When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Boston Bank Ad

Yes, Dorchester is a community dominated by exactly the people you think it is. The ad says to the public, “If you bank with us, we know you’re white, and if you get robbed, we both know the thief is black.”


Social media was on this like a shot, and TD Bank apologized, saying

“We are sorry that an ad that appeared in one of our stores was insensitive to the Dorchester community.The ad, which was removed today, does not reflect our core values around diversity and inclusion.”

This is a lie, and an obvious one. If the bank really had such core values, someone at the bank who saw the ad in production would have said, “Wait, are you out of your mind? We’re insulting Dorchester with this, and the message implies that our customers are likely to be robbed by blacks!”

What made it worse for the bank is that Samsung got burned in Boston just two years ago by trying an almost identical ad, which was also condemned as racist.

Yes, Mattapan has demographics similar to Dorchester.

12 thoughts on “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Boston Bank Ad

  1. Ruh roh, of all the places to have such insensitive adds, and it had to be Boston. They should have went with a tried and true Boston advertisement, having a rainbow and copy “We serve all”, or some such. I recall a similar looking add on MBTA buses a while back with a medical equipment company (Takeda, I think it was).
    On the topic of ads, there is a real egregious ad in Boston on the corner of Boylston St and Dalton St. It’s an anti-gun billboard. It has a picture of a Parkland kid, and a fake quote saying, if I was attending high school in Massachusetts, I would be still alive.
    Also, inappropriate joke time, TD Bank didn’t mind offending Dorchester, because they know they can’t compete with the “Checks Cashed” places that own the town over there.

  2. Ah…the many years I worked in Dorchester during the busing conflagration. Maybe the add should have said when you are in Dot and your card is in Back Bay or Seaport?

    As a side note to Jack: Di you see the comment by Amherst College President Biddy Martin on the school’s language guide? A possible Ethics hero?

  3. I used to live in the Back Bay on Commonwealth Avenue. I moved to the Old Baker Chocolate Factory in Dorchester. I’ll take the warm people of Dorchester, Matapan, and Alewife any day over the stone cold ice people of the Back Bay. I would take the Red Line Downtown to shop all of the time. The ad made perfect sense to me, and I wasn’t the least bit offended. The people of Dorchester have nothing of which to be ashamed. It’s sad people are so inclined to always think and imagine the worst whenever there is the least bit of doubt or ambiguity.

    • Both of my grandparents worked for Baker’s Chocolate, in fact they met on the factory floor. Our family lived all over Mattapan and Milton Lower Mills. I didn’t know the building had been preserved. That’s so nice.

      • Crella, It is absolutlely one of the nicest developments in which I ever lived. The factory is now all apartments and the exterior restored to its full glory. Someone had excellent insight and vision to rehab that structure.

  4. I always laugh at these as I imagine how many layers of people such an ad must go through before it is printed. Then, the printers see it, as do the people who distribute the ad. I understood the Zyklon running shoe fiasco (as anyone who has read Dilbert would), but these are just seem unbelievable until I remember who makes such ads and approves them.

    • It’s racist because Dorchester and Matapan were used as the destination of thieves because bot are majority black communities. Think Harlem in New York, or Watts in LA. If the ads had used, say, my hometown, Arlington, where blacks are as rare as Mongolians, or Winchester, or Concord, there wouldn’t have been a problem.

      If the ads has used “Southie,” that would have been a clear anti-Irish slur. “The North End”…Italians.

      • I think I’m also lacking a critical point. There are overlapping dimensions of demographic makeup, after all. I’m not at all familiar with Dorchester, so I still worry there could be a real exculpatory argument to be made. I’m familiar with St. Louis, so consider that the ad had used Clayton and North St. Louis City as examples. The ethnic and affluence discrepancies are probably extreme enough to exceed the original. The same criticism could have (and probably would have, hence my quibbling) been used. Being familiar with the area though, I’d have to overlook the vast, unimaginable chasm between their crime rates. The “St. Louis is the most dangerous American city” tropes follow from inclusion of North and East St. Louis in the statistics. They’re almost entirely responsible for that ranking. Yes, East St. Louis is in Illinois, so the locals, Missourians, become understandably upset regarding its inclusion. North St. Louis still remains. Its violent crime rate rivals that of Baghdad during the Iraq War. Everyone knows not to go there, in particular, and other neighborhoods with similar ethnic makeup do not share that common understanding to such an extreme degree. The possibility of this defense, which I know wouldn’t be used even if it were available, haunts me. If the crime rates in Boston are evenly dispersed, though, there’s nothing that can be done for Boston Bank.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.