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BRAINWASHED: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority

by Tom Burrell
From The Scorch at the Bottom of the Melting Pot
The illusion that anyone can succeedwhat I call the paradox of progresssolidifies the myth of a post!
racial society" It wea#ens the impulse to understand or help those still scorched at the bottom of $merica%s
melting pot" It fuels the perception that all is well and racism is dead& and suggests that those still wallowing in
po'erty made conscious choices to li'e in that stratum" If not& many reason& they%d simply follow (alle& Tiger&
)prah& or e'en Tom Burrell%s lead" They%d *uit bellyaching& grab those bootstraps& and go to wor#+
In the so!called post!racial era& internali,ed blac# inferiority combined with this new media reality means the
rules of engagement ha'e changed dramatically" $merica%s racial fatigue& coupled with the election of the
nation%s first $frican $merican president and the illusion of the acceptable exceptions& present new challenges
for the best of us and& most importantly& for the rest of us"
From -elationship .rec#s/ .hy 0an%t .e Form Strong Families1
)ur family crisis is inseparable from our blac# male and female identity crisis& and brainwashing has left a
great many of us fearful& confused about our identities& and hopelessly caught in a cycle of relationship
Blac#s not only dance to the beat of family destruction& we patroni,e films by blac# producers and directors
that bombard our brains and reinforce all the bad we%'e been fed about oursel'esfirst by the white ruling class&
and now abetted by our brainwashed brethren" .hether it%s sagas li#e 0hris Brown and -ihanna& or negati'e&
self!demeaning mo'ies& or characters li#e those depicted in (B)%s gritty urban drama The .ireblac#
relationships and families are seen as hopelessly at odds& dysfunctional& 'iolent& and unsubstantial"
I%m not condoning domestic 'iolence in any way" I%m not sho% %cause I%m not a lawyer2I thin# when they turn
34 you can put yo% hands on %em a little harder than when they was a minor" I thin# if they 34& 5it6 can 7ust turn
into full!blown ass!whoopin%s2 0hec# your local law2Find out what you can do" 0an you cho#e her1 0an you
sha#e her1 Find out how by law what it is you can do2how far can you put your foot up her behind before it
becomes a felony1
Ste'e (ar'ey& The Ste'e (ar'ey -adio Show8February 9:& 9;;<
To be blac# in $merica is to be tense& anxious& and often fearful if not outright angry" Intimate relationships
often become the central arena where blac# men today can 'ent racial frustrations" .hile he struggles to grasp
manhood in a society that holds it from him at arm%s length& the befuddled blac# man lashes out 'iolently at
the woman he feels is undermining his fragile authority"
I hate my baby mama" I wanna cho#e her and slap the shit out of her ass& but I can%t afford no domestic
'iolence case right now& you #now1 But I told her& =.hen I sa'e >9&?;;& I%m slapping the shit out of yo% ass&
bitch+% @i#e most of you women don%t #now& you >9;; from getting yo% ass cho#ed right now"
Mali# S"& Aef 0omedy Bam8February 9C& 9;;4
From Studs and Sluts/ .hy Ao .e 0onform to Blac# Sexual Stereotypes1
(alle Berry can go on film and get the dog shit frea#ed out of her& and she wins an )scar& Delly said& referring
to Berry%s role in Monster%s Ball" I swipe a credit card down the crac# of a girl%s butt& and I%m demorali,ing
Auring sla'ery& blac# men were encouraged to see themsel'es as licentious heathens& subhuman& simian sex
