“Black people are not dark-skinned white people,” says advertising visionary Tom Burrell. In fact, they are much more. They are survivors of the Middle Passage. The Paperback of the Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell at Barnes & Noble. FREE Shipping on $ or. Black people are not dark-skinned white people,” says advertising visionary Tom Burrell. In fact, they are much more. They are survivors of the Middle Passage.

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Tom Burrell spent more than 40 years in advertising, and was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. Victor Powell hide caption. Ad man Tom Burrell calls out negative images of African Americans in the media for perpetuating the myth of black inferiority.

In Brainwashed, he examines the history of the myth tmo how contemporary culture reinforces it. Burrell cites slave auction posters as amongst the earliest ads in American history. Longtime adman Tom Burrell argues that the longest-running, most successful propaganda campaign of all time is for black inferiority, from posters that advertised slaves for sale to the New Yorker’s radical Obamas cover, unrelenting, powerfully persuasive efforts to promote what he calls the brand of black inferiority.

Even today, for every positive image of African-Americans, he finds negative stereotypes, too many of them perpetrated by blacks themselves. After more than four decades in the ad game and induction into the Advertising Hall of Fame, Tom Burrell founded the Resolution Project, a nonprofit that promotes community-based media campaigns, and he has a new book out.

So how do these images play out bhrrell your life?

Tell us your story. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. Later in the program: How does productivity in your office change with the advent of March Madness? And also, the creator of “Dilbert” will join us. Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority. Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority”: It’s great to be here.

And your book is both descriptive and prescriptive, and we’ll get to that second part in a bit. Nrainwashed you bring special expertise, I think, on the imagery. I did not know, for example, that slave auction posters are brainwashde the earliest ads byy American history. Well, you know, advertising came in many, many forms, including any form of communication, such as the Bible, text, posters, placards, and we could even consider the caricatures of African-Americans and salt and pepper shakers and banks as a part of advertising.

They’re basically images, images and words. Images and words are very powerful, and they conveyed and carried out tkm whole idea of African-Americans being less than, not as good as: And the concomitant myth. We were all sold a bill of goods: That was a myth that had to be created in order to justify slavery within a democracy. These two contradictions had to be reconciled, and the only way that they could come up with to reconcile it was to declare and then substantiate that these slaves were not human.

So byrrell you could say all men are created equal and move ahead. You know, he said all men are brainaashed equal, and then he said Africans, by their very nature, are inferior to whites. And I wanted to ask – we’re asking our listeners to say: How did this play out in your life?

Negative Images ‘Brainwash’ African Americans : NPR

And growing up there in Chicago, how did this play out in your life? Well, I grew up in the era of the New Deal, and we were very much subjected to learned helplessness. I mean, the idea of our inferiority was played out constantly by reinforcing the thought that we could not take care of ourselves. And that was played out in the media as we grew up, as I grew up with characters in movies who were buffoons, characters on the radio, whether they be Beulah or Amos and Andy, who were basically servants and clowns.


We didn’t see ourselves portrayed in a positive and powerful way growing up, and we basically heard that we were not as good as white people. But was there a moment for you when you said, hey, wait a minute? When did the light dawn? Well, I have to say that the images had been so powerful, I was probably 40 years old before I realized that the whole thing was a sham. You know, what you do is you kind of fake it till you make it.

Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority

And you think, braindashed, maybe either I’m the exception to the rule. Or you think that, well, maybe I’m not as good or as smart as people think that I am, and maybe I’ll just keep trying to fool them. Then it comes – it dawns on you at some point in your life, perhaps, if you’re lucky, that wait a minute. This is a myth. Of all of the images that I’ve been fed, all of the concepts that I have been taught to accept are false.

Negative Images ‘Brainwash’ African Americans

I’d been in the advertising business for almost 20 brainwsshed. And, you know, the whole thing is that both for blacks and whites, this whole myth is internalized and some people live with it for their whole lives.

There were any number of – well, let me ask you specifically.

