Communicating With Minorities

HOW do you reach the black man and other minorities? Are today's methods compatible with today's madness? Must we take the time and energy to develop "separate but equal" methods and materials to reach different audiences one black, one brown, one white, perhaps one even red, and later on one yellow? What is the church's responsibility in mass communication? What should we do today and tomorrow, and will we have to change again?

-Public Relations Secretary, South Atlantic Conference, at the time this article was written

HOW do you reach the black man and other minorities? Are today's methods compatible with today's madness? Must we take the time and energy to develop "separate but equal" methods and materials to reach different audiences one black, one brown, one white, perhaps one even red, and later on one yellow? What is the church's responsibility in mass communication? What should we do today and tomorrow, and will we have to change again?

These are a few of the questions that currently require an answer. And the demand is pressing because of the shortness of time in which to reach the masses of the unreached and unsaved. In this article we shall limit our discussion to the racial minorities. However, it would be well to remember that we have a responsibility to all minorities cultural as well as racial, the neglected whites as well as the wall-streeted few.

To say that anyone can look future-wise and direct the feet of the church in the area of mass communication is wishful thinking. Doing so would save time and money, but with communication mass-media style (radio, TV, newspaper, literature) you are perhaps wiser to cross tomorrow's bridges when you arrive there. Nevertheless, we can direct our attention to present issues. We can clearly see what presently is effective and what cannot be only ineffective but clearly unwise and wasteful in reaching any minority market.

The world may be likened to the vast ocean, its people likened to the variety of fish found therein. A wise and successful fisherman fishes for different kinds of fish with different kinds of bait. He must know his fish. He must be acquainted with bait. As with fishing so with reaching people. There must be different bait for different fish.

Our analogy ends here simply because we are seeking to reach complex society as compared to not-so-complex fish. And our first lesson would teach that when seeking to reach minorities, minorities should be used. Their voice, their face, their mind, their pen, must be employed to reach their kind.

In light of today's emotions it is offensive to minorities to be taken for granted. Even the advertising world has found that in many areas it is easier to reach the $500 billion white market by programming to the $40 billion black market first. You have heard, I am sure, the voices of blacks singing those swinging commercials. And big business has learned hard the lessons of black involvement in reaching 'black markets. Those who can identify succeed. Those who exist as in yesteryear beat the air and wonder why they are not reaching.

Are All People Alike?

But you ask, Are not all people generally alike? All are created from one blood. All have the basic fundamental drives. All breathe and bleed, breed and die. But not all have been motivated by the same environmental forces. All do not respond emotionally the same way to the same thing. For example, if the same financial stress were placed on the shoulders of two men, generally equal men--one black, the other white--it could drive our white brother to suicide, our black brother--well, he possibly would get drunk.

Different bait for different fish. And who would know this different bait better than one who has been fishing with various bait all his life?

The voice of Senator Theodore Bilbo (now deceased), even if it is breathing blessings, has as much chance of motivating or reaching a black audience in the North as the voice of Malcolm X (now deceased) has of motivating or reaching a white audience in the South. Yet both groups need to be reached.

Mass Communication Is Big Business

Mass communication is big business, and its importance cannot be overemphasized. The pen is still mightier than the sword! And in order to touch the millions yet unreached by the third angel's message we must expect to play it big and pay it big. This means programming the time, energy, ingenuity, and materials necessary to reach different minority groups.

Here is a case in point. This year I was invited to a workers' meeting in the Atlantic Union, I sat and listened to the men give their district reports. Among those re porting was a Spanish brother who is shepherding several Spanish-speaking churches in the New York area. Now, those speaking Spanish in New York can hardly be called a minority, yet being classified as such they were having their minority problems. The Spanish congregations had no appropriate communication for the thousands (I mean thousands) of Spanish-speaking people in that area, no appropriate literature, no relevant tools to work with.

I am reminded of another incident. It was at a Christian council meeting, where an announcement was made that a certain institution had approved the idea of special tracts for working within the inner city. The name of the tracts was disclosed and several pictures that were to be used were shown. I could not believe what I saw. They not only were outdated but generally would repulse the very people intended to be reached.

A casual glance at the mass of literature on the market today reaching into black homes would have told those responsible for the selection that because of the obvious difference, something had to be wrong.

I turned to the minister seated next to me and asked him whether I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing.

He chuckled, and in a sad, sympathetic, but disgusted tone replied, "You should have seen their first selection. The black people pictured had old-style clothing and processed hair."

I felt nausea from the idea that thou sands of dollars were about to be spent and virtually wasted simply because those in charge were using bait of yesteryear. It would be better to fish with no bait than to use what smacks of lack of communicative knowledge.

Better still, know the fish and fish with bait that will attract and aid your cause. Even if the fish is not landed, he will appreciate your ability to attract his attention, and impressions thus made will never be forgotten. Here is a cardinal rule in advertisement. Whether newspaper ads, radio, TV, fliers, or literature, if you have some thing to say (and the Seventh-day Adventist Church has), learn to say it so that those you want to hear will hear. By making our approach relate, whether as individuals or institutions, we will help people to tune us in, not out.

Fish Where Fish Are

My last point is that it would seem sound to fish where the kind of fish you are looking for exist. Being realistic, I could not advertise in the New Yorker magazine and expect to reach black or other minorities. Now you ask, Who would? Well, here is the principle involved. Most minorities do not read the host of social communications. And the reasons are varied and complex. They range from physical conditions to apathy, because nothing is generally said to them---they cannot see their own image reflected. I have known folks who have taken the city newspaper and used it to light fires before it was read. If you have intentions of reaching a minority with a newspaper or magazine, you had better look in the direction of small community papers, and then it would be well to know whether the paper is bought and read.

Likewise with radio and TV. If you are going to fish in these massive lakes of communication, you had better find out whether your fish are there. I have known ministers to buy radio time on local stations simply because there was a special rate being offered.

Once I ran a radio program on a 32,000- watt station that covered more than twenty-five counties and reached into three different States. (Oh, by the way, I am black, and this station was country Western; there was no black station.) When the full impact of what I was doing dawned on me, I got some help, and we went to work building a strong black audience. And we accomplished our goal, to the delight of the radio station. It was like fishing in a lake for trout, and upon finding none, stocking the lake and then continuing to fish. About six months later we advertised that an evangelistic meeting was to be held locally. On opening night we had a mixed congregation (about 65 percent black; 35 percent white).

Before too many nights passed I faced a black audience, with the exception of two white families. One white person was the sister of a past vice-president of the United States. She and her husband remained our friends throughout the meetings and for months after. I could not land her for God's cause, but a smart-fishing white pastor, able to relate and using the proper bait, possibly could. And, oh, he would have to fish in waters she frequents.

In summary, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Let's be wisely about our Father's business and reach minorities more successfully than ever before, remembering to "suit the bait to the fish."

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-Public Relations Secretary, South Atlantic Conference, at the time this article was written

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