Political slogans have long been an effective tool in galvanizing supporters, energizing the candidates and for providing material to flaunt on t-shirts, bumper stickers and yard signs.
Who could ever forget the efficient and economical usage of the nebulous phrase “Yes, we can” by Mein Obama in 2008. This three word slogan became a rallying cry for people the nation over, reducing many who yelled the catchphrase at rallies to whimpering and uncontrollable snobs.
To this day, no one is quite sure what “Yes, we can” actually refers to or what answering in the affirmative to accomplished.
An article from Businessweek (before Bloomberg bought it) rated some of the best slogans of all-time:
Ad slogans have been wrongly trivialized in the modern era, says Cone, who studied slogans going well back into the 19th century for his forthcoming book,Powerlines: Words That Sell Brands, Grip Fans, and Sometimes Change History (Bloomberg Press). In almost every case, the candidate with the best written slogan in the election went onto the White House.
• Dwight Eisenhower had "I Like Ike," vs. "The Experienced Candidate" for Adlai Stevenson.
• Lyndon Johnson had "All the Way with LBJ," while Barry Goldwater went with, "In Your Heart, You Know He's Right."
• Franklin Roosevelt had "Happy Days Are Here Again," while Al Smith campaigned on the leaden, "Honest. Able. Fearless."
Looking at political slogans as advertising and marketing is the proper way to evaluate and differentiate campaigns, working primarily as a pitch to attract a viable and potential consumer to invest time and eventually a vote for your candidate.
In an age when individuals of the caliber of Corrine Brown and Hank Johnson have graced the hallowed corridors where the US Congress congregates as elected officials (ostensibly thanks to campaign slogans that resonated with their constituency), one must express shock that the life-affirming principles expounded in the catchphrase “Yes, we can” were mendaciously stated.
For “Yes, we can” is a phrase Ieshuh Griffin found flatly and patently incorrect when attempting to register her political slogan with Wisconsin state election officials:
State elections officials Wednesday narrowly rejected a Milwaukee Assembly candidate's attempt to run with the slogan "NOT the 'whiteman's bitch' " under her name on the ballot.
Ieshuh Griffin, an independent candidate with a history of feuds with local officials, said in response she would sue the state Government Accountability Board for infringing on her freedom of speech.
She is running to replace retiring Rep. Annette "Polly" Williams (D-Milwaukee).
"I'm not making a derogatory statement toward an ethnic group. I'm stating what I'm not," Griffin told board members. "It's my constitutional right to freedom of speech."
Unlike candidates from the established Democratic and Republican parties, independents are allowed a five-word statement of purpose on the ballot to explain to voters what their candidacy is about.
Shane Falk, a staff attorney for the Accountability Board, said that the board had the ability to restrict obscene or derogatory candidate statements from the ballot.
The board staff ruled that the statement was derogatory and should not be allowed. With one member absent, the board voted 3-2 in favor of reversing that ruling and allowing the wording. Under state law, however, four votes are needed for the board to act.
As a result, the staff decision stands, and Griffin will be on the ballot with "independent" by her name and nothing else. Falk noted that Griffin was still free to use the phrase in her campaign literature and any ads she might run.
The board, which administers state election laws, consists of six former judges. All of them are white.
This is not the first time that Griffin has been critical of a government action.
She said the same thing in May 2007 of a decision by a Milwaukee County circuit judge who found her sister, April Griffin, in contempt of court and jailed her for refusing to tell authorities where to find her son in a custody dispute case that received national attention…
Williams, who is retiring after 30 years in the Assembly, said she learned of the phrase Ieshuh Griffin wanted to use when her constituents mentioned seeing it on her nomination papers.
"That phrase kind of threw them," said Williams, who is African-American. "They were just kind of surprised. . . . I think most of the people would feel kind of offended by that."
Board member Thomas Barland, who voted to allow Griffin to make the statement, disagreed.
"She says a lot in five words," Barland said of Griffin. "It wasn't pornographic. It wasn't obscene, and I didn't interpret it as racial."
Donald Downs, a free speech expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said approving the ballot language would have made it difficult to reject a hypothetical case in which a white candidate said he was not beholden to the "black man." He said that the board was probably within its rights to restrict the speech because the ballot was, in a sense, "providing a platform" for Griffin.
"I don't think they're out of the ballpark," Downs said of the board. "Because of the special context, the government is going to have more of a say in what's said."
“Not the whiteman’s bitch” is a slogan and catchphrase Black people can rally around. Poetic, encouraging and a determinedly positive message that echo’s with rugged defiance, Ieshuh’s slogan represents the attitude of women who are habitually passed over for roles in Hollywood and worse, increasingly by members of their own race.
Though it speaks to an individuality few could ever hope to proclaim, Ieshuh’s message is a collective battle-cry for all Black people and will hopefully become a phrase that unites a community in desperate need for authentic leadership in the unceasing conflict with Pre-Obama America.
