MYTHS, LIES, AND STEREOTYPES: BLACK ADVERTISING SYMBOLS, CHARACTERS, AND MODELS
The American white man today subconsciously still regards the black man as something below himself. And you will never get the American white man to accept the so-called Negro as an integrated part of his society until the image of the Negro the white man has is changed and until the image the Negro has of himself is also changed.
The characters, the models, and the symbols that represent blacks in advertising have always been important to blacks, because they are aware that they determined how they feel about themselves and their race and how others perceive them as well. Some contemporary writers have theorized that this is the age of symbol manipulation. "In our grandfather's day, most people earned their living by manipulating things, not by manipulating symbols," wrote David Berlo ( Broom, Center, and Cutlip, 1985, p. 281). An example of how symbols can be used to influence culture can be seen in the proliferation of the black power symbol during the civil rights movement. "Black power is a powerful symbol because it condenses an enormous amount of information and experience into a little bit-there or not there, for me or against me, right or wrong" (p. 281). Another writer attests to the strengths of symbols within the black community by asserting, "In the service of black morale, symbols are immensely important. . . . Symbols can bring change. They have real powers in the world" ( Morrow, 1984, p. 84). John Henrik Clarke, a well-known historian, very eloquently and succinctly states the importance of imagery and symbols relative to the AfricanAmerican presence in our society: