Now Read This: Brainwashed, Challenging Black Inferiority

BE 100s advertising pioneer Tom Burrell's counter-campaign against the "BI Complex"

Resistance is NOT futile: Burrell declares war on black self-loathing

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to share with my followers on Twitter that I had begun reading Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell. (You’re not following me? Why not? Go to www.twitter.com/alfrededmondjr.) One of my followers enthusiastically responded that she had just read the book and that, among other things, it moved her to more actively regulate the television programming she allows her children to watch. Then she tweeted a question that I felt was premature at the time: “What is the most important book you’ve read this year?”

My incredulous and amused reply (in 140 characters or less): “It’s only the first week of April! I haven’t read enough books to know which is the most important for the year!”

Well, here I am to publicly and officially acknowledge that I was wrong. Even though the month of April 2010 has yet to draw to a close, I know that Brainwashed is the most important book I will read this year. In fact, it may be the most important book I’ve read in the past decade. Furthermore, if you are an American who identifies as a black person in any way, regardless of your age, cultural background, economic status, level of education, religious beliefs or political affiliation, you must read this book.

Brainwashed’s author is the founder and chairman emeritus of Burrell Communications Group LLC, the pioneering, black-owned,  Chicago advertising agency that remains a perennial on the Black Enterprise 100s Advertising Agency list. Burrell, an inductee of the Advertising Hall of Fame, is also the founder of The Resolution Project (http://www.theresolutionproject.us), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting intra-racial dialogue and a community-based, new media “stop the brainwash” campaign.

If it isn’t yet clear what the title of Burrell’s book, the first product of The Resolution Project, is referring to, let me make it plain: the marketing communication pioneer intends to start an all-out campaign to undo four centuries of the most successful and insidious propaganda effort in American history; namely, that black people are inherently inferior.

Brainwashed is a sweeping, ambitious and valiant attempt to explain how this myth-accepted-as-truth—black inferiority or the “BI Complex”—is at the foundation of media, industry, politics, culture, literature and education for all Americans, and black people in particular. More important, the book illustrates how the success of this propaganda campaign—promulgated not just by American media and advertising, but also every area of human endeavor including science, education, medicine and religion—is at the root of every aspect of black dysfunction, self-destruction and underachievement in nearly every area of American life.

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  • Albert

    Thank you for being this book to my attention. I will definitely read this book.

  • Stan

    Much needed issue to address and overcome. “Garbage in garbage out”. Conversely, “Truth in truth out”.
    African Americans, children in particular, need to know our true history.
    Peace!

  • Gen

    I am an avid reader, always interested in the voice and perspective of someone like myself who has most likely been subjected to discrete racial discrimination, making the case difficult to prove. Although I have not yet read this book, I intend to purchase it to read soon. The real truth is that there are people in this world who continue to hold these false beliefs and sadly but true, they are neighbors, employers, politicians, educators and the like. So unfortunate.
    Thanks for suggesting we all read this book.

  • Jesse

    Interesting..My concdern is this topic would further any degradation of Black folks to think that lurking around every corner is someone trying to keep us down, take our money, health, kids’ future, jobs etc. Sure some Black folks are irresponsible with money, health family, just like there are White, Indian, hispanic, German, and Asian folks who are equally irresponsible.

    There are many Black folks who own a home, have good credit, decent family values, fine job and happy life, just many other ethnic groups.

    We should stop singing the ‘we are victims’ song and believing that there is a 400 year old conspiracy to destroy us. Why these same White folks that are blamed for this is having a tough enough time with their own families, drugs, jobs health etc to be plotting to take down and brain wash Black folks. Seems Mr Burrel has tapped a sensitive nerve to sell books.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Hey, Jesse! Thanks for your comment. Is this just a general expression of opinion, or have you actually read Brainwashed and come to your conclusions after reading the book?

  • Al

    Jesse: I fully agree with you. I am so tired of Blacks who continue to discuss racism in America. Guess what ? There is racism all over. What about Black racism towards whites and many Jews. What or how is this discussion on racism furthering a single Black who is losing his home, job or who can’t buy a home or job. Racism like poverty and the poor, will always be with us. We, Blacks, need to move on and get beyond this “poor me attitude’ and “it’s the white man’s fault’. While we spend energy on trivials like this others build wealth and success. What about a new administration in D.C. who was going to heal all things but has instead killed small businesses with taxes and will futher destroy self independence with new laws that will further stiffle financial success. Has Black Enterprises been truthful about how Blacks are suffering under this Congress or President. Of course not, it goes against the template that Blacks can succeed without government and handouts. This Administration has done more to destroy wealth and the enviroment to start and succeed in business and nothing is highlighted in a magazine that is suppost to help build wealth. Now we are to get excited about a book that talks about racism.? Please!!!!!!

