The He-Cession

23 11 2009

African-American males struggle with unemployment

The unemployment rate has hit an ultimate high for male-dominated industries, like construction and manufacturing.  The Labor Department reported construction is down 62,000 jobs and manufacturing is down 61,000 jobs.

The recession is affecting African-American men especially.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for all African-Americans is about 50 percent higher than the entire nation.  Recently, it reported that 17.1 percent of African-American men over the age of 20 lead the country’s jobless unemployment rate.  Just last month the government stated the nation’s unemployment has hit 10.2 percent and has been the highest since 1983, and economists expect it to rise 9.9 percent. 

Randolph Smith

NPR covered a story about a 53-year-old African-American who is suffering from the job cuts due to the poor economy.  Randolph Smith use to manage logistics, inventory and supplies for large companies.  He is still jobless and has had no success in finding a new job, since he was laid off last year. 

Smith said he still continues to job search.

“[I spend time] going through a lot of the search agents that have brought information or leads to me,” he says. “Following with phone calls, just following up with any new connections that I can.”

Smith has had to cut back on costs such as vacations and going out.  He also noted stretching a simple meal, like rice and beans, will go a long way to saving a few extra dollars.  Smith says he is making ends meet off unemployment.

Even though Smith is highly educated with a college degree, he used to attend a workforce class run by the Chicago Urban League. 

CEO of Chicago’s Urban League, Herman Brewer, says regardless of race, several of men have lost jobs during this recession.  However, many black men face many challenges, which have led to their high rates of unemployment. 

Challenges

  • high-paying manufacturing jobs
  • high rates of incarceration
  • limited schooling
  •  discrimination

Chad Stone Chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains the importance of the bill Congress needs to pass regarding the extension for jobless benefits.   

“We’re in a really deep jobs hole,” said Chad Stone,. “The recovery legislation was really important in getting us to the point where a recovery seems to be starting, but we’ll need the additional support for the recovery that will come from renewing the unemployment insurance benefits for next year.”

The bill will add up to 20 extra weeks of aid to prevent almost 2 million recipients from running out of unemployment insurance.

Opinion

I feel this is a great opportunity for public relations practitioners to communicate and increase the awareness of not only the bill that is needed to be passed to increase unemployment benefits, but the issue surrounding African-American men.  More support groups could be developed targeting African-American males, similar to the Chicago’s Urban League.  I find it rather interesting how much minorities have been impacted by the recession.  Why do you think different ethnic groups have been affected in specific job fields?  For instance,  many Asian journalists have been laid-off, while African-American men have been suffering from lay offs in construction and manufacturing.





President Obama visits China

16 11 2009

Last Friday, President Obama arrived in Japan to start his four-nation trip to Asia.  He plans to visit Singapore, China and South Korea to have formal talks with Asian leaders about economic growth, nuclear non-proliferation, the war in Afghanistan and climate change with each country.

t1larg_japan_obama_plane_afp_gettyThe president plans to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Pand Premier Wen Jiabao, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Russia President Dmitry Medvedev and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.  Obama will also participate in an APEC summit.  

Shanghai, China

Today, President Obama met with Chinese students at a town hall meeting in Shanghai.  He opened his discussion to hundreds of university students stating, “Our relationship has not been without disagreement and difficulty, but the notion that we must be adversaries is not predestined.”

Obama stressed that all people share certain core principles, which include equal rights for everyone, a government that reflects the will of the people, open commerce and free access to information, and the rule of law.

“These freedoms of expression and worship, of access to information and political participation, we believe are universal rights,” Obama continued. “They should be available to all people, including ethnic or religious minorities, whether they are in the United States, China or any other nation.”

The Chinese government views human rights differently. China has tight regulations on the media and censors the Internet.  Obama told the students how he is against censorship and believes strongly in the free flow of information in a democracy. 

 “I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me,” Obama acknowledged. “I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader, because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear. It forces me to examine what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis to see if I’m doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.”

