Thursday, March 12, 2009

Class Three: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Organizations That Promote Racial Equality

When I began to write this post, I was talking with my beloved husband. He reminded me of a public service announcement from the seventies. It memorably conveyed the notion of wasted opportunities to cure disease and make peace because of racial prejudice. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I hereby present the 1972 ad from the United Negro College Fund.

Even if you'd never seen that particular ad before, you probably remember the slogan "A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste." It summarizes the concept beautifully, I think. UNCF did other commercials on that same theme. You can watch a few of them here, here, and here. Some of their recent ads are on their site here. The Ad Council talks about the campaign here.

Do you think one is more effective or moving than others? Why?

Slight diversion:
There's a great article in Columbia Journalism Review about how Dan Quayle mangled the slogan. For some weird reason, I can't get a direct URL or find it on their site, but I was able to call up the cached version here. It's worth your time. Written in 1991 by William Boot, (the pen name of Christopher Hanson, Washington correspondent for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) the article explains:

When he addressed the United Negro College Fund, whose slogan is "A mind is a terrible thing to waste," Quayle said: ". . . you take the United Negro college fund model that what a waste it is to lose one's mind or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." The New York Times (June 25, 1989) and at least forty other publications picked up that remark.
Quayle's mangled speech has haunted him for decades. There's even a book entitled What a Waste It Is to Lose One's Mind: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Dan Quayle.

But I digress. The topic of politicians who verbally stumble could be an entire course.

UNCF is one organization that's sought to overcome the harmful effects of racial prejudice. Another is NAACP - National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The ACLU has its own Racial Justice Program. A google search for the term racial justice groups yields
3,190,000 results.

What racial justice groups have you encountered? Are they effective? Are their efforts still needed today?

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