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The Whitewashing of the American Farmer *superbowl commercial*

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This should be a good one ;)


The Whitewashing of the American Farmer: Dodge Ram Super Bowl Ad Edition



Maybe God did make farmers, but why'd Dodge only show us the white ones?


Dodge Ram turned heads with its high-production value remake of a Farms.com YouTube video, featuring conservative radio broadcaster Paul Harvey's voice laid over beautiful photographs of Americans farmers. 

The arresting images combined with the crackle of what everyone immediately recognizes as old audio made everyone at our Super Bowl party stop and watch. Dodge, I'm sure, had good demographic analysis of their audience, so they knew they could go godly with the message and encounter little backlash. So God made a farmer, and also the advertising agencies who will use him to sell trucks. Quibbles aside, I'd rather have this kind of Americana than GoDaddy's bizarre antics. 

But there's a problem. The ad paints a portrait of the American agricultural workforce that is horribly skewed. In Dodge's world, almost every farmer is a white Caucasian. And that's about as realistic as a Thomas Kincade painting. 

Stipulating that visual inspection is a rough measure for the complex genealogical histories of people, I decided to count the race and ethnicity of the people in Dodge's ad. Here's what I found: 15 white people, one black man, and two (maybe three?) Latinos.

I couldn't help but wonder: Where are all the campesinos? The ethnic mix Dodge chose to represent American farming is flat-out wrong.

It's true that whites are the managers of 96 percent of the nation's farms, according to the USDA's 2007 Census of Agriculture. But the agricultural workforce is overwhelmingly Mexican with some workers from Central America thrown in. The Department of Labor's National Agriculture Worker Survey has found that over the last decade, around 70 percent of farmworkers in America were born in Mexico, most in a few states along the Pacific coast. This should not be news. Everyone knows this is how farms are run. 

And yet when a company decided to pay homage to the people who grow our food, they left out the people who do much of the labor, particularly on the big farms that continue to power the food system. You want to tell a grand story about the glories of working the land? You want to celebrate the people who grow food? You want to expound on the positive 'merican qualities that agricultural work develops in people? Great! What a nice, nostalgic idea!

Now, did God make Mexican farmworkers or only white farmers? Is the strength and toughness that comes from hard work God's gift to white people only? 

To borrow Ta-Nehisi Coates' phrase, the way this ad whitewashed American farming leaves Mexican farmworkers and their children "excluded from the process of patriotism," even though many identify as American. Almost 75 percent of foreign-born cropworkers have been in the states for more than five years. Hell, more than half of the farmworkers surveyed by the Department of Labor have been in the U.S. for more than ten years. These are members of American communities and prospective citizens. 

Contrast the advertisement with what you get from Lisa Hamilton's Real Rural project, which documented the lives of people living on California's farms and in its small towns. It's a better portrait of reality, though no less stirring, as you can see in the portrait below.

Obviously, a Dodge ad isn't on the level of the government's deportation programs or the long-time cognitive dissonance of American immigration policies. But it's the kind of cultural substrate in which our laws and prejudices grow. 
bart-slide-01.jpg
by on Feb. 5, 2013 at 4:09 PM
Replies (141-147):
talia-mom
by Gold Member on Feb. 7, 2013 at 1:19 PM

How is disagreeing with her badgering her?

I am simply telling her that her reality of what she knows about farming isn't the reality everywhere else.  No one here hires Hispanics to work the farms.   Other people have said the same thing.

But she simply wants lead a discussion on Dodge showing an America she doesn't think is reality.   So I told her to boycott Dodge.   She doesn't like the focus of the commercial on white farmers in 45K trucks.  However, that is all I know and have ever known.


Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici.:

I don't get why you're badgering her.  If you think the stats are wrong then email the ag census board, or whomever collects  the data and challenge them.

Quoting talia-mom:

Sigh all you want.

You won't understand the reality for many of us.    You just don't.   Small farms across this country are not mostly worked by Hispanics.   Corporate growing farms, sure.    And that is why the stats show 70% of the workers are Hispanics.   But that ad wasn't geared towards those farms.  It was geared towards the memories people have of farms in the past and the small farmers of today.   Most of which are white.


Quoting krysstizzle:

Sighhhhh.

