arby's and racism

in this day and age i am amazed at the lack of respect there is for racial groups - how the stereo-types are played to on the tv and in advertising in general - for me, the latest is the new arby's tv ad [created by merkley and partners, which is owned by the "omnicom group" ] - the one where monkey's preform a traditional irish step dance to traditional irish music.

you see, this is hard for me because over the past the irish had been viewed as being closer to monkey's then to humans; they were called a "simian race" or a "simian people" - through out recent history cartoonists would portray the irish as having "monkey features" - at one time they were thought to be "hairless monkey's" - not too long ago in our history there were signs on business saying "help wanted, irish need not apply." while the irish, as a group, have made some fantastic strides in overcoming such ignorance, i am amazed that an ad agency would think such a display of racism would be funny. a tv commercial where monkey's step dance to irish music, seems a bit over the top - would they have thought about turning the station to a "traditional mexican" music station and have the monkey's dance a traditional mexican dance? how about with doing the same thing with hip-hop? i am not sure that would have gone beyond even a conversation; but to open old wounds and do something as insulting as showing "monkey's acting irish" seems all right in their eyes.

what i find interesting about this, is that when i contacted arby's about it - they were sorry, but they could not see what i was talking about. in fact, everyone said they never heard anything like this before and no one ever heard of "irish need not apply." for some, the response was one of "surprise" that any irish person would have contacted them and thought it was insulting - the assumption was that the irish are a "humorous group" and "good natured" so they were confused that i would even take the time to call.

well, you eat where you desire - as for me and my irish-self - i think arby's is not even on my list.


Katherine said...

I also sent Arby's a complaint about the same add campaign. It is insulting and demeaning and should be dropped immediately. I have not yet heard from them but they will be hearing from me again and again until this ad campaign is dropped and a full apology offered to the Irish people.

Thank you for your blog on this topic.

gysmo1 said...

I see absoloutly no reason what so ever to be quick to jump to racism. It is quite sad that there is a lack humor in this world today. Every little thing is racism. Racism should not apply to anything. No one would care about racism if there were not any boundries. Its a decent commercial and nothing should be done with it. Go buy a ruben now.

TayTimes said...

yeah, I agree with the above comment. Relax man... life is too short to get all worked up over something so trivial...

if you're dead set on finding racism in something you'll find racism in everything.


Marc St Aubin du Cormier said...

I just found this website as I am deeply offended by this commercial and sought out if others had been offended as well.

Anyone versed in the history if Ireland knows full well how those intent on portraying the Irish as subhuman often published cartoons with ape-like Irish caricatures -

Ref : http://chnm.gmu.edu/exploring/19thcentury/alienmenace/pop_inhuman.html

Eaamon said...

I thought I was the only one who noticed this ad.

I said to my husband immediately. "That's so horribly racist! But who else will know (other than the ad execs) that's how they portrayed the Irish."

You'll find this kind of slur and attacks disguised as "cutesy" editorials and cartoons far back in time when America's great cities such as Boston, Chicago and New York were being built on the backs of immigrants such as the Irish.

Many people don't get the fact that because most Irish people "look white", that they were treated horribly by other whites.

The Irish were persecuted, killed, left to starve and a myriad of other atrocities because of their racial heritage.

Racial heritage and racism is not always about color is more about cultural roots.

I did a documentary http://www.thedirtydish.com on black and white women focusing on racial discussion and views-

In one taping we had asked the women to look at drawings and artwork from magazines such as Harpers Bazaar and newspapers from the 1800s. Not one white or black women knew what they were looking at.

When they found out they were cartoons of the Irish made to look like simple minded, lurching apes, these women were shocked to find out this sort of racism existed.

One article even referred to the Irish as "N---ers turned inside out".

This commerical is offensive.

Someone is the advertising executive does know the history of the Irish.

To say they don't is a lie...

mangland said...

This has to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! This ad was was clearly not meant to be racist! It was meant to be funny! I thnik that is what it is! The whole ad is centered around the sandwich. The sandwich is so good that they don't notice something so bizare as monkeys dancing! Quit trying trying to find the negative in everything and just enjoy life! The ad was meant to be funny and just that. People like you is what's wrong with the world today. And oh yea I am from irish decent and I do know about the history that irish people have been thru, but thru the entire ad I never seen a sign that said " irish need not apply"! If you must have something to fuss about try picking something with some meaning. Instead of starting blogs like this start one for our troups over seas telling them thanks for keeping you free!

Maureen Hurley said...

What was Arby's thinking? Did Arby's mean to offer up such an overt racist slur upon both those us of of Irish and and of African American descent? If they knew their history, surely they'd be aware that this ad might be offensive to Irish Americans.

db said...

That's some serious fishing you're doing here. I mean- you're obviously dead-set on finding the offensive lining in the cloud. You even looked past the sterotypical scientist portrayal (smart Indian guy and "unattractive female so she must be a scientist")to go after your delusion of racism against...the Irish of all things? On the basis of what? The music used therein? So if they played hip-hop, would it be white supremacist? If Klezmer music came out of the radio, would it be anti-semitic? Find a better outlet for your energy, man. I'm mighty Irish...I saw the commercial...and laughed right into my pint.

pthetic said...

you guys are pathetic. Are you really complaning about a commercial? there are people being raped and murder and starving to death all over the world, and you pantys are in a bunch over a commercial? you guys really need help. really, people like you need to stop taking everything so personal and stop thinking everything is a racial atack and stop being so selfcenterd

john o'keefe said...

we are amazed at how many just miss the boat on this - so sad :)

Brian said...


I came across your page and thought that you might be interested in Arby's Rescue Brigade Video Contest. Not only does the winner recieve a $1500 gift card to Arby's, but they also get to star in an upcomming Arby's commercial!!!
Check out the official website www.rescuebrigadeaudition.com,

Just as a heads up, the deadline is June 30th!

Good Luck!!!