*I was recently shocked, appalled, and quite frankly disappointed at the blatant disregard for the Black Consumer from Japan’s Toyota Motor Company.

In the past several weeks, Toyota has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising in mainstream daily newspapers thanking their American customers for their loyalty and patronage during Toyota’s time of major controversy and concerns over the safety of their vehicles.

A smart move on Toyota’s behalf and one that I applaud, however, I can’t overlook the fact that Black people represent 25% of Toyota’s American consumer base, and that Black newspapers were left out of Toyota’s latest marketing campaign sending a clear and direct message that the Black dollar is still being taken for granted and Black people are still being disrespected.

Shocking behavior from a company who was all too eager to send us their press releases in their time of trouble.  But now that Toyota’s pain has been essentially eased by a report issued by the Federal Transportation Department and NASA, a report that found no faults with the Toyota electronic accelerator controls-the Black press has been forgotten right along with the Black consumer.  However, it’s going to take more than an A on a report card to bring back the consumer safety confidence enjoyed for years by Toyota from American consumers prior to one of the largest vehicle recalls in US history.

So when the decision was made to advertise in major newspapers from coast to coast thanking their customers for their loyalty, where was Toyota’s loyalty to 25% of their American consumer base-African-Americans?

Historically, there has always been an imbalance between what goes out of the Black community and what comes in relative to goods, services and representation. The buying power of America’s Blacks is reported to reach over $1 trillion dollars this year but it is highly doubtful that Black-owned businesses will report revenue numbers that are the same and/or reap any of the benefits proportionate to that buying power.

However the question still remains, why is Toyota undervaluing the Black consumer?

You wouldn’t target Spanish-speaking Latinos in English newspapers.  So why then is the Black media consistently overlooked to reach the African-American community?

Tried, true, and tested-the Black press remains the gatekeeper to the Black community and so corporations and advertising agencies looking to reach the African-American consumer, do so on the pages of our newspapers.

To Toyota’s credit, they have one of the best advertising agencies in Burrelle’s Advertising agency. Let them do their job.  They know the power and reach of the Black press.

The days of being silent and complaining amongst ourselves about these continuing unethical and immoral oversights are over.  When Toyota wanted our help they had no problem asking all 200 Black newspapers in America.  We do not want Toyota to use us for editorial coverage and then overlook us with their advertising dollars.

Today, Black newspapers are not afraid to demand fair representation and a seat at the table especially when the food is bought with 25% of Black consumer dollars.

Toyota has enjoyed healthy African-American consumer support that despite last year’s setback has remained loyal.  If you want to thank us for our loyalty, you do it on the pages of the Black newspapers that Black people read, respect, and trust the Black press.

As Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, I represent 200 Black publishers throughout America.  I am challenging Toyota’s Chairman and CEO to meet with me to discuss the future of their relationship with Black consumers and whether or not we as Black newspaper publishers should be organizing a campaign to take African-American’s brand loyalty to Toyota elsewhere.  The bottom line is that we will not buy where we are disrespected.

Danny Bakewell Sr., is the Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, parent organization to over 200 independently owned Black newspapers.  Online at www.nnpa.org.