He also talked about global challenges, like climate changes, and was asked questions regarding the war in Afghanistan.

Obama’s next final stop is Seoul, where he will meet with President Lee Myung-bak.  He will also deliver a speech to the U.S. troops at the Oscan Air Base.

Opinion

I think it is great that Obama is taking the time to travel Asia-Pacific countries and meet with leaders to discuss imperative topics and to strengthen international relationships; especially, China because it is a growing economical nation that the U.S. and many other countries depend on for many products and raw materials.  According to an article posted on CNN’s Web site, China’s rapid economic expansion has grown 8.9 percent in the past quarter versus 3.5 percent in the U.S. 

From a public relations perspective, I feel Obama understands the importance of rebuilding a relationship with China.  It has been a struggle for China and the U.S. to have a mutual relationship.  Both nations need to better understand each other and help each other on major issues.  Together they can fight global issues and terrorism.

What are your thoughts and feelings on the relationship between U.S. and China?  Do you ever think both nations will be able to move on from the past and replenish a new, fostering relationship?





Hollywood lacks diversity

9 11 2009

movies_movie_filmNot only are minorities suffering in the newsroom, but also in film and television roles.  I came across an article that caught my eye posted on Variety regarding diversity in Hollywood.

In the article, Screen Actors Guild, SAG, reported last month that minority performers have decreased in roles from 29.3% in 2007 to 27.5% in 2008.  SAG also provided a breakdown of statistics of races in film and TV roles for 2008.

Statistics

  • 72.5% Caucasian
  • 13.3% African-American
  • 6.4% Latino-Hispanic
  • 3.8% Asian-Pacific Islander
  • 0.3% Native American
  • 3.8% other-unknown

Questions

  • With Caucasians making up 72.5% of film and television roles, what are your thoughts?
  • Why do you think Asian-Pacific Islander and Native Americans are not in as many roles?

SAG president Ken Howard stated his concern regarding the diversity lag on-screen and television, and what SAG plans on doing about it.

“The diverse and multicultural world we live in today is still not accurately reflected in the portrayals we see on the screen,” he said. “We will continue to work with producers, hiring executives and industry professionals in accurately portraying the American scene by ensuring equal access to employment opportunities for all of our members.”

SAG, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Actors Equity and Writers Guild of America held the inaugural Hollywood Disabilities Forum at UCLA in October.

The meeting reported that male actors continually fill the majority of roles-two roles for every female role.  Roles have increased for males 40 and older and for females 40 and older.

Opinions

Personally, I feel the lack of diversity in film and television roles is no surprise.  I do see more television shows with an array of ethnicities as lead characters than in film.

Shows

  • Desperate Housewives
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Tyler Perry’s House of Payne
  • Gossip Girl

But I can say it caught me off guard to see how many roles are led by Caucasians.  The SAG cannot give any answers to why this statistic is so high and why there is such a huge gap between the other races.  I highly doubt it is because of the downfall of the economy, I think that would be the poorest excuse ever.  But hey, it seems like everybody is blaming the economy on everything, so why not Hollywood?  America is becoming a more diverse country, so why aren’t we seeing more diversity on-screen?  I believe it is because minorities are misrepresented and forgneedle-haystackotten in the media.  It is as if minorities are a needle in a haystack-lost and buried under the majority.

On a brighter note, it was reported just last year Latinos were making progress in Hollywood.  Imagen Foundation founder Helen Hernandez said in an article, “The current status of Latinos in the business is not as dismal as in the past; it’s better than it was 10 years, even five years ago.”

There is always a start to everything.  I believe minorities will soon have an equal chance in the business world as soon as their voices are heard and represented.  Minorities need to take pride in themselves and speak up.





