What Turning on the Radio Tells Us about Equality
If you read this blog on a relatively regular basis, you know that I listen to a lot of rap and hip-hop. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a huge music fan in general, as I mostly listen to National Public Radio, when I do want a tune or two or when “Prairie Home Companion” comes on, I dial over to rap and hip hop stations.
I don’t fit the mold.
Given the billions of dollars spent on advertising each year, I’d bet that the advertisers know better than anyone who listens to which channels. After all, if their ads didn’t produce results, they’d place them elsewhere.
So I assume these advertisers know where to find their targets when I hear ads for hair weaves on rap and hip-hop stations. And I assume they know the right station demographics for people who pay attention to ambulance-chasing attorneys, bail bondspeople, and tire rental.
I don’t hear these ads on “Top 40” or “alternative” radio stations. Instead, the ads played on stations that offer genres of music other than rap and hip hop focus frequently on weight-loss, car insurance, alcohol, and fast food.
Do I consider the targeting racist? No, but I do consider it racial. Hair weaves? Well and good. Bail bonds, personal-injury lawyers, and tire rental (which has to serve as an option of last resort, as it cannot possibly offer anyone a good deal)? The predominance of these ads nearly exclusively on stations targeted toward African-Americans makes me melancholy. They shed light on the continued plight of a large group of people.
No matter our race, we feel better when we delude ourselves that we all—regardless of demographics or socioeconomics—have an equal chance at life. National-stage events have a way of pulling the wool from our eyes: The summer 2014 events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Trayvon Martin case provide two recent examples.
Yet we don’t need cataclysmic events that spark widespread fires of public indignation to show us the struggles of large swaths of the population. Sadly, we just need to turn on the radio.
How can we better level the playing field?
What can we do to improve everyone’s chances in this world?