The PJ Tatler

Atlantic Writer Thinks that the Great Dodge, Paul Harvey Super Bowl Ad Was Raaaacist

Even though it was more or less statistically in the general ballpark, for a TV ad. This right here is why we can’t have a decent discussion about anything in this country anymore.

The arresting images combined with the crackle of what everyone immediately recognizes as old audio made everyone at our Super Bowl party stop and watch. Dodge, I’m sure, had good demographic analysis of their audience, so they knew they could go godly with the message and encounter little backlash.

Should there have been a backlash for mentioning God? That the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal even hints that there should have been says quite a bit.

So God made a farmer, and also the advertising agencies who will use him to sell trucks. Quibbles aside, I’d rather have this kind of Americana than GoDaddy’s bizarre antics.

Hey, we agree. But that’s as far as the agreement goes. Here come the quibbles.

But there’s a problem. The ad paints a portrait of the American agricultural workforce that is horribly skewed. In Dodge’s world, almost every farmer is a white Caucasian. And that’s about as realistic as a Thomas Kincade painting.

Stipulating that visual inspection is a rough measure for the complex genealogical histories of people, I decided to count the race and ethnicity of the people in Dodge’s ad. Here’s what I found: 15 white people, one black man, and two (maybe three?) Latinos.

So it wasn’t all-white. Just close to all-white. Or something. Whatever. Somebody’s writing for the pixel count.

I couldn’t help but wonder: Where are all the campesinos?

Last I saw, they were bored with romance.

Madrigal drones on.

The ethnic mix Dodge chose to represent American farming is flat-out wrong.

It’s true that whites are the managers of 96 percent of the nation’s farms, according to the USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture. But the agricultural workforce is overwhelmingly Mexican with some workers from Central America thrown in. The Department of Labor’s National Agriculture Worker Survey has found that over the last decade, around 70 percent of farmworkers in America were born in Mexico, most in a few states along the Pacific coast. This should not be news. Everyone knows this is how farms are run.

And yet when a company decided to pay homage to the people who grow our food, they left out the people who do much of the labor, particularly on the big farms that continue to power the food system. You want to tell a grand story about the glories of working the land? You want to celebrate the people who grow food? You want to expound on the positive ‘merican qualities that agricultural work develops in people? Great! What a nice, nostalgic idea!

Now, did God make Mexican farmworkers or only white farmers? Is the strength and toughness that comes from hard work God’s gift to white people only?

Sheesh. It’s. A. TV. Ad. Designed. To. Sell. Trucks. And a very good, countercultural one.

Obviously, a Dodge ad isn’t on the level of the government’s deportation programs or the long-time cognitive dissonance of American immigration policies. But it’s the kind of cultural substrate in which our laws and prejudices grow.

Some journalists are just wastes of perfectly good carbon, and seriously need to get a life.


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