The minority achievement gap continues to grow

2 11 2009

Identity issues raise a question among middle-class black and Latino teens regarding to their academic struggle compared to white and Asian ethnicities.  The gap between the races is known as the “minority achievement gap,” which consists of the lower test scores, grades and college attendance by black and Latino students.  Some researches feel the media has an influence on how teens view themselves in society.  An article posted on NPR states, The teens often live in dual worlds: the suburban one they live in, and the rougher street life they see glorified in the media.

CNN highlights how black and Latino students lag in education compared to white and Asian students.

Personally, I feel the media does have an impact on how individuals view themselves and others in society.  If children at an early age are exposed to television shows where black people are portrayed as poor and intellectual, the chances are they will grow up viewing black people as that stereotype.  I feel the media sets the stage to how different ethnic groups are represented in society, regardless if they are correct or not.

The Stereotypes

A sociology teacher at Columbia High School Melissa Cooper presented a collage of faces to her class and asked students what they thought of these people if they saw them walking down the street.

Melissa Cooper's sociology class

Students discuss stereotypes in classroom

The students replied that the Latino-looking guy is a drug dealer and the white guy in the suit is smart because he wore glasses.

The exercise Cooper did with the class demonstrates how people view and judge others in based off of appearance alone.  For all we know, the white male in the suit could have been a drug dealer, while the Latino male was a sophisticated business man.  Did the media have an influence on the students assumptions of the pictures displayed by Cooper?  How did they come to those conclusions about the Latino and white males?

The Gap

It still remains a question to why middle-class black students can’t keep up with white and Asian students.  Studies have shown black middle-class students excel just as well as white students in elementary school, but as soon as they hit that the “teens” they fall behind.

Scholars and researchers contemplate if the real issue is confusion between reality and the images portrayed in the media.

Sociology professor at New York University Pedro Noguera says feels middle-class black children have the same benefits of middle-class white children, but many of them chose to be more like poor children.

“In many black communities, it is the ethos, the style, the orientation of poor black kids that influences middle-class black kids in ways that [are not] true for middle-class white kids,” Noguera says. “Most middle-class white kids don’t know poor white kids.”

The Campaign

I feel the education struggle black middle-class teens face would make a perfect campaign to raise awareness and inform the public of this issue.  I would primarily focus on the impact the media has on teenagers and how it portrays the different ethnicities.  I think the reason why the missing gap has been unanswered for so many years is because it is hard to measure the impact media has on teens with all the reality shows, music lyrics, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  It is as if the media is evolving too fast for society to keep up with it.





Tips for Reporting on Diversity

27 10 2009

I feel it is important for public relations practitioners to have a basic understanding on how to report on diversity ethically because there will come a time for every practitioner that he/she will run into a racial dilemma.  

The Leading America’s Newsrooms provides tips on how to report in regards of diversity.

  1. Provide consistent coverage-Do the sources used in the stories reflect the diversity on the community on an ongoing basis?
  2. Have your staff learn about the communities they cover-If you’re reporting on clubs and organizations, make sure you attend meetings, fundraisers and other activities.  This will help you as a reporter to get to know the members of the organization.
  3. Mainstream sources for all stories-understand that “expert” sources come from both genders, any race and cultural backgrounds.
  4. Recognize that there is diversity within cultures- Sources speak for themselves, they don’t speak for an entire community.
  5. Bring your own perspective to the newsroom-Every person brings a valuable perspective, so encourage open discussion about how to handle stories.

The Society of Professional Journalists provides ethical guidelines on how journalists should report in regards of the war.

  1. Include  Arabs and Arab Americans, Muslims, South Asians and Middle Eastern descents in all stories about the war.
  2. Cover the victims of harassment, murder and other hate crimes as thoroughly as you cover the victims of terrorist attacks.
  3. Seek out experts on military strategies, public safety, diplomacy, economics and other pertinent topics who run the spectrum of race, class, gender and geography.
  4. When describing Islam, remember there are large populations of Muslims around the world.  Make sure to distinguish between various Muslim states.
  5. Consult the Library of Congress guide for transliteration of Arabic names and Muslim or Arab words to the Roman alphabet.
  6. Regularly seek out a variety of perspectives for your opinion pieces. Check your coverage against the five Maynard Institute for Journalism Education fault lines of race and ethnicity, class, geography, gender and generation.
  7. Ask men and women from within targeted communities to review your coverage and make suggestions.