machines& and natural!born breeders with no emotional attachments" Today& our dilemma is an existential crisis
that collecti'ely we%'e been unable to resol'e/ (ow can a blac# male be a man in $merica1 If we reflect
honestly& we%ll concede that our perpetual *uest for the next con*uestthe need for instant sexual gratification
stems from a deeper personal crisis& the compulsi'e need to scratch an itch that will not go away"
Somewhere along the line producers of hip!hop came to reali,e that the real money& the real a'enues to fortune
and fame& came 'ia music about sex& drugs& and 'iolenceE how they made it on the carcasses of those who
trespassed on their turfeither in the streets or in the industry" $long the line& powerful forces reali,ed there was
gold in blac# music di'isions"
The Be,ebel stereotype was used to excuse rape and 7ustify the sla'eowner%s carnal desires" $fter all& how could
it be rape& if the 'ictim is property designed for seedy sexual indulgence1 Auring the first half of the 9;th
century& the myth manifested itself in the form of e'eryday ob7ectsfrom postcards to no'elty items" Today& the
depiction of blac# women as Be,ebel!li#e whores continues& than#s in large part to bestselling& blac# female
rappers who probably ha'e no clue that they%re playing myth!personified roles"
From Fglified/ .hy $re Blac# and Beautiful Still 0ontradictions1
heart throb& ne'er& blac# and ugly as e'er
howe'er& I stay Gucci down to the soc#s
Dotorious B"I"G"& )ne More 0hance
I grew up thin#ing I was ugly& and my mother reinforced that" She%d say things li#e& =Stop po#ing out those
lips& they are already too big& they loo# li#e two sausages"% My mother ne'er told me I was a beautiful woman"
Tanya& ?9
.hen the colonies became $merica& the primary campaign to uglify $frican sla'es became more intense&
per'asi'e& and codified" The message was reinforced in a myriad of ways& including Thomas Befferson%s Dotes
on the State of Hirginia& where he demeaned blac#s while defining the standard of superior IwhiteJ beauty"
For most of our history in the Dew .orld& we openly co'eted light s#in and straight hair" Today& the pinnacles
of blac# female beauty remain almost white!loo#ing" It is disturbingly telling that the long wea'e seems to be a
prere*uisite for blac# singers& actors& and models" (ip!hop 'ideos feature light!s#inned blac#& @atino& or $sian
womento the exclusion of dar#er!s#inned blac# dancers" In these befuddled musical s#etches of blac# life&
blinged!out heroes surround themsel'es with lighter!s#inned trophies" The dar#er women in such 'ideos are
rarely positioned as the Pedestal Pri,ethat place is usually reser'ed for the surrogate white girl"
The remnants of brainwashing linger and one of the strongest signs of its persistence is in blac# males who
prefer women who loo# nothing li#e them" From (omey!cide/ .hy Ao .e Keep Killing Lach )ther1
Mental health experts are in general agreement that persistent exposure to humiliation& brutality& and abuse&
physical or emotional& can program people to humiliate& brutali,e& and abuse others" $part from the indigenous
people of this country& no other ethnic group has been sub7ected to the centuries of abuse that $fricans and their
descendants ha'e experienced"
)ur rate of domestic 'iolence& where spouses and intimate partners #ill each other& is far greater than that of
any other ethnic group" Blac# males are not only the most li#ely 'ictims of homicideE they dominate as #illers&
especially in ta#ing the life of another blac# male"
.e will2ts#!ts#& moan& and wail about a lost life in front of news cameras and dutifully deli'er teddy bears to
