Dawn Turner Trice, writing in the Chicago Tribune, interviews Tom Burrell, retired ad agency owner, on the techniques of whitewashing. Burrell overcame vision problems and racial stereotyping to become the owner of one of the nation’s largest and most effective ad agencies. He knows a bit about propaganda.
Burrell said the campaign to cast blacks as inferior dates back to slave owners attempting to make an inhumane institution fit into a democracy. He considers slave auction posters among the earliest forms of “propaganda” in American history. Much followed, including Stepin Fetchit-type characters, along with salt and pepper shakers, postcards and Halloween masks depicting blacks with big red lips and protruding eyes.
“These messages have been passed down like tchotchkes through the generations,” he said. “Somebody had to say that if we can market this idea that slaves are not human beings — they’re chattel — then the Founding Fathers can say ‘all men are created equal’ and not have this profound contradiction. That’s how the advertising campaign came about.
“We’ve used the Bible, textbooks, symbols, the media, bad science to constantly reinforce those ideas. People buy into it, internalize it.“