Source:  Jack Cashill

One of the several downsides in watching too much football this past weekend was watching too many TV commercials. And although I had grown used to the “stupid white man” trope, now a staple of comic advertising, I was unprepared for AT&T’s impressively racist and sexist “Just OK is not OK” campaign.

The larger message of the campaign is that “when it comes to wireless networks, just OK is not OK.” According to some dubious test, AT&T is allegedly “America’s best network.” To launch this concept, AT&T and its marketing geniuses at the Omnicom Group designed a series of scenarios in which an incompetent white professional or service worker offers his services to a wary customer of color.

A cavalier white male surgeon tells a patient he “just got reinstated… well not officially.” The Hispanic-appearing male who is about to be operated on and his wife react nervously to the surgeon’s proven ineptitude. Lena Waithe, a black lesbian (natch), provides the voiceover, announcing, “Just OK is not OK especially when it comes to your network.” As a stand-alone, this ad is actually pretty amusing. It’s the only one that is.

A goofy-looking white male carnival worker responds to a black mother who asks if the Ferris wheel she is about to ride with her son is safe. “I assembled it myself last night,” he tells her. “I think I did an OK job.” The son then asks, “What if something bad happens?” Says the carnival worker, “We just move to another town.” And yes, Lena tells us, “Just OK is not OK.”

The heavy-set, bald and bearded white male car mechanic responds to a young black man who asks if his shop is good with brakes. “We’re okay,” says the mechanic. “Just okay?” asks the black man. “We have a saying around here,” says the mechanic. “If the brakes don’t stop it. Something will.” Says the customer, “That’s not a real saying.” Says the mechanic, “It is around here. I wrote it.”

The bearded white male interpreter tells his Japanese client that his Dutch is “OK.” Says the Japanese executive, “Just OK?” The interpreter then proceeds to make a comic botch of the Japanese man’s comments to his Dutch trading partners.

“Just leave it to me,” the chubby, slovenly, tax professional tells his pretty black female client. “I’ll get your taxes in an OK place.” In this more ambitious set-up, the accountant reveals himself to be a swindler working under a false name. “I don’t think this is going to work,” says the would-be client who gets up and leaves.

The unseen Sushi chef has gone home sick after eating his own product. He has left instructions with Kyle, another flat-out goofy young white male. “This fish is raw,” says a seemingly surprised Kyle of the salmon roll he is about to serve. The customers, a mixed race couple and a Hispanic-looking couple, are dismayed.

To be fair, not all white males are incompetent or even criminally negligent. In a sixth ad, two highly responsible white males are about to leave “their kids” with the babysitter, in this case a young white female. She tells the obviously gay couple, “I’m pretty OK with children.” She then reveals she is not OK in any number of supposedly hilarious ways.

In a new series of AT&T commercials, the format changes a little, but the racism endures. In the first of these ads, the viewer sees an elevator stuck between floors. In the car are ten people, three black males, four women of various ethnicities, two men either white or Hispanic, and a tall, goofy, very white guy in the center of car. Yes, you guessed it. It is the goofy white guy who says inappropriate things until the elevator starts moving again. Says Lena, “When it comes to reliability, just OK is not OK.”

Let’s sum this up. In each of the seven ads a non-Hispanic white serves as the designated doofus. In six of the seven ads, the doofus is male, a Caucasian Stepin Fetchit. In six of the seven ads, those having to endure the doofus are racial minorities, the one exception to the minority rule being the gay couple.

Most casual viewers, watching one ad at a time, would likely not notice an ad’s conscious anti-white bias. The folks at Omnicom who prepared the campaign and those at their AT&T client had to notice. Someone wrote the ads. Someone cast them. Someone shot them. Any number of people signed off on them, and apparently no one involved had the cojones to call out this crude, Goebbels-worthy stereotyping for what it is.

On its company website, AT&T claims, “Whatever a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability or other characteristic, we respect and value them.”

This claim is actually funnier than the ads.