the porches of murdered children" .e perpetuate the myth" If we expose the Founding Fathers% contribution to
$merica%s creation of the heartless monsters roaming 93st!century concrete 7ungles& we%re afraid we might be
dismissed as radical& paranoid& or stuc# in the past" .hat we won%t do is recogni,e that& collecti'ely& we ha'e
the inherent power and responsibility to address blac#!on!blac# 'iolence"
From Aiss!Fnity/ .hy 0an%t .e Stic# Together1
L'erything white people don%t li#e about blac# people& blac# people -L$@@M don%t li#e about blac# people+
0hris -oc#& 3<<N
.hy is it that other ethnic groups& some who%'e suffered atrocities in their nati'e lands& can come to this
country& wor# together in unison& and outperform blac#s who%'e been here for centuries1 The answer to that
*uestion is also connected to our initial so7ourn to $merica" (ad $fricans come to this nation 'oluntarily& with
their cultural heritage and languages intact& we could ha'e& li#e other ethnic groups& adapted those anchors for
use in this new land"
0rabbin% and bac#stabbin% are but a symptom of a much more sinister infirmitydisunity or& as we will often
refer to it in this discussion& diss!unity" In the ci'il rights and political arenas& crabbin% and bac#stabbin% are as
old as the categories themsel'es" Some of our history%s most impressi'e& far!reaching agendas ha'e been
nullified due to blac# bac#biting and orchestrated disruption" Killing each other is not limited to young brothers
on the streets" There are blac#!on!blac# dri'e!bys in the political& entertainment& ci'ic& and business arenas"
From Deo!0oons/ .hy is the Bo#e $lways on Fs1
I don%t #now how I%ma stop saying =nigger% when it describes some motherfuc#ers I #now so perfectly"
L'erybody #nows that one motherfuc#er that can only be described as =That nigger there& goddamn& whew+%
A"@" (ughley
Mou #now how you #now when you lost a fight to your woman1 .hen the cops come to your house and as#
you& Ao you want to press charges1
Ke'in (art
I bought a gun because =P). P).% sounds a lot better than =(ey& put that bac#+%
Boe Torry
$ deep!rooted addiction to the Blac# Inferiority brand allows us to laugh at the antics of blac# entertainers who
call us niggas and denigrate blac# men and women in comic routines& songs& and music 'ideos" .o'en into the
blac# $merican experience is a strong thread of a'oidance& an a'ersion to critical thin#ing& and an abnormal
embrace of anything that appeals to our emotions rather than our reasoning" The unspo#en trauma of pain& and
powerlessness has led too many of us to prefer laughter to learning& and pretending o'er mending"
)'er the past century& the 0oon conceptinstead of dying with sla'eryhas spread li#e a 'irus far beyond its
blac#face minstrel music hall origin" $lthough many of its most 'isible promoters today ha'e blac# bodies as
well as faces& they seem to ha'e the same disregard for themsel'es as did their painted progenitors"
From Buy Dow& Pay @ater/ .hy 0an%t .e Stop Shopping1
Get a good loo# at me& dummy I said I loo#& I feel& I smell li#e money2
Three O Mafia& @i#e Money
Fnli#e whites& we were denied the basic right to be free!willed consumers" -estricti'e& but legal& co'enants
excluded $frican $mericans from purchasing homes in neighborhoods considered white" .e could not
patroni,e white!only diners& theaters& clubs& and colleges or shop in many stores" For centuries& spending money
7es% li#e white fol# was not e'en a possibility" That all changed after we fought for the right to force our money
upon whites"
Pre'alent socio!economic conditions& combined with historic pre7udices& ha'e resulted in a case of low self!