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Hey, Al! Thanks for your comment! I’d only like to point out that Burrell’s book Brainwashed spends very little time on racism in America, although he does discuss it in a historical context. The book is far more focused on the proposition that black people have accepted the myth of our own inferiority as fact, which has resulted in self-destructive patterns of behavior and decision-making far more damaging than racism from white Americans. The point of Burrell’s book is not that “it’s the white man’s fault,” but it’s the black man’s responsibility to recognize and confront our own dysfunction, and for each of us to take personal action to heal and correct ourselves.

      Al, am I correct in assuming that you, like Jesse, have yet to actually read the book? I’m basing my assumption on the fact that your conclusions about what Brainwashed addresses is so far removed from the actual content and topics discussed in the book. If I am wrong, I apologize in advance.

      Again, I thank you for engaging in this discussion.

      • JAMES BARNES

        wouldnt read your book if i was on fire idiots like u further a made up racism against ur self its time 2 stop saying poor pitiful held back black people and start saying poor every one. i thought u people want equality.. yeah well i got news 4 u. u start talkn black this and black that and hispanic or asian or whatever and that is not equal..BLACK ENTERPRISE ! BET ! NAACP ! WHAT EVER HAPENED 2 THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR ADVANCEMENT OF EVERYBODY
        HOW would u react if i started an all white people chanel that talked about how blacks are holding us back.or a show like one i saw on black enterprise wher these black people would only buy products sold by black owned store.udo it and its empowering i do something like that with white people and its racist and illegal black people who act like this should be ashamed but they are not. [They] bring a terrible stigma 2 their people and all people

  • Al

    Mr. Edmonds:

    Thanks for your reply. You are correct that I have not read the book. At this point I do not expect to read it. While I may have been a bit off-base with the specific content of the book, I remain resolute that litte is ever done by most Blacks, specifically Black leadership or elites, to lessen this “brainwashed” mentality. Rather, they have actually engaged in rhetoric and action that furthers this travesty. In other words, when so called Black leadership, and I’m certain you know the cast of characters, continually tell Blacks that Big Government is the answer to their ills, I argue that this type of rhetoric does little to correct the issues ostensibly raised in Brainwashed. I believe the cards, to a great extent, are stacked against most Blacks because they do not or are unwilling to seek truth. It is easier to hold others responsible for their problems and this belief is drilled into our youth and others in order to enable elites to retain their power and control. Again, I point to the glaring ommission of Black Enterprise to deal truthfully in what the current Administration is doing to large, medium and small businesses. How can you give advice to people on how to creat wealth, how to start businesses and how to successfully run your business without giving that same audience facts that they need to have in order to accomplish these objectives. Failure to communicate this information is morally wrong. It is, however, consistent with what I expect from people who say how much they care but fail to do it or show it if controversy arises. Few can argue over the devastating effects of this current Congress and Administration is having on the business community. Moreover, with commitments to place “laser like focus on the economy” nothing has occured. Black unemployment is twice the national average and among Black youth 50% unemployment is disgusting. Yet we hear no outrage from the typical Black town criers demanding action here and more importantly BE magazine is not treating the issue honestly. Until you achieve an alignment where the Black power structure decides to be honest and put the people ahead of personal ambitons then books like Brainwashed will have little if any effect. I actually hope that the author deals with the issue in an honest way but I doubt this to be the case. Why? Because I saw him on Tavis Smiley and I saw where he is coming from. I was not impressed.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Al, a closed mind can neither learn nor grow nor adapt nor change–it is the very definition of the unwillingness to seek truth. Your resolute lack of faith in “most blacks” is symptomatic of the very black inferiority propaganda that Brainwashed addresses.

  • Al

    To the contrary, I have a great deal of faith in Blacks. However, I do not think Blacks stand a chance of getting truth when organizations like BE refuse to seek it and when found, communicate it. I do not mind being called closed minded for as a Black conservative I’ve been called a lot worse. What I have come to learn, however, is that name calling is often resorted to by liberals who cannot defend their position.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Al, I did not intend to offend. I drew no conclusions about your race or political leanings from your comments. For all I know, you could have been a white person or a member of another nonblack ethnic/racial group. Also, I know many black people who do not identify as conservatives but who are critical of Obama, so I did not automatically assume that you were a black conservative. I am not a conservative, nor do I consider myself a liberal. I do not feel I have a position in need of defense. As editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com, I obviously stand by the editorial positions we’ve taken, whether on President Obama or other issues and policies. That said (as I stated in my review), I passionately believe that every black American, regardless of their political leanings and beliefs, would benefit from reading Brainwashed, not because it is necessary for all of us to agree with Burrell’s take on the issues, but because it is necessary for all of us to confront, engage and discuss these issues as individuals, so that we can make better day-to-day choices in our own lives. Again, the book is less about placing blame or seeking a “savior”, than it is about self-determination, breaking the cycles of past thinking and habits, and choosing to do better as an act of self-love and an affirmation of our own value and our own lives.

