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The White Brand

"Sell the sizzle, not the steak..." - Old Advertising Adage

Marketers and their cohorts in advertising are big on "branding." Advertising slogans like "Things go better with Coke," or "McDonald's, I'm loving it," or the classic Burger King, "Where's the Beef," are all designed to "sell" sizzle over "steak." To associate "the brand," with a lifestyle, "The Pepsi Generation," or a feeling/action "See the USA in a Chevrolet." 

Even politicians are branded as detailed in Joe McGinniss', "The Selling of the President 1968," or witness the first Obama Campaign. Candidate Obama equaled Hope and Change. That was his brand, his sizzle. In the subsequent 2012 Campaign he had a much harder time with the Change message, because folks had already sampled the steak and found it a little tough to swallow. But he could still push Hope so long as folks believed he could be more of "The Clean-up Man," than Romney.  His main idea was that he could move "Forward," where The GOP and Romney would take the country "backward." You'll notice today the Tea Party types and their neo-Confederate cohorts are always appealing to their "white," Southern base with the slogan, "Take Our Country Back." This "Southern Strategy" has been employed by the GOP since LBJ passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They could just as easily say "backwards." And back to what one might ask. Or back from whom? The answer that is always left hanging is back from the brown hoards, the great "unwashed" who are soiling "The White Brand." This isn't a new tactic as slave-holders, post-Civil War, anti-Reconstruction, "white" politicians, Jim Crow era supporters have used the strategy of "divide and conquer," based upon the notion of "white" racial solidarity, to minimize and bury commonalities between "white" and other working class folks in the U.S. 

As young (white) people, and people of color are becoming ascendant in both numerical and cultural ways distinct from the prevailing notions still sold in media of various descriptions of "white-ness" equating all things good and American, the "white sizzle" extant over these many centuries is beginning to erode, because the steak is becoming tougher to swallow.

I began my media career in advertising forty years ago and have been a media maven ever since.  I have lived as a "minority" all of my 66 years in America. But that "minority" status stems from the notion that group identity, group affiliation based upon skin color and the culture of "white-ness" is immutable and will always trump individual character, thoughts, ways of being, which have little or noting to do with a biological adaptation. That is the essence of the sizzle selling that has been branding "white-ness" throughout the world since the global enterprise that was the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. 

So Europeans who thought of themselves as either French, English, Italian, German, Irish, upon reaching the shores of the New World, where slavery was based not upon conquest, character, or social status, became "white."  Skin color, separated slave from free, complete humans being, from fractional ones. Separate and distinct national identities became fused into one over-arching "white" majority culture. White became a separate and distinct "brand" of human being, a separate culture whose attributes were prized, glorified above all others that didn't share the same skin, let alone cultural pigmentation.

That branding is still re-enforced via media imagery. For it is through media messages that the "white" brand continues to be sold throughout the world. Euro-Style has been dominant for nee on 400 years, but that dominance is on the wain as new voices, brown, black, and other begin to assert their own sizzle over the increasingly distasteful, unhealthy "white" steak.    

So retrenchment and co-optation is the order of the day. But my sense is that this too shall pass. And a NU World media based not upon pigmentation, but cultural authenticity will rise from the ashes of the old order.

Walter Harris Gavin is the author of The Autobiography of Obsidian Dumar, a novel of identity and the driving force behind Gavin Media NU World.