esteem& or low race esteem& that has affected our purchasing beha'ior" I myself ha'en%t exactly been immune
to these feelings of inade*uacy" I was raised during a time when blac#s seemed grateful that car dealers wanted
their money" I may be discriminated against& but General Motors will sell me anything I want& we%d say"
From A%s .ill Ao/ .hy Ao .e Lxpect So @ittle of Lach )therand )ursel'es1
Perhaps in no other area has the $frican $merican story seen so many twists& dead ends& and sin#holes than in
the dominion of education" More important& perhaps& no other discussion ma#es $frican $mericans as
uncomfortable as the topic of why our children lag so far behind the children of other races
$s a young blac# man& I can%t e'en recall how many times I heard =nerd% or =gee#% or =college boy% or =Mou
sound li#e a white boy% used as an insult" It%s not about =white&% it%s about education and power" They didn%t want
me to ha'e either"
In many ways& $frican $mericans ha'e romantici,ed and institutionali,ed low expectations" )ften our goal is
not to be the best but to be the best blac#as in best blac# business or best blac# doctor or best blac#
college" Inherent in these labels is a subliminal acceptance that our best is somehow naturally inferior or
somehow different from the white best"
Q & A with Tom Burrell
P" .hat moti'ated you to write this boo#1
$" $s a blac# ad man& I was compelled to understand the way that words and images ha'e been used to
manipulate how blac#s are 'iewed in this country and the way many of us unconsciously 'iew oursel'es"
0onnecting the blac# dots on a larger le'el early onfrom sla'ery and Bim 0row segregation to contemporary
commercial and social propagandabecame my passion"
P" .hat ma#es you an expert on the so!called Blac# Inferiority complex1
$" $s the former founder and 0L) of one of the top ad agencies in the country& I bring more than C? years of
ad'ertising and mar#eting expertise with blac# consumers and social beha'iors to the table" Brainwashed& to my
#nowledge& is the 'ery first boo# that tal#s about the selling of race!based inferiority from both a historical and
contemporary mar#eting perspecti'e& and its de'astating impact on both blac#s and whites" I wrote this boo# to
ser'e as a catalyst for deprogramming society from the myth that blac#s are innately inferior to whites"
P" .hat is the genesis of the .hite Superiority8Blac# Inferiority brainwash attitudes1
$" $merican sla'ery" It was in $merica that $fricans were chained and branded& both physically and
psychologically& as subhuman beasts of burden" It was here that we were first indoctrinated with the idea that we
were& in fact& not humans at all& but property"
P" (ow do propaganda and brainwashing fit together1 .hy did you choose such a strong term1
$" Propaganda is the outer layer of this brainwashing onion" In the mar#eting world& propaganda is the first tool
of persuasion" Brainwashing is the outcome& but propaganda got us here& and its continued use #eeps the
inferior8superior mind game in play" Instead of using torture and other coerci'e techni*ues& the stealthy& media!
sa''y propagandist uses mass media and other forms of communication to change minds and mold ways of
thin#ing" I ha'e no intention of shying away from the term propaganda" I say we use itta#e what was thrown
at us& shuc# it off& and replace it with positi'e propaganda"
P" Many of the e'ents co'ered in your boo# too# place hundreds of years ago" $ren%t you encouraging readers to
wallow in the past1
$" The Blac# Inferiority campaign has left us with centuries of unresol'ed trauma" .e can%t mo'e forward as a
collecti'e until we ha'e honest and detailed con'ersations about the painful influences of our past and the
connections to the present" Fntil we are fully cogni,ant of the triggers that enable social& political& familial& and
personal dysfunction we will be fore'er trapped in a counterproducti'e cycle"
P" Aidn%t the media brainwashing that you spea# of die in the wa#e of the Bim 0row and the ci'il rights era1
$" .hile some might argue that racist media practices died with the end of the Bim 0row era& a few thousand
fol#s stranded for days on sweltering rooftops or in nec#!deep& toxic floodwater in the aftermath of (urricane
Katrina in 9;;? might disagree" .e now #now that many of the 9C8N news accounts of blac#!on!blac# sniper
attac#s& mass murders& and the rape of women and babies were largely unfounded" $s if stuc# in a 'ortex&
mainstream news outlets today still hea'ily focus on the negati'e aspects of $frican $merican life while
ignoring or downplaying our positi'e contributions and efforts"
P" Mou say that Blac# people are not dar#!s#inned white people" Lxplain"
$" Too often blac#s and whites li'e in different worlds" My point is that blac# $mericans& because of our
heritage and history& ha'e a uni*ue culture that could best be reached through strategies& words& and images
subtly or o'ertly related to those historical and cultural factors"
P" .hat are some of the lessons you learned about blac# $mericans during your tenure in the ad'ertising
$" Burrell 0ommunications% research of the N;s and 4;s showed that $frican $mericans ha'e distinct
psychosocial needs& desires& fears& hopes& and aspirations& all born of the circumstances arising from sla'ery and
a history of racial oppression" .e disco'ered& for example that/
Q Blac# preference for high!end status brands was dri'en by the need to compensate for feelings of low self!
