Has the Florida Lottery lost its mind?
In the past year alone we’ve seen the political careers of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nearly derailed by the resurfacing of images of them in blackface years ago. The images were old, but not that old: 2001 and 1990 for Trudeau, 1984 for Northam, 1968 for Norment. They could not claim ignorance at the time, not these supposedly brilliant college kids, though stupidity and latent racism is something else. All three apologized and called their behavior insensitive and abhorrent.
What’s the Florida Lottery’s excuse?
The state lottery, which helps fund district education budgets, just issued a 30-second television spot that replicates an equally bigoted stereotype–the African-American with oversized lips.
A black patient is sitting alone in a dentist’s chair. His mouth is fitted with a see-through plastic cheek retractor. The devices are used by dentists for certain procedures. They don’t leave your face in the most flattering posture. In this case the man appears with all his teeth and gums overexposed, his lips almost obscenely retracted and forcibly enlarged against the rim of the nearly invisible device.
No doubt the devices are used on people of all races. But the Florida Lottery made a choice here. Aside from the fact that it could have scratched up anyone of a million different themes and settings for its ad, it had six major U.S.-Census-recognized ethnic groups to choose from. It chose a black man. In Florida no less, a state with its own sordid history of minstrelsy and not-too distant affections for Jim Crow. (The creator of the original Jim Crow was Thomas Rice, the 19th century playwright and performer who whose song, “Jump Jim Crow,” he performed in blackface and whose score was illustrated with the stereotypically big-lipped black man.)
So it’s hard to imagine a more intentional–a more cynical–play on an old stereotype, hiding behind the supposed humor of a lottery commercial. But even the humor is offensive.
A dental assistant–a white woman, of course–wheels into the frame. “So, you’re here for a teeth-whitening?”
“I am,” the patient answers as best he can.
“We’re going to make them 100 times whiter,” she says. If you miss the racial, or rather racist, allusion, I don’t know if you’re a more indulgent or better person than I, or just blind. The patient doesn’t seem pleased by the “100 times” as much as terrified. I would be too if any part of me was made even two times whiter.
“You think that’s exciting,” the woman says, clearly misreading her patient, “check out these new X-multiplier scratch-offs from the Florida lottery.”
Never mind the entirely moronic segue from teeth to scratch-offs (maybe the producer was attempting a clever allusion to scratching off plaque), but that’s advertising. The camera pans over to a man on the other side of the patient, also white, furiously scratching one of those cards and flashing a grin at the patient, who then goes into full minstrelsy mode: “Am I in a commercial?”
“Yup,” the woman says. At that point both white characters are finding the situation hilarious, just as I’m sure the Florida Lottery finds this 30-spot brilliantly entertaining. The patient’s final line is uttered through his ridiculous handicap: “What shall I do?,” thus demeaning him even more to the manipulated, manipulable object he’s been made out to be. Helen Bannerman could’ve slipped him into “Little Black Sambo Goes to the Dentist” at that point. Add to that the other obvious if unspoken stereotype–the Florida Lottery targeting minorities, as lotteries always do, and the clip is a concentrated bit of frame-by-frame exploitation.
And no one in an entire government agency caught this before it went on air?
During the newspaper strike of 1962-63 in New York City, when The New York Times took to reading a lot of its stories on WQXR, the radio station it owned, Turner Catledge, its managing editor no less, suggested that a column James Reston had written about southern blacks be read in Negro dialect. No one found the suggestion remarkable. That was around the time when Bing Crosby was still going around in blackface, not long after Amos and Andy was cancelled and not too long before Howard Cosell could still unload the occasional racial slur on the air. Catledge’s idea, essentially blackface vocalized, was about to air when the station’s founder and president (Elliott Sanger, who played a big hand in the FM revolution) caught on. He told Catledge it was “unadvisable.” Catledge dropped the plan, and The Times–whose earlier pages are smeared with racist stereotypes–was saved from what would have been one of its more embarrassing misjudgments.
Somehow, no one up the chain of the Florida Lottery’s command thought its latest ad spot unadvisable, and Randall Hunt, its former director (who is black) resigned almost two weeks ago after eight weeks on the job. Somebody, scratch that ad.
E Route says
Get serious! Not everything is racist although there are many who believe anything is racist if it suits there agenda.
I am a white woman who also thinks this commercial plays to racist stereotypes. I also believe it has everything to do with the current political climate.
Plain sick of the stereotype…and unfortunately given what is taking place in DC will get worst!
