Diversity in ads not reflected in real life

Diversity in ads not reflected in real life

St. Petersburg Times
St. Petersburg, Florida

Associated Press

Advertisers are filling commercials with a mix of races and ethnicities, but critics contend such utopian situations rarely exist.

Somewhere there’s an America that’s full of neighborhoods where black and white kids play softball together, where biracial families e-mail photos online and where Asians and blacks dance in the same nightclub.

And that America is on your television…

…But critics say such ads gloss over persistent and complicated racial realities. Though the proportion of ethnic minorities in America is growing, experts say, more than superficial interaction between groups is relatively unusual.  Most Americans live and mingle with people from their own racial background.

Advertising, meanwhile, is creating a “carefully manufactured racial utopia, a narrative of colorblindness” says Charles Gallagher, a sociologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta [2004-2008; now at La Salle University].

Only about 7 percent of marriages are interracial, according to Census data. About 80 percent of whites live in neighborhoods in which more than 95 percent of their neighbors are white, and data show most Americans have few close friends of another race, Gallagher said.

“The lens through which people learn about other races is absolutely through TV, not through human interaction and contact,” he said. “Here, we’re getting a lens of racial interaction that is far afield from reality.” Ads make it seem that race doesn’t matter, when real life would tell you something different, he added…

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