Never mind.

Quoting talia-mom:

okay

Then boycott Dodge for being bigoted or racist or whatever you want.  They were selling trucks to the farmers of the midwest.   Guess what?  They are usually white owned and white worked farms.

They showed a reality for many, many people.  And still, that isn't good enough.



Quoting krysstizzle:

Do you know how the ag census works? Those numbers are factored in. 

Quoting talia-mom:

You still don't seem to get that simply by going on the numbers of hired people doesn't cover a great number of farmers and their farms.

Neighbors help.   You hire a teenager for cash.   The family does it.



Quoting krysstizzle:

What? No, I don't. 

I've been telling the story of the numbers gathered from the U.S. Dept. of Labor and the US Ag Census. In fact, those numbers belie my experience because there are far more Hispanic owners/workers/farmers than the numbers say where I live and in my experience. But those numbers are the ones that are gathered from across the entire nation. Just because others experience a mostly white farming experience doesn't mean that that's true for the nation as a whole.

Quoting talia-mom:

And your experience is what you keep harping on.

Simply because you don't know small farms with white people working it that can afford those trucks, doesn't make your experience more valid.   Several posters have told you their experiences and you still dismiss it because of what you know to be the farming "truth."



Quoting krysstizzle:

I'm not talkging about personal experience (which is, undoubtedly different in different areas). I'm talking about the small numbers in this country of small family farmers. 

Quoting talia-mom:

You don't, but I do.   I lived an entirely different farming life than you and I know what I see with my father, grandfather, and brother, who are all farmers.


Quoting krysstizzle:

Do you think that was their true target audience, though? Based on sheer (lack of) numbers, I don't believe so. 

Quoting talia-mom:

But it isn't a myth these family farms often are completely run and worked by white people and that they can and do buy these trucks.


Quoting krysstizzle:

I agree. I should have put my intentions in the OP, I keep explaining in replies :/

I think I've just spent too long in academia and find deconstructing popular culture symbols (including marketing) an interesting thing to do in and of itself. 

It's not the marketing of the ad, per se, (marketing always targets a specific demograhpic), it's more of perpetuating this cultural myth that is being sold that's the issue. Or, not issue, but point of debate. 

Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici.:

I didn't open this when you posted it beause, while it's debateable, it's an advertisement. IMO ads are intentionally skewed in order to capture a target audience. I don't expect Dodge to make a commercial and school people with the hopes of gaining a new demograpic of buyers.























masonmomma
by on Feb. 7, 2013 at 1:35 PM


IMHO, I think for anybody to spin anything like this is fostering racism... JMO, I dont think most agree... 

 

Figured Id throw that in there... lol

Quoting krysstizzle:

But cultural symbols, even commercials, don't occur inside a vacuum. They must be taken in context. 

And I do agree anything can be spun any number of ways. This one is interesting and valid because of the response from different farmworkers organizations and discussion in the food movement. I work with a non-profit focused solely on food system issues, work with a lot of farmers, and this has been a topic brought up, independently, by a variety of different people and organizations. If this were one person saying this, I think it would have less validity. But that fact that so many people had something similar to say means it struck a cultural chord. That makes it relevant.

*My family has always had Fords *duck and cover!!* :)

Quoting masonmomma:

The only thing this commercial is perpetuating is the fact that they want to sell their trucks and they sell mostly to white men and/or mostly white men buy their truck.

Exactly whats in the commercial: 1 white woman, 5 white men, 1 back man, 1 hispanic man, 1 hispanic family, 1 white family. All the other extras whose faces are imaged in any way (not including hands and backs) their race could EASILY be debated, in which case, there coud easily be more hispanics in this commercial (though I don't personally think their is). 

If spun to a society race or immigration issue, it can be spun in many different ways, hence, the need to take it for what it is... A commercial to influence their target audience to buy their product. If you really want to go there, we could spin this to be a racial profiling issue. I mean, you are judging these people by their race and the way they look. Would you rather more hispanics be in the commercial AND  displayed as a stereotypical hispanic so their race stands out??? Then we aren't "whitewashing", we are being racist but damnit people noticed they were hispanics or mexicans. Point is, it could be spun so many ways and you are damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Take it as it is, a commercial. To sit and nit pick is only causing more problems.