Mary Fusco says
What the hell sterotype are you talking about? I’ve seen this several times and and I chuckled because whenever you are at the dentist they make small talk and ask you questions that you can’t answer because you either have a numb mouth or crap stuffed in it. I didn’t see race at all. People are sad and really need to get a grip. As to your stupid inference to DC, I did not vote for trump or that idiot Hillary. However, he has only been in office 3 years and is not the cause of ALL race problems in this country. If you can tell me that before Trump, there were NO race problems in this country, I will apologize that I think you are an ass looking for a problem where there is none.
Exactly. I agree. Why do people have to always play this card. Have they ever watched All In The Family. The Jeffersons? On and on these people will not stop. Get a life more than worrying about such petty stuff.
We don’t “play a card”. It is not a game to us. We’re living with unjust circumstances EVERY DAY. I live it EVERY DAY. Believe me, there is NOTHING “petty” about being crucified every day based on the color of your skin. Having to second guess every choice or step you take. Not knowing the position it could possibly put you in. Until you have lived EVERY day with that “card”, I don’t think you have the qualifications to referee the game.
The minute I saw this ad I cringed and said to my wife, “Holy S***, can you believe what we are seeing?” If this ad isn’t playing to racial stereotypes, I don’t know what is! Thanks for writing the piece on it. I immediately got on line and questioned Google about Florida Lottery running racist ad and that is how I found your writing. Wondering if folks at the Lottery are even aware of how insulting it is. Will call tomorrow to complain about the ad.
“The revised standards contain five minimum categories for race: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White. There are two categories for ethnicity: “Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Hispanic or Latino.” ”
So, which one of the races should have been used to not offend you. OR Are you just saying that we as Blacks/African Americans never go to the Dentist to whiten our teeth. I think most of us while at the Dentist office have had a similar type of mouth guard used and looked the same way.
Instead of just viewing the commercial at face value, you seem to be the one with an issue. Personally I think the gentleman has nice teeth.
Is this your Freudian slip, just calling it as it appears?
also if one was to research the reason for Hunt leaving his position at the lottery it was due to a domestic violence issue, not anything racial as you as an ridiculously stupid biased reporter implies
Pierre this is really ridiculous that you or anyone is offended by this. People like you just keep this nonsense going searching for hidden meanings to get your feelings hurt. Just give it a rest man. No one making this commercial intended to make this anything more than a goofy ad. People like you are why there is such constant division in this country.
Your take on this is insane really. You should seek mental health advice. I’m not even trolling or trying to be mean but if you or anyone thinks this is racist, you have some serious problems that should be addressed.
Pierre.. you reaching bro
The Realist says
Pierre, for someone like you that so easily offends, you sure are easily offended. It must be because you look for nonsense like what’s in the article you just wrote. Who are you as a leftist Lebanese to speak for a black American actor in a commercial? Did they force this man to be in this commercial? Then you throw in that the hygienist was of course white…. well many hygienists are white but you probably wouldn’t know that because either you don’t get your teeth cleaned by choice or because your Obamacare doesn’t cover it. God forbid you ever talk about anything to unite people. Its always to divide like you extreme leftist have become so well at doing. This won’t make the comment section because you are not a free speech guy..you are a me speech guy. You only want to hear from people that are as warped as you are, Remember when no one liked you as a kid because you were kind of odd and awkward? Well that was your chance to change directions, but you decided to stay the course. Which indeed you are. But irregardless I smile because you will read it at least.
Byroni Smith says
Why are you starting sh*t ? Its just a freaking commercial. Its liberal idiots like you who are the racist.
I think you are reaching. I saw nothing racist.
CB from PC says
Waiting for Flaglerlive to express outrage over commercials and TV shows which portray White Anglo Males as dim-witted klutzes or arrogant racists.
A few come to mind, but I do not want to steal thunder from the “investigative reporting” story.
Davonda Edwards says
Oh for Pete’s sake! If they’d had any other person in the dental chair there’d have been a complaint. Quit with this crud already!
The most ridiculous (and there’s lots of that) in this article is where you claim the three liberal/Democratic politicians almost had their careers derailed for racist actions in the past; They are DEMOCRATS! Their careers were never in danger! Have you ever heard of Robert Byrd? Or how about this gem:
Perhaps I am blind, as the author mentions, because I never saw this commercial as being racial. Maybe I’m getting too old to see what is obvious to others since I only see people by their ability to smile.
I think they chose this guy because he’s got a nice set of teeth. But just to be on the safe side, all African Americans playing this Florida Lotto game should immediately forfeit their winnings, just in case!
