However, it seem to me that if a product is not marketed to a specific non-white audience, then the advertisers still consistently place middle-class, heterosexual white people in the middle of things. Non-white characters still occupy the margins, occasionally entering center-stage to interact with the white characters, usually in order to spice up things a bit.
Sometimes, in these ads that are not overtly targeted to a specific racial demographic, the non-white characters do spend a lot of time on center-stage, fully interacting on a seemingly equal level with the white characters. These forced, ostensibly colorblind scenarios can easily become racially overloaded train wrecks, like the following Old Navy ad, which is part of their current "Supermodelquins" campaign.
Do you suppose the makers of this ad thought much at all about sexism and racism in advertising? Or about the history of hypersexualized representations of "aggressive" black women? Or about the "white male gaze," and the abusive, sexually charged power that white men long wielded, over white women, black women, and black men?
I imagine that at some point, someone working on this campaign may have said something like, "Okay, this is risky, kinda risqué, right? Attention getting! But, one thing we cannot do is have the white woman naked with the black guy looking at her!" That would have been different; but would it have been any worse?
For more clues about what was on the minds of the makers of this ad, and of the other ads in the Supermodelquin campaign, here's a sort of featurette that provides some backstory for each character:
What do you think? Is this enlightened, multiculturally aware marketing? Or more of the same old clueless recirculation of hoary racist and sexist stereotypes? Or something else?
[h/t: Nazeen Patel @ BlackPlanet.com]
Update: In a recent blog post and in a follow-up post, Harry Allen offers some insightful analysis of this Old Navy ad in the contexts of a history of white abuse of black women, and of ongoing manifestations of that history in Western media images. As Allen writes, "the line from the auction block to the display stand is unbroken." (Thank you Judith!) Also, see Tolu Olorunda's response at The Daily Voice.