FYI, this is also coming from a hispanic women who's family owns dodges... Im a chevy kind of girl but everyone else I know owns dodges. That always seems to be CM mom relevant.


Quoting krysstizzle:

I fully understand what the 'point' of commercials is. That's separate from what I'm talking about. 

Again, I think valid discussions can happen when one deconstructs popular culture. In this case, there is a cultural myth surrounding the "American farmer". What the commercial portrayed is nostaligia for a way of life that is fast disappearing, and there is generally no aknowledgement for what the truth on the ground is in the farming world: that over 70% of people working on farms are Hispanic. 

My argument is not that Dodge should not market their ads to their target audience (as I've said numerous times in this post), but that this is showing and perpetuating a myth, at the expense of truly understanding exactly what our food system looks like.

Quoting masonmomma:

So how do you suggest that commercial should have been made??

Like others have said, they are trying to reach a target audience. Commercials are not meant to highlight some type of injustice or society issue, they are meant to SELL. If the majority of their customers are older white guys, then wouldn't it make more sense to target that audience?? 

What baffles me about this most, is of all the nasty commercials during the superbowl THIS one is the issue?? And just because there wasn't ENOUGH minority extras?? FFS???

Quoting krysstizzle:

I thought it would be an interesting discussion, mainly because I'm heavily involved in working with small farmers. 

I think it's valid to discuss the cultural implications pop culture has on how our society functions and views different aspects of working life and those who participate in it. It's at least as valid as sitting on our butts watching t.v., probably more. *shrug*

Quoting masonmomma:

Can we just make a "will find anything to bitch about" sweet pea, gif, or something??? FFS its a commercial.




 




krysstizzle
by on Feb. 7, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Of where our food comes from and how it gets there. There is an element of race there, but it's larger than that. I readily admit that this particular discussion (on my part) may have deconstructed a bit too much; I do, however, think that there is an important discussion to be had regarding our food and who does most of the work. 

Admittedly, there has been a shift in the awareness of our food system as a whole. I still think the ideal of small midwestern family farm seems entirely accurate to some. And while it does exist, it's shrinking and, honestly, insignificant compared to what our farms really look like now. 

So I guess, when it comes down to it, the commercial (in my mind) is symptomatic of holding on to this false ideal so we can ignore the uglier side. Now, don't get me wrong, that ideal of smaller family owned farm? I like that, I think that needs to be expanded and revived. I work daily at trying to foster exactly that. I'm just not sure people understand the work it's going to take to get there.

Quoting kailu1835:

Oh man, I abhor it when that happens.  Anyway, I deleted the first part of your response because I can agree to it, and I want to focus on the part I need clarification on.  Which is the cultural myth you are talking about?  There have been a few different cultural issues mentioned throughout the thread; I'm wondering if you are focusing on something specific?

Quoting krysstizzle:

The issue, I think, comes when we have cultural symbols (i.e. marketing) perpetuating this cultural myth. Now, is doing that - perpetuating a myth - harmful or have negative consequences? I could probably argue both sides of that discussion. I do know that cultural dialogue is shaped by (and shapes) popular culture. ...

*i think i had another point but I totally lost it now...*

Quoting kailu1835:

Lol, you must be in my class :)  One of my classmates is doing her thesis on marketing and commercials.

In this case, I think that the commercial was marketed to a specific group, which are small town farmers that have been handed down through the generations (as evidenced by the reference to the child who says he wants to follow in his father's footsteps).  The majority of small town farmers are white, so the people in the commercial was white.  Why should they put people in the commercial that the target audience do not relate to, whether that is hispanics, women, etc? 

Quoting krysstizzle:

Maybe it's because I've spent so much time in academia, but I think deconstructing cultural ideals (yes, including marketing and commercials) from different perspectives is a valid thing to do. It's at least as valid as watching television shows, in any case, which people tend to do on a regular basis. 

