EBONY ENTERS ITS DEATH SPIRAL


Ebony, the magazine of the socially mobile Black person who doesn't want to owe Whitey "a damn thing," is now in serious trouble. In fact, it seems to have entered its death spiral, firing almost a third of its staff and relocating from a city with a large Black population to one dominated by a rival ethnicity.

Founded in 1945 by Black businessman John H. Johnson, the magazine was a big success, gaining a subscription of over 2 million by the 1980s. 

It's success, however, was built on a formula that embodied glaring contradictions. On the one hand it focused heavily on Blacks, like Johnson himself, who got where they were going by "acting White." But on the other hand it promoted a disembodied and context-less "Black pride" that not only ignored the role that White society and White norms played in the elevation of post-war African-Americans, but blamed them for continued Black failure. 

This fake Black pride and false consciousness, typified by a crime-and-welfare-supported gangsta and street culture, has sadly become dominant in African American society, thus undercutting the need for a magazine like Ebony that once extolled the stories of self-made African-American men and women.

Mr. Johnson
The contradictory nature of the magazine was further typified by its spin-off cosmetics business, which continues to be profitable today, and which pushes Afrocentric imagery with products designed to get that nappy hair straightened out and that ebony skin a tone or two lighter -- essentially Beyonce if she ever turned into a cosmetics company. 

Since the high water mark of the 1980s, when Johnson became the first Black man on the Forbes' list of 400 wealthiest Americans, the magazine has been going downhill. Johnson died in 2005, and last year the Johnson Johnson Publishing Company, believed to be owned by his family, sold Ebony to private equity firm Clear View Group, so it's no longer even a Black-owned publication.

Add to this the fact that the magazine is now moving its operations from its original hometown of Chicago, which can claim to be a "Blackopolis" with around a third of its population being Black, to Los Angeles, which is less the 10% Black, and you can see what kind of downward trajectory the magazine is set on. 
Share on Google Plus

1 Reply so far - Add your comment

  1. Ebony is not a magazine for me. I am white and have never opened up "Ebony". I am tired of seeing things 'black centric'. You can turn on television or check with the government and get all the black propaganda you can stand. I am, however, always happy to see a black company lose its standing.

    ReplyDelete