Although most of the tips above geared more towards journalists, I feel it is important for public relations practitioners to understand the basic guidelines to reporting on diversity.  Especially, since reporters and public relations practitioners work hand-in-hand.  Just understanding the fundamentals will only enhance and expand any PR professionals’ skills as a writer and practitioner.

I included a clip from the movie Anchorman when Ron Burgundy is asked what diversity is.  I feel it portrays that many news publications lack in stories in regards of diversity because it is hard to cover stories without seeming “racial” or bias.

Questions:

  • Do you agree/disagree with any of the tips above? If so, why.
  • What is your companies/news publications ethical guidelines when it comes to reporting on race?
  • As a PR practitioner or journalists, have you ever encountered an issue in regards of diversity with a client or source?  If so, how did you deal with it?
  • What’s your opinion on how reporters cover the war?  Is there a way to report without profiling a race?




Disney’s accusations of being racist

12 10 2009
The Princess and the Frog

The Princess and the Frog

Disney’s upcoming movie The Princess and the Frog has caused much controversy surrounding the main character’s ethnicity.  For the first time ever, Disney features an African-American princess.  Most people would think this is a beginning to a new start, but Disney has received so much criticism from the public concerning the stereotypes of the princess.

Issues/Changes:

  • The original title of the movie, The Frog Princess
  • The Princess’ original name, Maddy
  • The Caucasian prince

Movie Title

The original movie title was The Frog Princess, but some people felt it implied black women are ugly and it just wasn’t an appealing title.

Comment from blog

“I am African-American female, who longed to see positive fairy tale type images of an African-American young lady. I must say however, I was IMMEDIATELY taken aback by the title The FROG PRINCESS. Ok, just think of the titles, CINDERELLA, Sleeping BEAUTY, POCAHONTAS, ALLADIN, all sound fantastical, fun and light. (And who did “the Princess and the Pea? Was it Disney) Anyway, she wasn’t called THE PEA PRINCESS. Uggh. The title THE FROG PRINCESS just didn’t sound in any way beautiful, fun, glamorous soft or light. It sounds hard.”

Princess’ Name

The original name of Princess Tiana was Maddy.  People complained the name was a typical “black” person’s name and took offense to it.

 Comment from blog

“I think changing the name from Maddie (The complaints I read noted that Maddie sounds a bit too similar to “Mammy”…and oh do we hate that stereotype) to Tiana is a good change. Tiana not only sounds more “ethnic” but also more regal and calls the image of a tiara, perfect for a princess.”

Caucasian Prince

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen

There  are many mixed feelings regarding the prince being Caucasian and not African- American.  Many African-Americans found this offensive and wonder why the prince couldn’t be black.

Comment from blog

“What is wrong with the prince being black?? Why MUST he be anything but?? I don’t want my daughter growing up with fantasies of a white guy “rescuing” her. It kind of seems that the “prince” in Disney movies is usually white though, even with the other “ethnic” “princesess”. I was very excited about the movie until I found out that little tid bit…”

Other Racial Issues:

  • The setting of the movie in New Orleans, dominantly African-American community
  • Voodoo magic, stereotype of African-American
  • Princess Tiana’s black features of wide hips and bigger lips
  • Princess Tiana originally was a chambermaid

Although Disney has been blamed for being racists and stereotypical, the majority of the public feels people need to back off and stop making a big deal out of nothing.  People should be more focused around the fact Disney is finally featuring an African American princess.