Quoting kailu1835:

 Omg, it's a friggin commerical.  Does it really need to be picked apart?  Or are people butthurt over the fact that it talks about "God made"?






kailu1835
by Ruby Member on Feb. 7, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Your argument makes a lot of sense, and I agree with you for the most part I think.  I have seen some really large farms in Idaho that were run by the families who owned them.  So I know that family run farms (and not migrant workers, legal or otherwise) do exist, but you are right that the number of those farms are shrinking.  A big part of it is regulation (I personally know of 3 family-run farms that went under after new crippling regulations that had nothing to do with quality control and everything to do with giving big corporate farms the monopoly), and another big part is competition.  Farms that employ migrant workers for a fraction of what they would have to pay American workers are able to save a lot of time and money that family-run farms are unable to compete with.

However, for the purposes of the commercial in question, the theme seemed to be nostalgia, which I think you agreed with.  So in times past, family run farms were a lot more common than they are now, and when talking demographics, most of those family run farms were white people.  If the target of the commercials were people who run or have run family farms like my father-in-law, or grew up on one, like my husband (but happens to be a Ford man through and through lol), I think they portrayed exactly what they needed to. So while I agree with your argument, and it is a good one, I think that it doesn't really apply to the commercial as much as you want it to.

Quoting krysstizzle:

Of where our food comes from and how it gets there. There is an element of race there, but it's larger than that. I readily admit that this particular discussion (on my part) may have deconstructed a bit too much; I do, however, think that there is an important discussion to be had regarding our food and who does most of the work. 

Admittedly, there has been a shift in the awareness of our food system as a whole. I still think the ideal of small midwestern family farm seems entirely accurate to some. And while it does exist, it's shrinking and, honestly, insignificant compared to what our farms really look like now. 

So I guess, when it comes down to it, the commercial (in my mind) is symptomatic of holding on to this false ideal so we can ignore the uglier side. Now, don't get me wrong, that ideal of smaller family owned farm? I like that, I think that needs to be expanded and revived. I work daily at trying to foster exactly that. I'm just not sure people understand the work it's going to take to get there.

Quoting kailu1835:

Oh man, I abhor it when that happens.  Anyway, I deleted the first part of your response because I can agree to it, and I want to focus on the part I need clarification on.  Which is the cultural myth you are talking about?  There have been a few different cultural issues mentioned throughout the thread; I'm wondering if you are focusing on something specific?

Quoting krysstizzle:

The issue, I think, comes when we have cultural symbols (i.e. marketing) perpetuating this cultural myth. Now, is doing that - perpetuating a myth - harmful or have negative consequences? I could probably argue both sides of that discussion. I do know that cultural dialogue is shaped by (and shapes) popular culture. ...

*i think i had another point but I totally lost it now...*

Quoting kailu1835:

Lol, you must be in my class :)  One of my classmates is doing her thesis on marketing and commercials.

In this case, I think that the commercial was marketed to a specific group, which are small town farmers that have been handed down through the generations (as evidenced by the reference to the child who says he wants to follow in his father's footsteps).  The majority of small town farmers are white, so the people in the commercial was white.  Why should they put people in the commercial that the target audience do not relate to, whether that is hispanics, women, etc? 

Quoting krysstizzle:

Maybe it's because I've spent so much time in academia, but I think deconstructing cultural ideals (yes, including marketing and commercials) from different perspectives is a valid thing to do. It's at least as valid as watching television shows, in any case, which people tend to do on a regular basis. 

Quoting kailu1835:

 Omg, it's a friggin commerical.  Does it really need to be picked apart?  Or are people butthurt over the fact that it talks about "God made"?







babiesbabybaby development

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Feb. 7, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Except it isn't specifically her reality. She is making reference to the ag census AS WELL AS her personal knowledge. What stats and resources have you used to base your comments on? She already stated her opinions and points of discussion and I don't think you understand her points at all.

Quoting talia-mom:

How is disagreeing with her badgering her?

I am simply telling her that her reality of what she knows about farming isn't the reality everywhere else.  No one here hires Hispanics to work the farms.   Other people have said the same thing.

But she simply wants lead a discussion on Dodge showing an America she doesn't think is reality.   So I told her to boycott Dodge.   She doesn't like the focus of the commercial on white farmers in 45K trucks.  However, that is all I know and have ever known.


krysstizzle
by on Feb. 7, 2013 at 3:17 PM

You know, I gues I do agree with you. I have nothing against nostalgia (I'm a sucker for it, honestly); but since I work so closely with farmers and within the food system, I think this commercial rubbed me the wrong way to begin with. My initial thought was that it was the racial factor. And that is a factor, but it's really something bigger than that. 