In those first 20 years before the light dawned, are there, looking back on it, any ads that, well, you’d regret, in retrospect? Well, we were very fortunate that when I started the company inhalfway through my nurrell, we were assigned to the African-American consumer market.

So I basically had to study the African consumer market. So what we did that braijwashed totally unique, coming out of the black power movement brainwashdd the late ’60s, which sprung out of the civil rights movement, is we concentrated on what we call positive realism.

I had come up with the phrase: Black people are not dark-skinned white people. And that was related to the idea that we came to this country in a way totally different from any other group, against our will and into servitude and into vilification and enslavement. And that shaped a lot of how we behave as consumers. A for-instance is we spend an inordinate amount of money, of the money that we make, on goods and services, primarily goods that we really don’t have to have. We – and goods that are usually depreciated from the time that we get it, they start depreciating, especially automobiles.

But – so you asked the question, well, why is it that we spend everything that we have on things that aren’t going to appreciate for us? And the answer lies in the fact that when we came to this country, we were stripped of everything.

We were stripped of our name, of our origin, of our language, of our religion.

We lost contact with our families. And we lost our status as human beings because we came here and were deemed to be property, less than human. We were put on the auction block, and we were sold like cattle, brainwaehed So in our attempt in a materialistic, capitalistic society, to gain somebody-ness, what do we do? In a materialistic society, we try to do it burrelp getting stuff and owning stuff.

And it’s not a matter of buying things that we can’t show off. It’s all about things that we can show off, that basically are saying here, look at me, world. Some people might point out that emancipation happened in The great civil rights legislation of ended the era of Jim Crow, at least legally. Things have changed a lot, yet you say the stain of that experience in slavery continues many generations later.


What we have to understand is that we aren’t talking about ancient history. You know, we have slave narratives that were written inburrelo who bralnwashed in slavery. So this whole idea that we’re talking about ancient history, we’re talking about a few generations ago.

And these traditions, brajnwashed inferiority that was drummed into us through the media, through propaganda, has passed down from generation to generation just like a favorite family recipe. So we haven’t – you know, if you don’t address issues, if you dont – if you have a cancer, if you have a tumor, you can’t just wait for it to dissipate.

It doesn’t just go away. It gets passed down. And you have this illusion of progress, you know, or even a brianwashed of progress, that just doesn’t take away the fact that after all of the efforts that have been made, we are still, as a people, at the top of just about every bad list and at the bottom of just education, income, incarceration, out-of-wedlock childbirth, teen pregnancies, HIV, brainsashed obesity, infant mortality.

I mean, just go through the list. And so you say, well, why is that? Well, it’s because of the fact that we bought into the fact of our – the myth of black inferiority, and everybody else bought into that, as well, as well as the myth of white superiority.

Let’s get some listeners in on the conversation. James on the line calling from San Antonio. Yes, I’m about 26 years old, and I remember even as a kid, for me, most of – in the media, specifically TV and film, I mean, you have things like “The Kenan and Kel Show” and the Fat Albert remake and “Family Matters,” and I agree with the gentleman that it seems like most of the black figures are kind of dumb or outrageous or buffoonery.

Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

And the Tyler Perry, you know, it’s not politically correct to say, but I see the same thing there. And you sometimes have to look to white shows, if they decide to include black folks at all, they’re a little bit more not cartoon characters. Well, maybe you were too young, but “The Cosby Show” certainly portrayed a different image. Yes, yes, “The Cosby Show. That’s all I wanted to say.

Yeah, Bill Cosby did run that show, and that’s why it came out the way that it came out – very positive, you know. We’re talking about the myth of black inferiority. Tom Burrell’s book is titled “Brainwashed. How does these images play out in your life? Tell us your story: Tom Burrell writes in his new book: The marketing of black inferiority and white superiority as building blocks for the founding of America is a chicken that has finally come home to roost.

His book is “Brainwashed: You can read an excerpt at our Web site about the aspects of American culture and media that endorse, reinforce and promulgate what Tom Burrell calls African-Americans’ most self-destructive habits.