Q )ur penchant for a lopsided spending8sa'ings ratio grew out of our need for immediate gratification& based on a
chilling pessimism about an uncertain future"
P" Aid the blac# pride feeling of the O;s and early N;s wea#en the Blac# Inferiority brand1
$" Mes and no" Auring that exciting time in our history& we paid lip ser'ice to being blac# and proud& but the
sudden con'ersion was not supported by the necessary psychological machinery to ma#e the change permanent"
L'en today& we ha'e no permanent cultural mechanisms to undo what a C;;!year mar#eting campaign has
P" (a'e you had first!hand experience with race!based inferiority issues1
$" I%'e experienced race!based lac# of self!esteem first!hand" It was not based solely on low income or poor
education" $s upwardly mobile as I was& that programmed sense of innate inferiority climbed e'ery rung of the
ladder of success right beside me" )'er time& I%'e learned that the root of the problem wasn%t what was being
done to meit was what I%d been brainwashed to belie'e about myself"
P" (ow does the election of President )bama impact the Blac# Inferiority campaign in $merica1
$" Images are powerful" De'er before has $merica seen a blac# man occupying the highest office in the land&
deli'ering the State of the Fnion address& drafting and promoting national policy& or disembar#ing from $ir
Force )ne with his blac# wife and daughters" From a mar#eting perspecti'e& this is powerful& life!altering stuff"
Barac# )bama& through intelligence& will& self!determination& and yes& not a small confluence of fa'orable
circumstances& may ha'e reached his Promised @and& but tragically too many blac# $mericans are still
wandering in the wilderness"
P" $re blac# $mericans finally ma#ing measurable progress in this country1
$" The Dational Frban @eague%s annual report& The State of Blac# $merica& presents some per'asi'e and
depressing themes/ social chaos& irresponsible spending& economic stagnation& and disproportionate death and
incarceration rates" Do matter what the category& blac#s statistically trail behind whites and other ethnicities& and
in some areas& such as educational achie'ement and o'erall life expectancy& our numbers are actually getting
P" Mour boo# stresses that whites as well as blac#s ha'e been influenced by the Blac# Inferiority campaign" If
that%s the case& why don%t you ha'e tools and8or suggestions to help whites o'ercome this toxic mindset1
$" My expertise is with $frican $mericansour history& our moti'ators& and our beha'iors" I wouldn%t presume
to offer effecti'e solutions to counteract the effects of brainwashing on whites and other ethnic groups" (owe'er&
I submit that positi'e propaganda& li#e negati'e propaganda& has the potential to not only change how we see
oursel'es& but how others 'iew our race" I want to be a part of a mo'ement that flips the script and promotes a
truer picture of our potential and our contributions to society"
P" .hat are some of the disturbing brainwash messages that blac# adults often unconsciously pass on to
$" $t a 'ery young age& blac# men and women are inundated with messages that they cannot trust or depend
upon one another" 0hildren hear comments and 7o#es about la,y& greedy& irresponsible& or otherwise flawed blac#
adults" They are warned to be tough& trust no one& and always& always be prepared for the doomed relationship" It
is not really a re'elation that incompatibility& lac# of lo'e& and oftentimes 'iolence become the ine'itable
conclusions of these tainted indi'iduals% relationships"
P" .hat messages dominate media portrayals of blac# men1
$" The message that blac# men are $merica%s demons is peddled relentlessly on the nightly news and crime
shows and through entertainment media" Through slic# propaganda& the criminal code of respect is now regarded
as a blac# thing" These messages hit blac# boys e'erywhereon the bas#etball court& in the schoolyard& and
when they gather on the street" Degati'e media reinforcements not only influence how cops& 7udges& employers&
and others 'iew blac# males& they affect how young blac#s 'iew themsel'es"
P" .hy should we care about the contro'ersial image of DB$ star @eBron Bames loo#ing King Kong!li#e&
posing with a white model on the co'er of Hogue1
$" The reason we should care about @eBron%s image is the same reason we should care about the image of Tiger
.oods on the February 9;3; co'er of Hanity Fair maga,ine" In framing Bames as King Kong and .oods in the
classic Boy, %D the (ood pose& Hogue& which reaches 3"9 million readers a month and Hanity Fair& perpetuated
one of the most enduring stereotypes of blac# sexualitythe Brute" Aepictions of @eBron as the modern!day
rendition of the brutish& ape!li#e menace and .oods& angry and muscled in a prison!yard pose& with the not!so!
