Amazing YouTube video of a commercial released by North Carolina-based Red House Furniture and produced by self-described “Internetainers” Rhett&Link.

This video is flying all over the Internet, and when I first saw it, I thought it was just a silly/ridiculous exercise, but then I read the “more info” tab on the YouTube page for the video. It states, in part:

To address the controversy around this video: We knew this video was going to be controversial. Anytime race is discussed in any capacity, controversy ensues. The racial reconciliation concept was a joint effort between the Red House staff and us. They pointed out the fact that their employees and customer base were like the “Rainbow Coalition”, and we thought something with a comical racial reconciliation theme would be fun, as well as a conversation starter.

For those of you who think this video is racist, we’d like you to distinguish between “racist” and “racial”. Racism is “hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.” Racial is “of, relating to, or based on a race”. This video is very obviously racial as opposed to racist. This video doesn’t promote or feature hatred or intolerance. Rather, it’s the very opposite. This commercial promotes inclusion and reconciliation, if not in a comical way. To point out the obvious, the irony in this video is that it’s completely ridiculous for people to relate furniture to their race. People of all colors are welcome at the Red House, which is something that is taken for granted today, but there was a time in the not-so-recent past during which things as simple as a water fountain were NOT for everyone.

Discussing race in the US is taboo. It always makes people feel uncomfortable. We think it’s a shame that someone saying “I’m white” or “I’m black” creates such a stir. There are real cultural identities within different people groups, and these things should be celebrated and embraced, not swept under the rug.

This video is an attempt to use humor to spark a discussion about race issues, because we still have a long way to go.

Wow. It’s important to note that the most prominent link on the video page is to Red House’s pre-qualification page. They are claiming (and I can’t verify this of course) that they will offer fair assessment of financing to all customers in a non-discriminatory way. I’ll be damned if that ain’t a substantive claim, especially in light of the systemic problems across this country in financial discrimination (ahem, subprime):

An analysis by the Center for Responsible Lending found that even after taking into account individual credit scores and other characteristics, Hispanic and African American borrowers were more than 30% more likely to receive higher-rate subprime loans

It’s cool to see a business try to counter that sort of exploitation. We need to see what sort of terms Red House is offering its wide variety of customers, but if the practice matches the preaching, this is a good thing. Why am I not surprised that one of the most thoughtful and provocative episode in this nation’s ongoing discussion of race comes from the collaboration between two comedians and a furniture store in North Carolina?

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