On April 28, 2016, the Kansas City Royals tweeted an advertisement for the “Salute to the Negro Leagues Day” that featured five white people, possibly the most thoughtless advertising blunder in modern Kansas City history.
Somehow, someway, this ad made it through original concept discussion to the photoshoot to the design to approval and publication on social media without anyone suggesting it might make sense to include a black Kansas Citian. No, I will go farther. Is it not unbelievable — unforgivable — that the majority of the people in this ad are not African American? Who could say otherwise, when the league this day is supposed to honor was an effect of and a refuge against a white supremacist society that legally oppressed and openly tortured and murdered black people?
And how is it that one wouldn’t automatically think to feature blacks, Hispanics, and other nonwhites even if this ad wasn’t for Negro Leagues Day? Are there not also black and brown people coming to each Royals game? Is it not also a multicultural team?
Of course, I give the benefit of the doubt to the creators. I assume this was done without racist intent, and I feel most sensible Kansas Citians would agree (and will be delighted they fixed their mistake and created a more diverse ad). Had anyone had the wit to realize what a horrific P.R. mistake they were making, this whitewashed image would have been buried forever. Rather, this is a testament to white insensitivity. It is a testament to how far to the back blacks remain in our white minds. It is likely an example of subconscious anti-black bias that awards little importance to black people, their feelings, or their interests. According to an ingrained racial preference, the important fans are white fans. The important people to advertise to are white people.
(Just so no reader thinks I am speaking out of turn, all the Marketing and Promotions professionals, including the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, listed on the team website are white, as a simple social media search reveals. Of course, if there had been nonwhites on staff this ad would still be thoughtless and inappropriate.)
This is an incident that should be highly revealing to those that believe racist thought is a thing of the past and that we whites have nothing left to work on. (Those ideas are nothing new, of course: in 1962-1963, 60% of whites thought blacks were treated equally and 85% of whites thought black kids had the same opportunities as white kids to receive a high-quality education.) To anyone who understands that racism can be measured scientifically, and that conscious and unconscious racist sentiment still exists and leaves blacks disadvantaged in serious ways in our city and our country (therefore making whites, divorced from the very possibility of such mistreatment, quite privileged indeed), the implications of this event are obvious:
If whites are so oblivious that they do not even notice they are advertising a day that honors the likes of Buck O’Neil and Satchel Paige with an all-white cast, what else might they be oblivious about?