it look worse than ever so people will become so angry they will turn their heads when atrocities begin. The thing is they are having an effect through the internet and propaganda. Some have channels with racist documentaries or anything in the media they feel proves their racist views are right, some make video commentaries, others make hateful comments on a video of any black figure in the news or is considered a hero to blacks. Making the comments seems to be what they majority of this unified movement. They even have white people posing as blacks (many will have a black male or female as channel profile pic) they will send insulting messages to whites in hopes they can turn them. It really does mimic how some Christians proselytize, but instead of doing it publicly they do it from the comfort of their own homes. I’ve a had a few white men admit to me after I caught on. Their racist views on how they think blacks talk always gives them away. They feel they are “doing their part” to “save the white race”. They want everyone to believe that the “Jews” run the world are responsible for brainwashing the world and telling others that are they have an agenda to turn the entire world to hate blame white people for all the woes so they can get away with openly committing genocide on them if the whites don’t wake up.

    They are even handing these leaflets in mass in the UK in heavily populated areas. The leaflets pick out certain things in the middle to give white people the impression that there is an active movement to demonize ALL white people, not just the racist alone.

    When they leave hateful comments on some videos many black men & women respond with threats of killing them. The racists compile a lot of the threats then share them in mass to other whites to “prove” blacks want to kill whites & that the Jews will now place the white man on a lower social scale…role reversal so to speak. Easily impressionable whites are eating this stuff up. If this country were to erupt in a revolution it would be when the entire country loses all it’s comforts. When a problem directly affects people then they suddenly care about the world’s affairs, but until then they don’t lose sleep on any atrocities they see affecting others in the world…it’s not happening to them. These racist groups then share those comments from blacks filled with threats of violence and death comments to whites in mass never telling them they incited it. It’s sad to say there’s a lot of careless people in this world that will believe whatever just sounds right without even researching it.

    That tactic used back in the days of slavery of using negatives is now on a world stage with the internet. They have many more to spread their propaganda and they hard at work, they really think they are preparing for an all out race war. Some of these racists want to kill blacks while others want an uprise of white anger to “deport” all blacks to Africa.

    They really LOVE all the black on black stereotypes many young black men and women tell as jokes online to one another. I’ve had several of these racists tell me “Even some of their own people hate the niggers.”

    All I know is racism will always be a problem because you will always have these people who think they are superior or want power for all the wrong reasons. There has always been crooked people throughout mankind’s history that have obtained great power and used it to kill hundreds of millions in just a 100 year period. When the good in people becomes righteous anger all racists are going to hide, it will become a taboo topic because if you corner the dog you just may get bit. It’s happened a few times throughout history, but those small number of hate filled people are a small amount compared to those who really just want to live their lives without the being oppressed…man is meant to be free. At one time men lived without borders and laws. They usually fought other tribes, but it was never about their skin color. Racism is a new ideology to man that has been perfected in it’s exploitation factor to convince the masses which doesn’t allow mankind to move forward. My point is racism is promoted by people who really don’t care about the average man, it’s only purpose is cause regression in the all the human race. That’s the modus operandi by the social engineers.

  5. I hope that my comment above makes sense…lol…I was just proof reading it and moved my finger off the touch pad to scroll down a touch more and and the cursor was sitting on the “Post Comment” and took the replacing of my finger on the touch pad as a tap.

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