Rick de Yampert says
As a 10-year-old, I worked at a country, literally mom-and-pop grocery store in Smackover, Arkansas, in the mid-1960s when my brothers and I stayed there with our grandparents during summers. I remember stocking cans of “Negro Head Shrimp,” and I knew even then that a number of my fellow white people were going to call that stuff by a different name. Still, I was shocked when, during my teen years, I read in a book about racist items that the brand literally used to be called “N****r Head Shrimp” and “N****r Head Oysters” before the NAACP led an effort in the mid-1950s to get the company to change its brand name.
Even today a lot of people of any race have only a surface knowledge of Black history. My late wife Cheryl, who was African-American, used to passively collect racist memorabilia, as do other Black people, as a guard against history being erased — they are preserving the “evidence” of Jim Crow, so to speak.
And that’s what the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University is doing. As the museum’s website states: “From Aunt Jemima advertisements to the board game Ghettopoly, American popular culture is replete with racist images. The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia features an extensive collection of racist objects that trace the history of the stereotyping of African Americans.” The website is at https://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/
I saw the Florida Lottery ad and, like Pierre Tristam (full disclosure – I cover arts and culture for FlaglerLive and Pierre is my editor), I shook my head in disbelief. OK, the ad is not the most egregious racist transgression of recent times – I recall a guy who lives in a white house in D.C. talking about how there were “fine people on both sides” of a white supremacist rally where a counter-protestor was killed.
Then again, the ghost of J.B. Stoner is smiling over this ad. I challenge anyone who is unaware of the racist stereotypes in the ad to take the virtual tour of the Jim Crow Museum on its website.
The original purpose of the rally was to protest the removal of confederate monuments. The president said there were basically fine people for and against the removal of history from public places. Of course the deluded claimed he was talking about the white supremacists, who just happened to show up at the rally; but remember, the Trump haters are always putting words in his mouth and have a keen ability to read his mind, ala Adam Schiff et al.
Billy C. says
Defending that rally in Charlottesville? Try quoting what the President said instead of paraphrasing so that his words fit y0ur spin. The word “basically” means YOUR interpretation. That’s not how others saw it. The rest of your comment goes into your political beliefs and trashes those who don’t see the world the way you do. No one puts words in Trump’s mouth. He tweets and says what he tweets and says. We all heard what he said. Now, care to comment on the article above?
The quote was a part of a long exchange with a reporter so I thought I would summarize what he said, and I was exactly right, but here it is because you asked for it: https://www.politifact.com/article/2019/apr/26/context-trumps-very-fine-people-both-sides-remarks/
Also, by the way, I did comment on the article above; maybe you missed it.
Billy C. says
Thank you for citing that interview. Reading through that the ramblings the President made it easier to see why you chose to interpret what he said in an attempt to separate the Statue supporters from the Neo-Nazis. What he said was a jumble of words that amounted to his continued lack of understanding of how words matter and his lack of understanding of the situations that go on in this country. In its unfiltered context, his words mean exactly what most Americans thought they meant: he divided the gathering into two groups. He said both (meaning two) sides had some nice people. While seemly true, the pro-statue folks protesting the night before the fatal clash were seen to be allied with the Neos who marched with torches shouting anti-Semitic words and threatening violence. Statue supporters had strange bedfellows that night and did not denounce them as being un-American and uninvited. Often your guilt is determined by whom you associate with.
Just so you know one is not a racist or a bad person for protesting the removal of a Confederate Statue. Also to get deeper, if a white person wants to perserve rights and advancement of white people. Are they any different then the Naacp,which was formed to protect and advance the Black race. I have no problem with any group that wants to help their culture, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian as long as their is no violence.
Billy C. says
Allowing Confederate flags and statues to remain in place is deeply insensitive. To insist the symbols of a defeated, rebel army remain in the public square is to be totally insensitive to those who see it as honoring the America that enslaved their (my) forefathers. As far as White rights and advancement are concerned perhaps you could define for me what rights it is that you feel are not your’s already.
Name one race (culture), or demographic, that does not want theirs to be the most numerous, prosperous, and supreme. I bet you cant. I am white, and want my race to achieve those things, although not at the expense of others. That does not make me a white supremacist, and even if it does, I won’t lose no sleep over it. Its only human nature to try to advance your own kind. Some have a peculiar way of trying to achieve that, but it does not make them bad people. Some races are just better at it than others.
