Corporations Capitalize Off of Our Cultures

The MTV/TRL ‘teeny bopper’ phenomenon influences millions of lives and its pecuniary puissance can be seen in record, concert and advertising sales.
The overt and underlying messages delivered by African-American rappers on TRL are fairly consistent.
Most videos are simply advertisements for jewelry, watches, clothing, cell phones, pagers, cars, boats, mansions, etc.
Women and sexual content also play a vital role by increasing the appeal for younger audiences who are often curious virgins.
One can only imagine the wild assumptions made by preteen viewers concerning the current socio-economic outlook for the majority of African-Americans.
‘Bling-bling’ videos may actually convince some individuals that slavery and racial oppression are problems of a distant past without long-lasting repercussions.
Sports contracts and athlete endorsements from major corporations aren’t helping very much either.
The graduation statistics for players in the NCAA basketball tournament are staggeringly low.
Yet millions of viewers unknowingly assume that these young African-Americans are success stories and the struggle has long been over.
Many corporations, such as McDonald’s (sponsor of the all-American boys high school basketball game), exploit culture under the pretense of celebrating it.
I can recall a McDonald’s television advertisement in which several ethnicities are eating hamburgers in a clean urban neighborhood and watching break-dancers while listening to a pitiful rap about the fast food chain.
The apparent acceptance and celebration of urban culture by corporations can only be seen as exploitation.
They are simply taking advantage of fashionable attitudes.
Urban life is in fact a very real experience rather than a series of sounds and images from your television intended for mass consumption.
McDonald’s should cut the bullshit instead of the rainforest. Corporations that cautiously approach current trends in popular culture are almost as pathetic as those white frat boys who refer to each other as ‘nigga.’
Black people are no longer slaves and yet ‘blackness’ has become somewhat of a commodity in advertising as well as in entertainment.
Big-budget films, especially comedies, tend to have diverse casts regardless of the plot because they know racial diversity will pay off in the box office.
Politicians are using similar ideas as well. Bush countered criticism of his less than stellar civil rights record by pointing out that Colin Powell and Condi Rice were two of his appointees.
Check out the compassion photo gallery on W’s web site and have yourself a good laugh (http://www.georgewbush.com/ Compassion/PhotoAlbum.aspx? gallery=29&page=1).
He better be careful or else he is going to lose all of the racist voters. Of course no one can forget Bill Clinton’s make-out session with the black baby that may have single-handedly given him a few thousand votes.
I have heard some people state that the long term effects of slavery in America will come to an end on the day we have an African-American president.
I believe this claim leads to the fundamental paradox that burdens the American psyche: Is wealth and power truly an expression of freedom?
Perhaps an economic system founded on slavery will not thrive unless some form of bondage continues.
Perhaps the chains and ropes of captivity are now watches and cell phones, the cotton fields are now freeways and the slave drivers are now televisions.
The sharpest music critics claim that some of the best hip-hop artists will never transcend the club scene because their sound is too raw and their message and image are too real.
Hip-hop celebrates an expression of freedom despite limitations: two turntables and a microphone. It is no wonder that powerful artistic movements emerge from black culture.
The slaves truly understood how to express freedom despite limitations as heard in the old Negro spirituals.
The explosion and permeation of the hip-hop subculture throughout America and the world attests to a basic human understanding among all people that life is a struggle to conquer impediments. Our existence is bound by rules and yet imagination begets possibilities.

Kevin Collins is a fifth-year English major.