African-American college students have fallen far behind their Caucasian counterparts in achieving inebriation, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health.
In a bold effort to close the gap, Budweiser has launched a campaign called "True" to teach black collegians how to "drink white."
Black buddies The early returns are promising. The campaign's catchphrase --"Whassup?" -- is sweeping North America, and the black buddies who make up the cast have embarked on their 15 minutes of fame. But one should not underestimate the immensity of the challenge.
According to Harvard's latest College Alcohol Study, a survey of 14,000 students at 119 nationally representative four-year schools, in 1999 a robust 49.2 per cent of white collegians were "binge drinkers," meaning that at least once in the previous two weeks they had consumed five or more drinks in a row (four or more for women).
But only 15.5 per cent of black collegians binge drank in 1999.
Sadly, black students fared even worse at "frequent binge drinking" -- i.e., consuming five/four or more drinks in a row.
While 26.3 per cent of whites frequently binged, only 6.5 per cent of blacks did so. That is, blacks were four times less likely to be heavy drinkers than whites.
An alarming 38 per cent of black students abstained from alcohol altogether, more than twice the percentage for whites (15.6).
Why are so few black college students getting drunk on a regular basis? Gina Vivinetto, a reporter and pop music critic for the St. Petersburg Times, discovered the answer on a recent trip to the University of Florida -- the number-two "partying" school in the U.S., according to the Princeton Review.
Vivinetto learned from countless white guzzlers that, for them, drinking is an activity in and of itself. That is, the student's primary objective when going out is not to dance, to meet new people, to hear a favourite band. It's to get drunk.
Vivinetto chatted as well with black students, who told her that alcohol is present at all-black parties, but it isn't the reason for the parties.
"I don't want to make it racial," said one young woman, "but if you came to one of our parties and took away all the alcohol, we'd still have a party going on. Go to the white frat parties, take away the beer, and there's no party any more."
In a nutshell, that is the problem -- the inability of black students to properly "focus." This is where Budweiser comes in. Calls to the company's St. Louis offices went unanswered on Wednesday.
But it isn't the first time Budweiser's parent company, Anheuser-Busch, has acted in the greater public good. Along with tobacco giant Phillip Morris, it donated generously to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, enabling that talented team of advertising pros to alert citizens to the dangers of marijuana.
Such efforts, noble though they be, pale in comparison to the campaign to teach black collegians to "drink white." For all you do, Budweiser, this Whassup's for you.