OK, I’ve got my flameproof suit on, deep in uncharted waters, not ready to do a full blog post but trying to learn/understand more. You’re invited to help me out with good links/articles to read.
Here’s the deal: The overpresence in low-income and minority communities of lottery and fast-food outlets and of advertising for alcohol and cigarettes is well documented and not new. When it comes to fast-food outlets, the determining factor is the presence of African-Americans in the neighborhood: The higher that concentration, the higher the concentration of fast food. Well-meaning activists try various interventions to fight these realities as exploitative and even racist. I am more of the opinion that the businesses behind them are entirely market-driven; if it didn’t work they wouldn’t do it. If Hermès didn’t sell scarves by advertising in Town & Country, it wouldn’t do that. In one sense, all advertising is exploitative: Its objective is to appeal to likely buyers of the product it’s hawking.
So my question is this: WHY the preponderance of these institutions and this advertising in these communities? No one forces you to buy a lottery ticket, or go to McDonald’s, or buy an Hermès scarf, and I refuse to believe McDonald’s and the lottery think their target market here is just too stupid to know better. So what’s up?
Lots of simplistic answers suggest themselves. It’s cultural. Communities without hope grasp at immediate gratification. Much of the advertising is aspirational, offering hope. (See second item, above.) These communities aren’t stupid but they are ignorant and poorly informed and it’s easy to snow them. (Seriously.)
Now a Rutgers professor is addressing herself to this phenomenon, documenting the correlation in these neighborhoods between alcohol advertising and drinking and between race and fast food (scroll down after you click). And, as you’ll read, she is intending to use her findings to stage her own kind of intervention.
So, as someone famous once said (scroll to bottom), thinking in progress. Conclusion not drawn.