You know how sometimes you see something and you just cringe and wonder how, how, something made it into the public sphere? Paul Fidalgo, of Near Earth Object, took a photo of this display illustrating the career ladder at McDonald’s. The display provides a rather unintended commentary on race and corporate hierarchies in general:

I suppose I should be happy, as the sky appears to be the limit for White women like me on the Ladder of Whiteness.

I was doing some googling, looking for data on the racial diversity of McDonald’s employees, since the company has touted itself as a leader in providing career opportunities to women and underrepresented minorities. I’m always surprised how corporations that carefully guard their brand in other ways, and talk about diversity issues, often seem to drop the ball when it comes to thinking about the cultural politics of representations of race and ethnicity in their materials.

[UPDATE: A number of commenters argue that McDonald’s has a better record on promoting women and minorities than most corporations. I’m not trying to argue there that they don’t — I was trying to find some data on their employees because I’ve also heard they stand out, as far as corporate America goes. That’s why I found the display surprising, as opposed to perhaps predictable.]

So anyway, my online search led me to 365Black, the website McDonald’s set up to appeal to African Americans:

Ok…uh, sure. Just exactly like the baobab tree.

I’d seen 365Black before — readers have sent it in, and we just couldn’t think of much to say so we’ve never posted about it. But then my googling took me to MeEncanta, the McDonald’s page for the Latino community. They offer this sticker (i.e., instruct you to download the image and print it on sticky-backed paper) to show off your Latin pride:


And finally I arrived at Myinspirasian, which targets Asian Americans. On the page about Asian Pacific American Heritage Month they include information about contributions by Asian Pacific Americans, such as this:

Multimedia creations inspired by Asian Pacific Americans are the latest rage among kids, teens and young adults of all ages. The multimedia creations offer a variety of the trendiest ways to receive news, information, entertainment and services using the worldwide web.

No specifics are given, so you’ll have to figure out what these mysterious “multimedia creations” are. Also, “they have become household names in a host of sporting activities,” though apparently not the type of household names where McDonald’s could actually name one. The entire section is similarly vapid, completely lacking in anything other than non-specific statements that Asian Pacific Americans have, like, done stuff, and things. It reminded me of some of the very superficial celebrations of Black History Month we’ve seen.

But if you want, you can take the Asian Phrases Challenge, where you can hear various phrases spoken in either Mandarin or Cantonese, Filipino/Taglish, Indian/Hinglish, or Korean:

I’m not sure what the “challenge” aspect is, since it doesn’t do anything but play the phrases.

I just…I don’t know. You decide to make webpages entirely devoted to a particular demographic and this is the best you can do? And do these types of marketing projects actually work?


For more, see our previous post showing how people of color are subordinated visually in advertising materials.