  • BK

    I have not read the book yet, but from the commentary and posted comments it appears very controversial. Up to this point, the only traits not being practiced are treating every man equal, respecting others property and minding your own business. You cannot blame government for ignorance and for the record I will read ‘Brainwashed’ and will return to this comment section.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      BK, thanks! I look forward to reading your take on Burrell’s book.

  • Al

    Mr. Edmonds, once again thanks for your comments. I must point out, however, that this discussion has gone well beyond just the book. As I’ve already stated, the book is only as valuable as the environment in which it is read. If you have Black leaders, which include political, business and social leaders, pushing an agenda that perpetuates the problem supposedly described in the book, then how do you effect change. Yes people can get the book, read it and maybe have a heartfelt discussion with other readers. Then, immediately after these discussions, they turn on the TV. or, perhaps, go to web sites such as yours to listen to or read about how Blacks are being taken advantage of and how we must have more government in order to assist us in dealing with the problem. My position is that people or organizations that are influential in the Black community must be honest with Black America. There must be a consistent message from all influential sectors of our community. If we truly believe that Blacks hold these attitudes described in the book then you and others influential in the community should provide truth so that we are able to and do, in fact, take appropriate steps to change where appropriate. To this end I’m certain that you can refer me to BE.com articles which analyzed current Administration policies and legislation and their impact on Black businesses and families including unemployment and the ability to start or sustain existing businesses etc. I’m certain they exist because as we both know our debt is unsustainable, the U.S. is being threatened with having its credit rating lowered for the first time in its history; banks continue to fail, foreclosures continue and the economy sputters. Certainly this type of information would be helpful to anyone thinking of starting a business or who is trying to keep one afloat. These are statements of facts and undisputed. It’s this type of truth, or for certain the willingness to communicate them that we both seek for it will enable Black America to progress and correct the issues raised in Mr. Burrell’s book.

    On a lighter point, it appears that Mr. Burrell might want to thank me for it appears this discussion has prompted more book selling.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Al, the only person who has taken this discussion beyond my review of Brainwashed, at least so far, is you. I have not, and will not, go there with you, at least not on this post. There is plenty of content on the site related to Obama and his policies where you can make your case. I will say this, however: nothing you’ve said is universally accepted as “undisputed truth” or “fact,” even by other conservatives. Your views are, in fact, your views, nothing more, nothing less. (The same is true, obviously, for my views, which are not in agreement with yours.) Of course, that does not mean that your views are any less valued or welcome, and I hope that you will continue to share them at BlackEnterprise.com.

  • Rev. Sharon

    Dear Alfred and Al,
    First, I have to say that I haven’t read “Brainwashed” yet. However, I am very interested in reading it and plan to do so. What intrigues me about this online conversation, particularly as it relates to Al’s comments, is how a book that seems to be about personal transformaton, inner metamorphosis, and liberation from negative feelings about oneself, is being used to demonize the Obama Administration, Black Enterprise, and Black leadership, in general. What does this have to do with how Al perceives himself deep down as a Black man based upon the subtle ideas that have been embedded in our social conscience? It is common for individuals point a finger at people and entities outside of themselves rather than focus on what needs to be healed on the inside. I could be wrong, but I think the heart of this book may be less about racism (whether white against Black or Black against white, or any other ethnicity against some other ethnicity) — and I’m not denying racism is there– and more about the impact that racism and beliefs about Black inferiority have had on the self-identity and personal opinions Blacks have about themselves. My sense is that this book may seek to “unpack” the untruths that Blacks have subtly or overtly claimed for themselves, so that we see them for what they are and by doing so disarm them so they cease to be hurtful and destructive. I’m not certain how the Obama Administration or Black Enterprise magazine fit into the picture that relates to fallacies about Blacks (and other people of color) and what individual Blacks believe about themselves. In my opinion, the answer is, nothing. They are just handy distractions from dealiing with personal, inner wounds. It’s easy to point and say, look out there at the Obama Administration… or look at Black leaders…or look at Black Enteprise, rather than do an internal survey of self. But (even though I haven’t read the book), my sense is that Burrell’s efforts aim at helping each Black person look at themselves/ourselves and get rid of fallacies that are deeply root at the core of our resective being; these were planted there centuries ago and have been reinforced year after year, decade after decade, and yes, century after centyr. Of course, I may feel differently after I read the book. It is worth noting that considerable effort was also made to undermine other people of color in other parts of the world. The common demoninator was exploitation. It’s in our history books. Read.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Rev. Sharon,

      Thanks for your comments. I am REALLY looking forward to learning what you think after you’ve had the chance to read Brainwashed.

