A new advertisement for the Marine Corps has stirred controversy and charges it is a racist statement which insults African Americans. The ad, called Leap, depicts a young black male standing on a high diving board platform over looking a swimming pool while a narrator says, “I faced one of the toughest challenges of my life there. I couldn’t swim” but he was encouraged by his drill instructor, “so I jumped in. Unsure, apprehensive, and scared out of my mind. But, I came up a Marine” and in the ad he emerges in full combat gear. In 1995, General Mundy, then head of the Marine Corps stated on 60 Minutes that black Marines couldn’t swim as well as whites and if you gave them a compass and “send them across the terrain at night in a land navigation exercise, they don’t do as well as whites.”
One can take the assumption of the advertisement to be that African Americans should join the Marines and take a shot at getting killed in order to learn how to swim. This might well be a fascinating example of how to learn to be a swimmer, but why not simply go down to a pool and get fifteen minutes of instruction in how to swim. It’s a lot safer.
We do not believe the Marine Corps is racist, but, every so often hidden fears and prejudices inadvertently emerge. How about a white female in the next Leap ad?