The design of racism and control


Propaganda and race:

I taught Psychology for several years as a schedule filler while teaching multiple sections of AP Lit & Comp. My favorite section of the course was persuasion. The subliminal messaging that advertisers use is amusing, astounding, often disturbing, and – effective.

Recently there has been a kerfuffle over an H&M catalog picture of a Black boy in a green ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” hoodie (below). In the same catalog, and I presume on the same page is a White boy in an orange “Mangrove jungle survivor” hoodie.


People have claimed this was accidental, and at worst a bit tone deaf. I disagree, and I’ll even go so far as to say it was absolutely intentional.

Advertisers spend vast sums on demographic research for not just ads, but franchise placements. I always told my students that ‘if you want to know what accompany thinks of you (as a group) look at the character of your race/gender/etc. does in the ad. This is not just how they see you, it is how they believe you see yourself.

So let’s take a look at the H&M ad. A Black boy and a White boy together, darling. There is the obvious Jar Jar Binks moment when you notice the Back kid’s hoodie being the Monkey themed, and H&M is catching hell for it.

But wait, there’s more…

The Back kid is larger (perhaps closer to the camera) and is dark, and looks a bit pissed. His hoodie is up about 20% creating more visual darkness near his face, which is darkly shadowed on one side. His hair is short, and is a hard edge against the white backdrop, his posture tilts toward the camera slightly, and his eyes are looking directly at the camera as if to challenge.
The White kid is quite fair, and has cute, tousled hair, and a look of concern, with his eyes shifting away toward- a danger? He wears a bright orange hoodie with a ‘survival expert ‘ motif. Note that the hood is barely visible, giving him a brighter, non - threatening appearance.

The Black kid is the angry monkey, the white kid is the wary survivor. This is no accident.

If you watch TV commercials it is hard to miss- everything from Shaq bemoaning other deodorants’ “flaky white stuff” complete with change in demeanor for that line, to the Sprint ad with the painfully moronic White metro counter boy at the ice cream shop, and the Black man purposely upending the big jar of toppings all over the counter- Whites are timid oafs- Blacks are cool guy thugs. There are hundreds of thousands of other examples, but I think you’ve got it.

The same techniques are used by the news media. Instead of a long list of exemplars, a simple question- when was the last time you saw a news story on a child of color winning an academic award? When was the last time you saw a story about a POC committing a crime? The media loves to ‘celebrate diversity’ and castigate racism wherever they find or invent it, but look at what they broadcast…


These pages are rife with examples of the media propagating narratives, we all know it, and we know who the players are and which peddle which narrative.


Universities are in the same line of work, but put forth far more gas about how “anti-racist” they are, and never really look at the ugly assumptions they make about the abilities of POC. This is an image I copied from the University of Va. Psych Dept. website back in the early 2000’s. It has since disappeared, but the message should be obvious:

Today Universities have replaced oafish accidental stereotyping with virtue signaling bar lowering. Make no mistake- the liberal assumptions about skillsets and basic abilities of different races has not changed, it has simply gone from well - intentioned error, to purposeful erring on the side of political expedience. In short, to quote the brilliant SNL skit “The Bubble” we [no longer] see color, but we celebrate it.”

Personal Experience/Take on this

Last but not least, I know I’ve posted about using a system to grade essays in which the grader (me) could not know whose essay I was grading until I returned the papers. Year after year my Black, Hispanic and Asian/Caucasian students all had very similar bell curves, skewed toward B’s with a few A’s a number of C’s and almost no D’s or F’s. I tried to interest my colleagues in my system (free!) and only one took me up on it. The rest were uninterested; perhaps they feared losing a personal ‘star chamber’.

We are seeing universities eschewing Shakespeare in favor of authors whose primary quality is that they fill a racial checkoff. Shakespeare is no longer required of English Literature majors at UCLA.

What a pity, each year I had groups of students present the different novels to the class - they would teach, and lead discussions, I would jump in only when correction or re-focus was needed… The best group I ever had were five Black girls who studied diligently, did some research, and fell in love with the Bard and with Hamlet in particular. All the current ‘wisdom’ would indicate quite the opposite.

Those girls are thinkers, and doers, who will achieve great things as long as they focus on reality, rather than the narrative the left wants to assign them.


Great article doc! My daughter goes to the University of South Florida and all I’m paying for is for that school to pump her head full of crap. I’m going to print this out and give it to her. I’ve been telling her for years that the media and advertising exist to tell her how to think. She thinks I come up with all of these crazy “Republican” conspiracies because I didn’t go to college. She’s not understanding that I only started noticing things like this a little bit at a time. The more I noticed the more frustrated I got and then the more I noticed. It’s a vicious cycle but she’s got to break free of the brainwashing but only she can do that.


Nicely done, clearly presented… Thank You for your way of explaining some of the obvious and not so obvious ways some in society use to … redirect the mind.


Thanks to you and Joe for the kind words!

I sometimes wonder how much of the design is driven by the designers’ beliefs, and how much is the designers simply operating off the demographic info they’re provided. Somewhere along the way, advertisers discovered that while ‘sex sells’, sometimes targeted demographics sell even better. You now see far more models with a few extra pounds, and a face that isn’t chiseled perfection. You also see more models who are not clearly a single ethnicity.

In universities and the news media, I agree with the former head of NPR - the bias is a product of group-think at least as much as any designed narrative.