Like I said, I don't find anything inherently wrong in nostalgia, and I don't even think this is some kind of harmful commercial trying to brainwash people and hide the truths of the food system and how it actively works against small farmers. I think they just want to sell trucks. I do think it inadvertently perpetuates false notions of a broken food system, though. 


Quoting kailu1835:

Your argument makes a lot of sense, and I agree with you for the most part I think.  I have seen some really large farms in Idaho that were run by the families who owned them.  So I know that family run farms (and not migrant workers, legal or otherwise) do exist, but you are right that the number of those farms are shrinking.  A big part of it is regulation (I personally know of 3 family-run farms that went under after new crippling regulations that had nothing to do with quality control and everything to do with giving big corporate farms the monopoly), and another big part is competition.  Farms that employ migrant workers for a fraction of what they would have to pay American workers are able to save a lot of time and money that family-run farms are unable to compete with.

However, for the purposes of the commercial in question, the theme seemed to be nostalgia, which I think you agreed with.  So in times past, family run farms were a lot more common than they are now, and when talking demographics, most of those family run farms were white people.  If the target of the commercials were people who run or have run family farms like my father-in-law, or grew up on one, like my husband (but happens to be a Ford man through and through lol), I think they portrayed exactly what they needed to. So while I agree with your argument, and it is a good one, I think that it doesn't really apply to the commercial as much as you want it to.

Quoting krysstizzle:

Of where our food comes from and how it gets there. There is an element of race there, but it's larger than that. I readily admit that this particular discussion (on my part) may have deconstructed a bit too much; I do, however, think that there is an important discussion to be had regarding our food and who does most of the work. 

Admittedly, there has been a shift in the awareness of our food system as a whole. I still think the ideal of small midwestern family farm seems entirely accurate to some. And while it does exist, it's shrinking and, honestly, insignificant compared to what our farms really look like now. 

So I guess, when it comes down to it, the commercial (in my mind) is symptomatic of holding on to this false ideal so we can ignore the uglier side. Now, don't get me wrong, that ideal of smaller family owned farm? I like that, I think that needs to be expanded and revived. I work daily at trying to foster exactly that. I'm just not sure people understand the work it's going to take to get there.

Quoting kailu1835:

Oh man, I abhor it when that happens.  Anyway, I deleted the first part of your response because I can agree to it, and I want to focus on the part I need clarification on.  Which is the cultural myth you are talking about?  There have been a few different cultural issues mentioned throughout the thread; I'm wondering if you are focusing on something specific?

Quoting krysstizzle:

The issue, I think, comes when we have cultural symbols (i.e. marketing) perpetuating this cultural myth. Now, is doing that - perpetuating a myth - harmful or have negative consequences? I could probably argue both sides of that discussion. I do know that cultural dialogue is shaped by (and shapes) popular culture. ...

*i think i had another point but I totally lost it now...*

Quoting kailu1835:

Lol, you must be in my class :)  One of my classmates is doing her thesis on marketing and commercials.

In this case, I think that the commercial was marketed to a specific group, which are small town farmers that have been handed down through the generations (as evidenced by the reference to the child who says he wants to follow in his father's footsteps).  The majority of small town farmers are white, so the people in the commercial was white.  Why should they put people in the commercial that the target audience do not relate to, whether that is hispanics, women, etc? 

Quoting krysstizzle:

Maybe it's because I've spent so much time in academia, but I think deconstructing cultural ideals (yes, including marketing and commercials) from different perspectives is a valid thing to do. It's at least as valid as watching television shows, in any case, which people tend to do on a regular basis. 

