I saw a commercial on TV last night for Start-Up NY, which, as its website explains, “is a groundbreaking new initiative from [New York] Governor Andrew M. Cuomo that will provide major incentives for businesses to relocate, start up or significantly expand in New York State….”
The commercial is much like Texas Governor Rick Perry’s commercials that played in Maryland a few months ago to encourage entrepreneurial Marylanders to move to tax-friendly Texas.
I had a suspicion that this Start-Up NY commercial had the approval of Governor Cuomo, who does not appear in the commercial, because of its aggressive attempt to be subtle in its emphasis on diversity, which seemed to me an odd focal point for a commercial trying to encourage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in NY. What does diversity have to do with entrepreneurship?
The 30-second spot shows people going about their business at mostly blue-collar jobs.
The commercial played through, and by the end of it I had a strange feeling. So I rewound (“And after resting, God created the DVR”) and watched the commercial again. Here’s what I noticed upon second viewing:
- An Asian woman in what looked like a science lab of some sort
- A white man and an Asian man walking down a factory corridor
- A black man posting something on a bulletin board in the foreground, with four people of what looked like different races in the blurred background. But they’re not the focus of the shot; the focus is the black man in the business suit
- Three white men, all with their backs to the camera (you can see the sides of the faces from the back, and that’s how you know they’re white)
- A white man and a white woman, but the white man is quickly panned away from and kept partially obscured by the framing of the shot so that the camera focuses on the woman cutting a red ribbon
- Two unidentifiable men stacking tires in the distance; they’re silhouetted, so their identities are unknown
- A black or possibly Hispanic man in some other factory setting
- Two white women smiling
- An Asian man smiling
- A white man smiling
- An Asian woman and a black man walking along a catwalk in an industrial environment
- A white woman in what looks like a bicycle shop
- A Middle-Eastern or Indian woman in a retail store
Here’s the tally: Two Asian males, two Asian females; four black males, though possibly three if the questionable one is Hispanic; four white women; one Middle-Eastern or Indian woman; six white males.
The white males made up 31.5 percent of the people in the commercial. But three of them were only seen with their backs to the camera, and another was partially obscured by the camera’s frame so as to focus on the white woman next to him. So that makes two white males who were represented in a manner equal to the other races and genders in the commercial.
The messaging of the commercial is, “Yeah, we have white males here in New York, but it’s not one of our proud points. Look at all the other demographics we have!”
I’m not personally offended as a white man, but I am ideologically offended as a member of the Right. Governor Andrew Cuomo made remarks about two weeks ago stating that conservatives “have no place in the state of New York….” Inasmuch as conservatism goes hand-in-hand with masculinity and whiteness (after all, our Founders were white males and most prominent conservatives throughout history were white males), this commercial makes that point very clear. You can watch it here.