March 2, 2012

Old Enough to Know Better

I often joke about looking forward to my senior years because when you're a senior, you can get away with everything because: "you're old."  Like my dad. He was driving someplace and just decided to turn left. Out of the blue. No blinker. No courtesy "Sorry-I-forgot-to-blinker" wave to the poor soul behind us. Nothing. He just up and turned left. I said " really oughta use your blinker." And in that old southern man tone of his, he fanned me off and said "Girl, I'M OLD!" Evidently old people don't have to blinker. Guess I missed that lesson in driver's ed.

Then there was the gentleman with whom I chatted on a cruise. He mentioned being a WWII vet and I told that him my dad was also a WWII vet. He started reminiscing about the segregated troops, and offered an apology for using the term "black." He said he preferred saying "colored" because it doesn't sound bad like black does. Don't cringe; that's what black people were called back then and that was his comfort level. (Not to mention, that whole topic is a confusing one. Even I don't know what we're supposed to be calling ourselves these days, but that's a different talk show.)  Anyway, the point is that he wasn't being facetious, I wasn't offended and I don't expect him to change.  He's OLD.

But does being old afford a multi-billion dollar organization the same leeway?

Take McDonald's. They're 64. That's kind of oldish, right?  Diffference is that they've got all the marketing gurus, consumer surveys and probably wiretaps on all our phones. They've got the pulse of America.  They know what we want. How else can you explain the genius that is the Shamrock Shake? Or McRib? They're socially conscious.

Which is why I don't understand this.

It's At first I wanted to believe it was some national initiative to wear black for one year and proceeds would go to charity, but alas, no. is McDonald's online outreach to black people. No, I'm not misinterpreting it - just look at the georgous black family in that picture. Still don't believe me?
At McDonald's®, we believe that African-American culture and achievement should be celebrated 365 days a year — not just during Black History Month. That's the idea behind 
So create a separate website? What the what? That's as sensible as city planners who say that MLK and Ceasar Chevez were so important to all Americans that they rename streets after them...and then those streets only span the black and Latino neighborhoods. I don't know...if I had McDonald's kind of money and influence and saw a flawed national history curriculum, and knew I had marketing geniuses at my beck and call to sell it, I'd buy some people, have them create a McDonald's history curriculum that's inclusive of all ethnicities and implement it in school districts.

Then for everyone who doubts that McDonald's is "rooted in the community" like the "African Baobab tree" (seriously, they say that on the website), they let the "real" people talk.

Hey, McDonald's [with megaphone] We can see through that!  [megaphone down, in a polite whisper] It's kind of um...patronizing. Who did you consult about this whole thing anyway? At a time when you're being attacked from all sides about your food's nutritional value (especially as it relates to certain communities), not to mention the tone and timber of the country's racial, ethnic and political landscape -- do you really think a separate website is the way to cultivate inclusion?

If I was McDonald's and wanted to ensure a certain demographic felt included, I'd save myself the money on creating a slick a new website and just include them as models on my fancy existing website. Then when I was producing my quarterly (semi-quarterly, weekly or whatever it is) new commercials, I'd make sure that demographic was represented in them and run the commercials on all networks -- not just specific networks or programming geared toward that particular demographic.  I'd even make sure music accompanying those commercials wasn't the stereotypical music associated with that demographic.

Meh...what do I know.

What I know is this: old people deserve a pass on blinkering, left-handed compliments, calling me Rachel instead of Rochelle and being politically incorrect because they've paid their dues. Life is hard. They've gone through its hills and valleys and have the gray hairs and wrinkles to prove it. They have a wisdom I wish I could bottle. So yeah. Seniors get a pass.

But McDonalds? Come on...they're old enough to know better.

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