Quoting kailu1835:

 Omg, it's a friggin commerical.  Does it really need to be picked apart?  Or are people butthurt over the fact that it talks about "God made"?








kailu1835
by Ruby Member on Feb. 7, 2013 at 6:01 PM

 I figured that might be what the issue was.  I know you are our resident GMO expert, in part because of the work with farmers that you do.  I can completely understand how, with the life experience you are currently living, this commercial could rub you the wrong way.  I am sure that for others, the reasons are different, but I can at least empathize with your position because I understand it better :)

Quoting krysstizzle:

You know, I gues I do agree with you. I have nothing against nostalgia (I'm a sucker for it, honestly); but since I work so closely with farmers and within the food system, I think this commercial rubbed me the wrong way to begin with. My initial thought was that it was the racial factor. And that is a factor, but it's really something bigger than that. 

Like I said, I don't find anything inherently wrong in nostalgia, and I don't even think this is some kind of harmful commercial trying to brainwash people and hide the truths of the food system and how it actively works against small farmers. I think they just want to sell trucks. I do think it inadvertently perpetuates false notions of a broken food system, though. 


Quoting kailu1835:

Your argument makes a lot of sense, and I agree with you for the most part I think.  I have seen some really large farms in Idaho that were run by the families who owned them.  So I know that family run farms (and not migrant workers, legal or otherwise) do exist, but you are right that the number of those farms are shrinking.  A big part of it is regulation (I personally know of 3 family-run farms that went under after new crippling regulations that had nothing to do with quality control and everything to do with giving big corporate farms the monopoly), and another big part is competition.  Farms that employ migrant workers for a fraction of what they would have to pay American workers are able to save a lot of time and money that family-run farms are unable to compete with.

However, for the purposes of the commercial in question, the theme seemed to be nostalgia, which I think you agreed with.  So in times past, family run farms were a lot more common than they are now, and when talking demographics, most of those family run farms were white people.  If the target of the commercials were people who run or have run family farms like my father-in-law, or grew up on one, like my husband (but happens to be a Ford man through and through lol), I think they portrayed exactly what they needed to. So while I agree with your argument, and it is a good one, I think that it doesn't really apply to the commercial as much as you want it to.

Quoting krysstizzle:

Of where our food comes from and how it gets there. There is an element of race there, but it's larger than that. I readily admit that this particular discussion (on my part) may have deconstructed a bit too much; I do, however, think that there is an important discussion to be had regarding our food and who does most of the work. 

Admittedly, there has been a shift in the awareness of our food system as a whole. I still think the ideal of small midwestern family farm seems entirely accurate to some. And while it does exist, it's shrinking and, honestly, insignificant compared to what our farms really look like now. 

So I guess, when it comes down to it, the commercial (in my mind) is symptomatic of holding on to this false ideal so we can ignore the uglier side. Now, don't get me wrong, that ideal of smaller family owned farm? I like that, I think that needs to be expanded and revived. I work daily at trying to foster exactly that. I'm just not sure people understand the work it's going to take to get there.

Quoting kailu1835:

Oh man, I abhor it when that happens.  Anyway, I deleted the first part of your response because I can agree to it, and I want to focus on the part I need clarification on.  Which is the cultural myth you are talking about?  There have been a few different cultural issues mentioned throughout the thread; I'm wondering if you are focusing on something specific?

Quoting krysstizzle:

The issue, I think, comes when we have cultural symbols (i.e. marketing) perpetuating this cultural myth. Now, is doing that - perpetuating a myth - harmful or have negative consequences? I could probably argue both sides of that discussion. I do know that cultural dialogue is shaped by (and shapes) popular culture. ...

*i think i had another point but I totally lost it now...*

Quoting kailu1835:

Lol, you must be in my class :)  One of my classmates is doing her thesis on marketing and commercials.

In this case, I think that the commercial was marketed to a specific group, which are small town farmers that have been handed down through the generations (as evidenced by the reference to the child who says he wants to follow in his father's footsteps).  The majority of small town farmers are white, so the people in the commercial was white.  Why should they put people in the commercial that the target audience do not relate to, whether that is hispanics, women, etc? 

Quoting krysstizzle:

Maybe it's because I've spent so much time in academia, but I think deconstructing cultural ideals (yes, including marketing and commercials) from different perspectives is a valid thing to do. It's at least as valid as watching television shows, in any case, which people tend to do on a regular basis. 

Quoting kailu1835:

 Omg, it's a friggin commerical.  Does it really need to be picked apart?  Or are people butthurt over the fact that it talks about "God made"?








 

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