Sadly, slogans also are connected with events and organizations and the Indiana Black Expo (IBE) recently witnessed an exasperating rejection of its motto: “Celebrating 40 years of culture, heritage and community.”
Last weekend, while Ieshuh Griffin was busy coming up ways to market her slogan – “Not the Whiteman’s bitch” – so that she could reap its divisive nature by pandering to elements in Milwaukee and ensure her election, the IBE was beset with problems that showcase the fractured nature of a culture long thought to be monolithic, but increasingly fragmented:
Indianapolis - Mayor Greg Ballard says he's outraged at shooting attacks which left ten people wounded during the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration.
Ballard and other leaders held a news conference Sunday to talk about the three attacks, none of which happened at Expo events themselves.
"This incident, I want everybody to understand, does not define the Summer Celebration. It does not define Black Expo, it does not define the City of Indianapolis, nor the African-American community in Indianapolis," Ballard said.
Clergy called for parents to get in the game, police say they were doing their job and organizers of Summer Celebration said they were tired of defending the actions of a few.
"I am sick and tired of us making excuses for some of our young people," said a clergy member.
Those speaking at the Sunday press conference at the Artsgarden, over the scene of one of the shootings, are looking for answers. Not just the arrest of the person or persons who fired the shots into a crowd Saturday night, but how to keep this kind of violence out of Indiana Black Expo's Summer Celebration.
"Because, at the end of the day, we still have to make sure we are providing options of our youth and I think if Indiana Black Expo did not provide things like the celebrity basketball game or other youth events, it would probably be a worse problem," said Tanya Bell, the president and chief operating officer of Indiana Black Expo.
The shooting is a punctuation mark on the 40-year history of Summer Celebration. The final Saturday of the nine-day event is unofficially called "Second Saturday" and is an increasing thorn in the side of organizers and police.
"This is not the first incident that has occurred downtown during one of our events," said Bell.
In past years, hundreds of teenagers have been picked up for curfew violations and the night is often shattered with gunfire and crowds running for cover.
"Let's not ignore the bigger, deeper, critical and urgent issue that plagues black families and that black-on-black crime, when did it get to the point that our babies can pull the trigger without a conscious, while innocent lives are in harm's way and police officers are standing nearby," said Bell.
For police, the first order of business is capturing those responsible for the shootings.
"We know who the shooter is. We have the shooter on film. We have the incident on film and we will bring the shooter to justice," said Straub.
Bringing those responsible to justice is just one piece of the puzzle the group is charged to assemble. The other is to convince the community that Summer Celebration is safe.
"We need to deal with the real issues. Some of our kids are out of control, some of our kids are rude, bad, they don't care how they talk to people, they disrespect authority and they don't respect property or life and some of our kids are violent," said Reverend Charles Harrison.
No one in the group is offering any immediate solutions. Bell said she needs some time to look things over.
The nations coloring book masquerading as a newspaper, The USA Today, buried the story of the misfortunate events at the IBE exp, but did publish this fascinating quotation:
"We have to be mad as hell about this," said Charles Harrison, a United Methodist pastor who was standing a few feet from where the first shootings occurred. "This incident we cannot tolerate in our community."
Slogans are wonderful things, summing up in few words what the candidate or group stands for and works to unite people of disparate backgrounds behind a common flag.
“Not the whiteman’s bitch” is as straightforward, daring and bold a slogan one could dare conjure and use to raise brand awareness. Unfortunately, the events at the IBE conference in Indianapolis over July 18-19 tarnished the unifying slogan that erroneously is utilized by members of that organization.
Slogans come to define an organization, a person, an organization or an entire corporations marketing strategy (365 Black at McDonald’s) and when these fail to live up to the hype that surrounds them, the person or group espousing such claims appears to have engaged in blatant false advertising.
The IBE failed to live up to their profound slogan of celebrating community at their annual event in Indy, although some could argue that a celebration of culture was on full-display.
Slogans must be authentic and if they fail to “keep it real” then they fall prey to the pitfalls of false advertising and will need re-branding. “Not the whiteman’s bitch” is one of the most pronounced, effective and honest campaign slogans of all-time, conversely the slogan by the IBE has been shown to be demonstrably false.
“Yes, we can”… as long as you aren’t the whiteman’s bitch.
Stuff Black People Don’t Like… actually, we’re speechless. A tale of two cities, Milwaukee and Indianapolis, are home to two intriguing examples of sloganeering gone wrong.
Yes, for Milwaukee - named for an Indian term meaning "The good land" - is now land where people who were once the whiteman's bitch roam free.
Video of Ieshuh Griffin can be found here.
And Indianapolis is home to the same type of broken community that no amount of sloganeering can hide. Chicago and Birmingham have the same problem too. Newark and Baltimore as well.
It should be noted both of these cities mentioned are two of the whitest big cities in America. The best of times, the worst times... you decide.