subtle reminder that both men preyed on fair!s#inned maidens& do indeed matterespecially in a society still
fixated on warped& racial images of o'ersexed blac# men"
P" Mour boo# challenges the wor# of blac# entertainers such as Tyler Perry& Ste'e (ar'ey& @il% .ayne& and other
high!profile indi'iduals and organi,ations" Is it your intent to embarrass or chastise these indi'iduals1
$" Do& not at all" .e are all 'ictims of the o'erwhelming BI campaign" The idea is to challenge e'eryone&
including myself& to *uestion what we put out& what we ta#e in& and what influences we promote in our
communities and the wider world" If readers agree with the material I detail in the boo# then new awareness
must turn into conscious action"
P" Many of the successful blac#s entertainers ha'e helped extend what you call the BI brandrappers&
comedians& TH& films& and others" (ow do you feel about this1
$" In the boo#& I explain in great detail how many of us contribute and continue perpetrating stereotypes
de'eloped to fore'er #eep us branded as inferior" More important& howe'er& I explain the historical moti'ators
that cause us to respond to such disinformation negati'ely" I%m no position to condemn anyone" I%m a firm
belie'er that once we #now better& we will do better"
P" .hy do you feel blac# $merican unity is so important1
$" There%s strength in numbers" $frican $mericans share a legacy of resilience and strength but also a history of
understandable di'ision based on Blac# Inferiority conditioning" If we can unite around a 'ery basic but
necessary agenda of reprogramming oursel'es and promoting uplifting images and messages about oursel'es& I
belie'e we will ha'e finally laid a foundation for exponential progress" Instead of crabbin% and bac#stabbin%& this
generation can be the pioneers who pool their resources and talent& the generation that soars" This can be the
generation that says& Lnough" The master puppeteer will no longer pull our strings"
P" .hat%s the most important lesson you want readers to ta#e from Brainwashed1
$" More than anything& I want readers to understand the effects of a centuries!long propaganda campaign" I want
them to start scrutini,ing e'erything we see& hear& or say about $frican $mericans" I want us to hold oursel'es
accountable and reali,e that we all can play a part in flipping the propaganda script"
P" .hat is The -esolution Pro7ect1
$" I created the nonprofit -esolution Pro7ect in 9;;N with the goal of spar#ing intra!racial dialogue and sharing
ideas about ways we can challenge and change how we percei'e oursel'es" Brainwashed is the pro7ect%s first
tangible product" )ur tas# from here forward is to create a coalition of engaged citi,ens dedicated to using
positi'e propaganda to eradicate negati'e images and replace them with a bombardment of positi'e words and
P" .hat is the Flip the Script2Stop the Brainwash competition1 .ho can enter and how1
$" In order to recruit e'angelists for positi'e propaganda& I established The -esolution Pro7ect& an organi,ation
dedicated to promoting community!based new media campaigns" )ne of The -esolution Pro7ect%s first acti'ities
will be to sponsor the 3st $nnual Flip the Script2Stop the Brainwash campaign" This worldwide competition
will honor the best positi'e propaganda campaigns in 'ideo& art& creati'e writing& poetry& music& and other media
based on a theme inspired by Brainwashed"

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