In the past year, TV advertisements show more social mixing of races than I see in my own distorted little world. If several 30-something guys are shown partying around a TV football game, some will be black, guaranteed. If several couples are celebrating at a restaurant, one couple will be black, guaranteed. If an older black woman calls out from her front door, “That’s not a Buick,” her friend, an elderly white woman, will reply with familiarity, “That’s what I told him.” If someone is shown waiting in a doctor’s office, the doctor opening the door will be black, guaranteed. Any scene showing a difference in status, the one with the higher status will likely be black. Even mixed-race couples with children are now shown without raising an eyebrow.
So, blacks are well-represented in TV ads, and I have no problem with that. Ads should depict us as we want to be, how we should be, even if that is not how we really are.
But there remains one area of advertising where we almost never see blacks. Any ad showing repairmen coming into the home, such as to lay carpet, to fix the plumbing, or to replace the heating system, are not shown as black. Maybe a neat, mature black guy will occasionally be shown working on an outdoor air-conditioning unit, but the more the job is inside the home, the less likely he will be shown as black. Are advertisers telling us they know we feel threatened by unknown black guys?
Asians, who comprise 60% of the world’s population, are generally absent in TV ads, except in one place: the many ads for cancer-treatment hospitals. The ads show a team of real doctors and administrators, not actors, but still, they have a large pool to draw from, and yet they select many Asians (and women). When people’s lives are on the line, they want an Asian on the other end of that scalpel . . . and a comforting woman on the team.