Billy C. says
After reading your response I can’t help but wonder what your definition of a white supremacist is. How does a race achieve prosperity and superiority (your words) without taking advantage of others? Oh, wait, sorry, I didn’t see your disclaimer where you say, “…and even if it does [make me a white supremacist] I won’t lose no (sic) sleep. This way of thinking is not human nature, sir it is the mindset of a bigot.
Weldon Ryan says
What’s wrong with the NAACP and the reason they came into existance? Boy you are ignorant!
Whether you think it’s racist or not, it’s one of the most moronic and irritating ads I’ve ever seen. Why would this entice anyone to buy scratch tickets? What a waste of money….The lottery’s ad agency should be fired
Sorry Pierre–There are certainly enough serious and credible concerns we can talk about as regards racism without hyping supposed examples like this one, out of thin air.
I think the dentist should have been a black woman, and the man in the chair a middle aged white male, maybe an indian or Asian assistant, but with he way they have it I totally agree this commercial is offensive.
C’mon man says
Good job Pierre. Leave it to a racist to make some completely not racist, racist.
Billy C. says
My motto is: Just because I don’t understand or agree with what YOU see as offensive, does not give me reason to criticize you or your beliefs. I am Black and I didn’t necessarily find the commercial racist, but I did find it stupid. What I did find somewhat offense if the stream of vitriol and the lack of open-mindedness people have when it comes to race, bigotry and stereotypes. Comments tying in liberalism or left/right politics are, in themselves show a lack of tolerance for other people’s views. Try shrugging your shoulders when you don’t agree instead of telling others what they should be offended by.
Mr. Billy C. – I couldn’t agree with you more! Thank you!
John Brady says
wow, I thought I might be the first to comment. Your words,”If you miss the racial, or rather racist, allusion, I don’t know if you’re a more indulgent or better person than I, or just blind. ” I do not think I am any of the three but I think you missed the point. It was to sell lottery tickets and to direct that appeal to an Afro-American population. That is not racism, it is marketing.
The advertising community is waking up to our new diverse society. Have you noticed commercials featuring mixed couples including scenes of these couples kissing. It is a new world but one truth continues. Advertising aim is to sell a product.
If racism exist call it out, condemn it but don’t make it up based on your own belief.Take a clue from the advertising community, do not over sell a product because the public will turn off and the real danger is in real cases of racism the made up cases will be throw up against us. I wish you would use a filter sometimes
Weldon Ryan says
John, haven’t you heard about subliminal Seduction? This sound like you’re driving down the street and you notice something. You drive back and realize what it is you saw. You may choose not to reverse but that’s when you’ve passed up the opportunity to understand what you thought you saw. There is so many racial instances white people won’t see. Only when a person of color see it it is then recognized. This type of bufoonery on black people is well documented.
Uh, the only things I thought while watching was:
A. He has great teeth.
B. How is he not drooling when I leak like a sieve for a cleaning.
I never thought this was racist but then again, I just see people as people and not as their race, gender, or sexuality.
Richard Henderson says
I don’t know how anyone with a knowledge of the history of race in this country could look at that commercial and not find it, at the very least, in poor taste. For those who somehow took your piece personally, I recommend a trip to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. Thanks for the post.
Great civil answer Richard H. not at all like some crass above resourcing to verbal aggression vulgarity and insults just because they do have a different view or opinion. Looks like when reality gets close to the fire burns hot!
Kjell Skaht says
Pierre and his ilk: “We need to include more African-Americans in advertisements to promote diversity!”
Also Pierre and his ilk: “You featured an African-American in that commercial. That’s racist!”
Make up your mind.
Blaine Mauri says
You could be playing professional basketball with the wingspan it took to reach this far.
How far do you usually sit from your desk to allow room for your arms while you type up this garbage?
Weldon Ryan says
From the first time I saw this commercial I was troubled by it. I was with my wife and mentioned to her that it troubled me. Pierre is on the money with this. I saw it as racist and out of place. Most of you weighing in on this also think “Make America great again” was nothing but a slogan and saw nothing wrong with that slogan. The use of it still goes on but it brings most people of African origin back to Jim Crow and Redlining and what existed and still does with Institutional racism. let’s not forget “monkeying up”. You don’t want to believe what evils our government is doing. This racism thing is fighting an uphill battle. Being in the majority and not being affected by anything social or otherwise blinds you to any concerns of this nature. The word liberal also seeps out of your lips without understanding what you are trying to describe. Spotting racism is not being liberal. It’s being human. Because someone has an understanding and a consideration of right and wrong doesn’t mean they should be vilified. This is exactly someone we need and maybe more Americans should be this way. More positives can come of this. Bring it to light Pierre!
