Two black pastors decided to sue Coca-Cola because they said the company’s marketing campaigns were racist. Coca-Cola decided to fight back and responded with just four simple words. The only question is, are they right?
Delman Coates, the pastor at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, in Clinton, Maryland, and William Lamar, the senior pastor at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, became furious with the Coca-Cola company after they noticed a “racist” trend in their advertising.
According to Coates and Lamar, both Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association are dangerously and purposely deceiving the public about sugar-sweetened beverages and their impact on health, putting minorities at risk. The two pastors were so adamant that both organizations were doing the black community wrong that they filed a lawsuit against them, CBS News reported.
“There’s an epidemic of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a range of other degenerative diseases in the black and Latino communities, and really throughout America,” Delman Coates claimed. “I see the toll it takes on families and children when they lose their parents much too soon.”
“It is a matter of life and death in our communities,” Lamar added, and he’s not completely wrong. Research has shown daily regular soda and fruit drink consumption was most common among black and Hispanic Americans, and studies have linked drinking sugary beverages to diabetes, heart disease, and higher death rates. Half of all African-Americans and 42 percent of Latinos are obese. Drinking soda from a young age was found to be “a particularly strong predictor” of a future higher body mass index (BMI) for young black children. But, is that all Coco-Cola’s fault?
According to the pastors, it is because Coke’s commercials often feature misleading images of young, slender people gulping the fizzy beverage, smiling and sharing good times. “It breaks my heart and I’m saddened by the way in which we’re losing so many people. I’m losing more people to the sweets than to the streets,” Delman Coates added, according to The Blaze. However, the pastors’ claims aren’t supported by available evidence. In fact, most surveys show people believe sugar to be harmful, but choose to consume it anyway, another article on The Blaze reported.
This hasn’t deterred the pastors from blaming the company, though. “Marketing for Coca-Cola is focused around health and fun and showing very sexy bodies in their advertising. You never see an obese person. If the people are consuming Coca-Cola at this rate, there is no way those bodies would look like that,” William Lamar claimed. “It’s almost as if they are selling joy. They are equating this product with the things that people are hoping for – joy, smiles, family. But, this product will not deliver that. It delivers the exact opposite. Silence around this issue is violence.”
The lawsuit claims the soda maker and beverage trade association have not only used deceptive marketing but also “sought deceptively to switch the focus from sugar-sweetened beverages to inactivity as the key driver of obesity and related epidemics, including through their expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars on research and programs that almost exclusively highlight exercise.”
“I’m deeply saddened by the way African-American slaves were used for the production of sugar and now African-Americans are dying because of sugar,” Delman Coates said, adding that trying to encourage the minority communities to live a healthier lifestyle is an uphill battle. “We are challenged by the messages they’re receiving from the beverage industry and companies like Coca-Cola,” he alleged.
“Our hope is that Coca-Cola will discontinue marketing these drinks as something that is healthful and healthy,” William Lamar said, but instead, Coca-Cola dismissed the pastors’ allegations, calling them “legally and factually meritless,” adding that they “will vigorously defend against them.”
“America’s beverage companies know we have an important role to play in addressing our nation’s health challenges. That’s why we’re engaging with health groups and community organizations to drive a reduction in the sugar and calories Americans get from beverages,” the American Beverage Association said in a statement defending the industry’s conduct. “Unfounded accusations like these won’t do anything to address health concerns, but the actions we’re taking, particularly in areas where obesity rates are among the highest, can make a difference.”
Whether you believe the soda company is misleading the public, calling their marketing “racist” actually prevents any meaningful conversation from occurring. There are a whole lot of white people in those ads, which are obviously aimed at anyone, regardless of skin color. Making this a race issue doesn’t do anyone any favors. Actually, that assertion by the pastors is racist in itself.
It’s as if they are saying blacks and Latinos are more susceptible to marketing influences than whites. I prefer to believe that we are all capable of having personal accountability and smart enough to know that the purpose of commercials is to make a product look good. Advertisements aren’t a study on the product’s risks and benefits — that research is up to us. And, all of us are able to inform ourselves and decide what we want to do, regardless of our race.