Jannette L. Dates, dean of the communications school at Howard University, said that while whites and blacks could watch the same portrayal of a large black woman on television and laugh, they are laughing for different reasons.
Some whites, Ms. Dates said, may laugh thinking, “Wow, she’s so ridiculous. My people aren’t like that.” She added: “They wouldn’t consciously feel that way. But there is something going on subconsciously because that’s what advertising is all about. They’re trying to tap into some feeling, some emotion, some psychological hang-up.”
Blacks, meanwhile, might laugh because they can identify with the character, Ms. Dates said. “It’s for both the people who want to snicker and say, ‘See, that’s how they are.’ And for people to say, ‘There’s one of us.’ ”
Orlando Patterson, a sociology professor at Harvard, amplified that point. “To the black audience, this may be, ‘You do your thing, sister,’ ” Professor Patterson said. “The white audience is laughing with her. Then they go back to reality, and they laugh at her.”
Aug 2, 2006
And now let's break for some guilty liberal handwringing
The Times uncovers the "problem" of casting fat black women in commercials.