The human race disappoints yet again. The 3rd party ad agency that created this storyboard needs to fire those individuals for creating the ad campaign. And anyone working for the FL Lottery that approved this after seeing it for themselves needs to find something else to do as a career. Just as an impartial viewer of the advertisement, this is clearly, without a doubt racist in exactly what the article presents and coherently indicates as why it’s a modern blackface type of racism. I’m actually more astonished by the comments that argue otherwise.
None are more bigoted then those who see race first and foremost in everything then say they are offend by what they themselves make of it.
Weldon Ryan says
C.K. You’re ahead because of the expense of others. For you not to see is the point! Also based on your statement you are a confirmed racist!
I am ahead because I worked hard and succeeded. If you don’t work hard you will get left behind and then blame your failures on those of us who achieved what you couldn’t. You must fall in that category. Seeing how you want to start calling others name, that is a two way street. Based on your statement, you are the textbook definition of a narcissist.. No apologies here. Call me whatever you like….don’t care.
Weldon Ryan says
So you are saying that people of color don’t work hard? The facts remain that as white people in this country has had a leg up on all others. Just like it’s the choice people of color make, with the cards stacked in your favor what’s your excuse for not getting further ahead? One big habit white people make is they vote against their own interest to disallow people of another race to not have. You stated it in your own comment. This hatred stopped poor whites from acheiving. You want white people to get ahead and you don’t even understand the ramifications of this and of your writing! While white immigrants came to this country blacks were slaves and even through the hundreds of years were given land free from the government. Our reperations from slavery was a lousy 40 aches and a mule which was ripped up by
US President Andrew Johnson for the very same hatred you’re going on with. Blacks were not permitted to own or even be considered. The vast amount of wealth given to white people and yet you can’t see the desparity. Reconstruction caused more jeolousy which resulted in the take back and the destroy movement of the KKK and the US government. Yes! The US Government! Whites had a free reign but yet you blame people of color who worked twice as hard because of obstructions placed on us to get anything in this racist system whilest systematically being disallowed to progress. Understand the symbols and subliminal languege of hate. Narcissist! Please! Cry me a river!
I live very, very well. All due to my hard work, and nothing else. I am a successful, proud white man, No apologies for that..no one to blame. In fact it is well above average. And I know first hand how hard folks of a color other than white work, I have fired a hundred or so of them. A much higher percentage than for the whites. Race had nothing to do with it. Most simply did not perform or produce as well as the whites, period. That’s not racist. No free passes in the fields I worked in, you produce or your gone, regardless of color. It was no ones fault but their own. The blame game and the race card are getting old. I have black friends that don’t agree with that argument. I don’t blame blacks for anything. Their failures are exactly that, their failures, same as for the whites. And by the way, your people were sold into slavery by, you guessed it, your own people. Stop blaming other people for you own failures, take some responsibility for you lot in life..or not. That is narcissistic behavior.Either way I don’t care. One more thing, my boss was a black man, for 13 years. He had no problem with the way I did the hiring and firing. If I did my job, he had nothing to do, as it should be. By the time it got to his desk, it was tip top, 100 %.
Weldon Ryan says
Moral charactor and ignorance sometimes sure the same room.
Billy C. says
To say you have succeeded because you worked hard is to be totally ignorant. To not understand how your privilege of skin has helped your success is to be in denial. No one asked you to apologize for what you believe. But, by your response I’d say you have clearly defined what you are.
Land of no turn signals says says
Dig hard enough and everything can be called raciest.
Billy C. says
Don’t dig at all and nothing is racist. You won’t see it unless you are willing to try to understand.
Trailer Bob says
Wow…what a stretch. No being racists, I never would have thought much about the commercial. So if you hire a person of color you are a racist and if you don’t, you are a racist?
I guess you have never seen the thousands of commercials who have some white buffoon in them. If there is a racists here, it would be you. I woke up today feeling really good about life, then I read your article and it changed for the worse. It is people like yourself that are always looking at things in a negative way. I will take a big leap here and suggest that YOU would feel much less comfortable interacting with people of color that I ever did. And I am sure you don’t live in Palm Coast for it’s diversity.
Pierre Tristam says
Local fashions being what they are, I imagine many of my fellow-commenters would have no issue with the use of these lips, either. For my part I think I’ll stick with what Dr. Patrick Mason–director of the African-American Studies Program at Florida State–wrote me in reference to all this: “The advertisement seems oblivious to the history of racial stereotypes.”