Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.
The world’s largest fast food chain has come under tremendous fire of late for their unabashed sponsorship of what some are calling a “racist” awards program.
Dubbed the “365 White Awards,” the program aims to highlight the accomplishments of white influencers in sports, entertainment, philanthropy, business, and education.
McDonald’s has sponsored the show, presented on WET (White Entertainment Television, or TV Land for short) since 2003 as part of their overall “365 White” initiative, “because celebrating white culture and achievement should really be an everyday thing.”
The program doles out several awards each year, including the “Great White Inventor Award” to the top white entrepreneur, the “Mr. Clean Award” to the top white law enforcement officer, the “Taylor Swift Award” to the top white entertainer, the “Polar Bear Award” to the nation’s best white achiever in cold weather sports, and several more, culminating with the coveted “Mighty White Award” for the year’s most outstanding white achiever in everything imaginable (this year’s honoree? You guessed it – Donald Trump!).
OK, this is obviously satire, but can you imagine the response if the above were a true story?
McDonald’s restaurants across the country, assuming any were left standing, would be surrounded by protesters. The full weight of negative public opinion, not to mention the ginormous hammer of every governmental agency from the EEOC to the Justice Department would make it their primary focus to pound the former giant fast food chain into oblivion. And poor Taylor Swift wouldn’t just be barred from playing anywhere larger than The Catfish Barn, she couldn’t even log onto Twitter without seeing yet another nasty tweet from Kanye.
The irony is, the essence of the story IS true. It’s only the race that’s different (well, that and the award names).
The McDonald’s “365 Black Awards” presentation was held in New Orleans on Friday, July 1, as a part of Essence Fest 2016 and featured celebrities like singer & television personality Toni Braxton and her family, American Idol Jordin Sparks, actress Amber Riley, and many others. Various awards were indiscriminately handed out (actually, discriminately is the better word, in more ways than one) in categories such as “Excellence in Education,” “Excellence in Sports,” and “Lifetime Achievement.” And the show will likely be rebroadcast on BET (Black Entertainment Television) at a later date.
(Not a white in sight…)
According to McDonald’s website, “Essence weekend and McDonald’s is all about empowering the diversity, style, elegance and natural beauty radiated from the Black woman.”
So, is the McDonald’s initiative truly borne out of what they see as altruism, or might larger, more monetary issues be at stake?
We’ll let their own website explain: “The 365Black Awards continues to provide McDonald’s with a broader platform to pay homage to icons, exceptional youth, everyday people and owner operators whose vision, compassion, relentless courage, and daily diligence have resulted in significant local, national, and/or global impact. Along with being fully integrated with ESSENCE Festival Weekend, the show offers a platform where McDonald’s can deliver branding/marketing messages among a captured audience at the event and among a key adult African-American target via online distribution.”
Given the enormous amounts of criticism that’s been levied at McDonald’s and other restaurants for their links to childhood obesity, especially in urban areas, Princeton University African-American Studies professor Imani Perry is dubious. “McDonald’s direct marketing to African-Americans has always troubled me, largely because so many African-Americans live in urban areas surrounded by fast food restaurants and with limited access to fresh produce and unprocessed food. It seemed to add insult to injury to present this business as having any investment or interest in African-American history and culture.”
McDonald’s U.S. marketing director Rob Jackson explained in an email statement to Digiday, “It is never our intent to offend anyone. We know that many of our customers enjoy an interaction with our brand that goes beyond mcdonalds.com. That is why we offer people with diverse interests an opportunity to interact with our brand in ways that may be different from how others experience McDonald’s…We respect that there are differing opinions. As a company, we’re proud of our long history of diversity and inclusion as evidenced by McDonald’s restaurant staff, owner/operators, suppliers and corporate employees.”
We get it, it’s a marketing thing. But still, the hypocrisy is eye-popping.
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