At this point it’s all routine. Some White person at some corporate office or police department sends an e-mail or starts a social media thread featuring dumb, paranoid anti-Black jokes about, like, monkey Obama and/or ghetto trash.
Somehow, say in a U.S. Department of Justice report or through Black Twitter sleuthing, the jokes and the jokester’s identity become public. The funny guy gets fired, "resigns" or "retires," and his former employer apologizes to "those who were offended" without actually calling what happened racism (because, lawsuits). We never hear from the ex-employee again because he’s quietly getting his job back or using his full pension to open a bar in The Bahamas.
This brings us to Jim Houck a former executive creative director for the Campbell Ewald advertising firm. Last week Adweek’s Agency Spy blog received a leaked copy of a racist e-mail Houck sent to his San Antonio-based staff back in October. According to Agency Spy, Houck, who is White, has held "top creative roles at Saatchi & Saatchi, CP+B and SapientNitro and worked as a freelancer with TBWA, FCB and Deutsch (among others)."
That’s why I’m so flabbergasted by his poor execution of office racism. Check out this excerpt of what was an otherwise standard e-mail Houck wrote and sent to his staff:
Also please share with the teams that today is officially Ghetto Day in the SA, and we’re inviting our Big D homebitches to cycle in and pop a freak with us.
Ghetto music, Malt 45s at lunch, ghetto terminology, and of course, drugs and prostitution are legal all day until close of business. Word, my cerebral gangsters.
I’m hurt and confused by a lot of this material. For starters, what is a "homebitch"? Is this like a gang thing?
And when Houck says they’re inviting "Big D homebitches" to "cycle in" and "pop a freak with us," is the freak, a champagne bottle or someone from a rival set getting popped?
And "Malt 45s"?! Clearly, Houck was implying that 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor are still en vogue with the Blacks, but I think he meant to write Colt 45. Which is also wrong. Old English "800" was the brand leader of 40s in the early ’90s when people proudly and publicly drank them. Colt 45 was not relevant unless you were stopping by Billy Dee Williams’s crib to nuzzle his taupe and ivory cashmere sweater.
The worst part of Houck’s communique isn’t his bizarre dialect, though. No, the worst part is how he says that drugs and prostitution are "legal all day until close of business." That is criminally redundant. This ad-man can’t even speak that good White-people English.
Anyway, according to a press statement from Campbell Ewald CEO Jim Palmer that Agency Spy posted last week, the Ghetto Day debacle was "in no way reflective of who we are as an agency and what we stand for." He added that the company "addressed this matter very seriously when it happened back in October" and that it "sincerely apologizes" to "those that were hurt and offended by this language."
OK, but an unnamed source at Campbell Ewald told Agency Spy that Houck was fired four months after sending the racist e-mail. In other words, January.
Palmer himself was fired last Friday, presumably after failing to salvage the firm’s relationship with USAA, a financial services company for members of the military. Campbell Ewald lost the multimillion dollar account the same day.
I haven’t seen any comment from Houck. But if "homebitch" is the closest he could get to anti-Black stereotyping, he never should have been allowed to work in advertising in the first place.
I just hope this incident sends a strong message to all of the creatives out there who can’t not put racist hostility cloaked in lolz into their office communication. Don’t be the idiot who gets fired and reveals that he shares aesthetic sensibilities with Rappin’ Karl Rove.