YouTube videos of people’s opinion

From a public relations perspective, I feel Disney is handling the issue very well.  Racism is a sticky topic in general and mixing it with a well established movie corporation like Disney can be difficult.  I think it was a good move on behalf of Disney to change some of the underlying problems the public was complaining about, like the title of the movie, the princess’ name, etc.  For Disney, this isn’t the first time it has been blamed for being “racist.”  Disney has received racial accusations from the movies Mulan, Aladin and Pocahontas.  I feel the public needs to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.  We should be celebrating the fact that Disney has incorporated an African-American princess into a movie . 

Your Opinion

  • What are you thoughts on the controversy?
  • How do you feel about Disney incorporating an African American character?
  • What are you thoughts on the prince being Caucasian?
  • Is Disney handling the racial issues surrounding the movie well?




‘Lil Monkey’ doll causes controversy

5 10 2009
picture of African American doll

picture of African American doll

I was researching racial issues and a blog post on Racialicious Web site caught my eye. In late July of this year, Costco Wholesale Corp. was forced to pull doll babies from the shelves because of the racist implications it portrayed.

An African-American baby doll wore a headband that said “Lil’ Monkey” with a stuffed animal monkey and a banana. The doll babies also came in Caucasian and Hispanic versions. The Caucasian doll was called “Pretty Panda.” Anyone could just imagine the controversy and criticism the company received.                      
picture of Caucasian doll

picture of Caucasian doll

CBS in Denver covered the story and Costco CEO Jim Sinegal comments on the situation.

“We are sensitive to any complaint that a product we carry would cause discomfort to any segment of our membership,” Costco CEO Jim Sinegal said in a statement.  “As soon as it became clear to us that this toy item was offensive to some of our members, we decided to remove it from our warehouses.  We don’t believe there is room for argument in matters of this type, even though it was an honest mistake, made while we were attempting to do the right thing.”

Another blog that featured the story stresses the sociological issues and the questions surrounding the conflict.

Questions:

  • “Does the history of associating black people with primates, actually make any product that does so problematic?”
  • “Does the fact that the doll comes in white and Hispanic erase any concerns about the fact that the black doll exists?”

Interesting enough, people had mixed views if the doll babies were racially discriminating or not.

Comments:

Deborah

“All i can say is that this is a sad world we live in when people of any color, race, or creed do not seem the offensive nature of this doll. Why “Lil Monkey”? With so many names that could have been given to this doll, why this one?” 

Chrystal

“What I think is sad is that people find this to be offensive at all. I think this shows exactly why racism is still so present today, regardless of how much we try to hide it – because people constantly have to worry about upsetting someone with something as silly as this. How on Earth can this possibly be viewed as a racial slur?? The dolls were put out in 3 different ethnicities, each available in either outfit. You really think a toy company would go through THAT much marketing/production/materials just to get a sly racial jab in??”   

Costco did apologize for offending anyone and discontinued the collection.

PR Stance

From a PR perspective, I feel Costco handled the situation ethically correct.

Positive Actions:

  • I feel Costco did the right thing by pulling and discontinuing the collection of dolls as soon as complaints started piling in.  If the company would have kept the dolls on the shelves, it would have caused bigger problems and possibly ruin Costco’s reputation in the business market.
  • I researched different print publications and the quote from CEO Sinegal is featured in the majority of them with an apology from the company.  I feel this is important for the company to have C-level positions make a statement for credibility purposes.
  •  Additionally, mediums featured the company’s involvement in different diversity groups and foundations they support.  This was a smart move to include such information because it helps support that the company did not intentionally  showcase the dolls in regards of racial discrimination.

Improvements:

  • The company should have researched the product more in regards of the public’s opinion.  Costco should have conducted a focus group and even put a survey on their Web site for the public.
  • As I was researching blogs about the issue, I did not see many responses from Costco.  I feel with the integration of social media, it is vital for companies to motor the Web and make sure they are responding to any negative comments.
  • I also felt the CEO could have been more apologetic in the quote all the articles used.  It is one thing to say you’re sorry, than actually meaning it.  Costco’s reputation and respect in the marketing field could have been ruined.