Black Culture, Inc.
How Ethnic Community Support Pays for Corporate America
Patricia A. Banks


Contents and Abstracts
1 Diversity Capital
chapter abstract

Chapter 1 introduces and elaborates the concept of diversity capital by placing it within the social science literatures on corporate philanthropy and sponsorships, race and cultural capital, and racial image management by corporations. It argues that ethnic community support is a form of diversity capital for businesses. By being a vehicle through which companies project an image of being inclusive and equitable, ethnic community support is a cultural practice that aligns with corporate interests. This insight not only deepens understanding of corporate philanthropy and sponsorships, but it advances theory on race and cultural capital. Although there is growing research on Black cultural capital as a practice that signals Black identity, this scholarship focuses on individuals.

2 The Racial Return
chapter abstract

Chapter 2 investigates corporate philanthropy and sponsorships at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Analyzing major corporate gifts and sponsorships at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), it shows how corporate patrons use diversity framing in owned and paid media around their support to make the case that they value inclusion and are connected and committed to African Americans. In a sharp departure from ethnic Smithsonian museums, gifts to majority museums at the complex, such as the National Museum of American History and the National Air and Space Museum, are less often used to make claims about corporate diversity. Conceptually, this chapter extends theory on Black cultural capital from individuals to organizations. Practically, it illustrates how in exchange for providing money to support national patrimony, corporations receive the benefit of improving their image.

3 Racism Rehab
chapter abstract

Chapter 3 puts a spotlight on the commodification of symbols linked to Black freedom movements by examining the case of Denny's support of the National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM). Through the lens of this partnership, this chapter examines how Black community support is used by businesses to manage racial image crises. The soiled racial image of Denny's dates to the early 1990s when the company was accused of discriminating against Black customers. In 2002, Denny's was still addressing the aftermath of the discrimination claims and gave a large donation to NCRM. PR and advertising around the donation constructed an image of the company as a champion of diversity. While anti-discrimination laws and shifts in social norms championing diversity mean that it is in the interests of all corporations to project a diverse image, it is of the utmost importance for companies that have undergone a racial image crisis.

4 Cultivating Consumers
chapter abstract

Chapter 4 turns attention to Big Tobacco. Close to 85 percent of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes as opposed to less than one-third of white smokers. The higher rate of menthol cigarette use among Black smokers is partly attributable to targeted advertising in the Black media. However, the role of the Black media in promoting menthol cigarettes in editorial pages has been largely overlooked. Examining the case of the Kool Jazz Festival, a music concert sponsored by the tobacco company Brown & Williamson (B&W) in the 1970s and 1980s, this chapter outlines how advertisements, along with editorial content in Black newspapers, promoted menthol cigarettes to African Americans.

5 The Party of the Year
chapter abstract

Chapter 5 takes a close look at the Essence Festival. While it is well recognized that the event draws major corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and AT&T because of the opportunity to market to Black consumers, less is known about the specific processes through which businesses engage eventgoers at the festival. Drawing on observations at the Essence Festival, along with various texts related to the event, this chapter outlines the mechanisms through which Black consumers become engaged with brands at the festival. Building on research on the ways that music influences action, consciousness, and emotion, it outlines how popular R&B, hip hop, and gospel music played in the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center draws festivalgoers to corporate booths where they are exposed to corporate branding.

6 Gospel and the Golden Arches
chapter abstract

Chapter 6 examines the fast food industry. Despite growing warnings that fast food is harmful to health, it remains popular among diners in the United States, especially African Americans. To cast light on the role of cultural sponsorships in marketing fast food to Black diners, this chapter goes inside the Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour. This annual gospel concert, which is sponsored by fast food giant McDonald's, travels to different cities across the United States. Drawing on participant observation at the event, along with PR texts, such as press releases and online postings, this chapter outlines how this gospel music sponsorship conveys an image of McDonald's as Black and sacred to African American consumers.

7 #AfropunkWeSeeYou
chapter abstract

Chapter 7 explores how consumers co-create the racial images of companies that sponsor Black cultural events by examining corporate portraiture at Afropunk, a music festival featuring Black punk musicians. At Afropunk and other Black music festivals, corporate sponsors host photo booths where concertgoers can memorialize their time at the event. The booths are typically highly designed and feature branding such as company logos. Concertgoers are encouraged to post the photos to their social media accounts using special corporate hashtags. In playing this role, festivalgoers are engaging in a process of prosumption promotion whereby as prosumers—or, those who both produce and consume goods and services like social media—they are creating content that generates awareness and enhances the images of businesses.

8 Branding Diversity
chapter abstract

The concluding chapter brings together the book's main arguments and highlights contributions to the scholarship on cultural capital and the literature on corporate philanthropy and sponsorships. In particular, this chapter highlights how by shifting the unit of analysis of theory on race and cultural capital from individuals to organizations and developing the concept of diversity capital, Black Culture, Inc. offers a richer understanding of the racial image management of businesses. The conclusion also outlines directions for future research on ethnic community support and sketches how the concept of diversity capital offers insight for understanding corporate support of Asian, Native American, and Latinx culture.