  • Rev. Sharon

    Dear Alfred and Al,
    First, I have to say that I haven’t read “Brainwashed” yet. However, I am very interested in reading it and plan to do so. What intrigues me about this online conversation, particularly as it relates to Al’s comments, is how a book that seems to be about personal transformaton, inner metamorphosis, and liberation from negative feelings about oneself, is being used to demonize the Obama Administration, Black Enterprise, and Black leadership, in general. What does this have to do with how Al perceives himself deep down as a Black man based upon the subtle ideas that have been embedded in our social conscience? It is common for individuals point a finger at people and entities outside of themselves rather than focus on what needs to be healed on the inside. I could be wrong, but I think the heart of this book may be less about racism (whether white against Black or Black against white, or any other ethnicity against some other ethnicity) — and I’m not denying racism is there– and more about the impact that racism and beliefs about Black inferiority have had on the self-identity and personal opinions Blacks have about themselves. My sense is that this book may seek to “unpack” the untruths that Blacks have subtly or overtly claimed for themselves, so that we see them for what they are and by doing so disarm them so they cease to be hurtful and destructive. I’m not certain how the Obama Administration or Black Enterprise magazine fit into the picture that relates to fallacies about Blacks (and other people of color) and what individual Blacks believe about themselves. In my opinion, the answer is, nothing. They are just handy distractions from dealiing with personal, inner wounds. It’s easy to point and say, look out there at the Obama Administration… or look at Black leaders…or look at Black Enteprise, rather than do an internal survey of self. But (even though I haven’t read the book), my sense is that Burrell’s efforts aim at helping each Black person look at themselves/ourselves and get rid of fallacies that are deeply rooted at the core of our respective beings; these were planted there centuries ago and have been reinforced year after year, decade after decade, and yes, century after century. Of course, I may feel differently after I read the book. It is also worth noting that considerable effort was also made to undermine other people of color in other parts of the world. The common demoninator was greed and the intention to exploit the resources of indigenous people. All of this is in our history books. Read.

  • BK

    It appears from the commentary and the posts the book is controversial and may leave individuals to believe blacks are the only race that experience these society barriers. What it boils down to is common sense and treating everyone as an equal. People need to mind their own business, respect others property, and make sure they pull the best lives out of their existence. The government cannot be blamed for ignorance if these guidelines are practiced. I have not read the book but I will purchase it as soon as leave work today and will return to this discussion. Have a good day everyone……………

  • Robert

    Mr. Edmond,
    I also just read Brainwashed in April, & knew while I was reading this powerful book ,that it is probably the most important book of it’s kind that I have ever read !! ( I’m a avid reader)

    I’m in my mid 60′s & feel myself to be a conscience thinking Black Man,who grew of age, doing the 50′ & the turbulent 60′s. I pride myself, for my self awareness, but Brainwashed challenged me in areas that I truly thought I had worked on &” rooted out”! Tom Burrell Brainwashed showed me, their is no, “resting on laurels” & the “Work continues”.

    I have told family, friends,even my doctor who is A.A. about Brainwashed. Even gave some gift cards from a book store chain to a friend, if he promised me he would use them to get Brainwashed.
    I believe Mr. Burrell’s Brainwashed is a most important book for these challenging, crisis, filled times for Black folks…. to help throw off the mental chains & shackles that are still keeping so many of us captives to unconscious feelings of black inferiority.

    No matter your age, social ranking, this is a must read book, that can only help in the final liberation of the Black Mind for the 21 century !

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Robert, I totally identify with your experience. I just turned 50, so I came of age in the ’70s and ’80s. I really thought I had my head together about my blackness, especially as someone active in black student issues in college and who spent most of his career working at black-oriented media companies. But it turns out that I wasn’t as mentally free as I like to think, and that I still have work to do to shake off the effects of “brainwashing” and achieve complete liberation (not to mention doing more to free others, including our children).

      Thanks for taking the time to share your feelings about the book!

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