I initially had some difficulty with this because it doesn't follow the "phrasal template." In the template, X and Y are in the same general category like color ('pink is the new black'), age ("70 is the new 60″), etc.
In the billboard, X (a political party) is the new Y (a racial minority). Huh?
This whole thing is very interesting in it's obscurity.
It's clear that they are a Republican organization trying to win over black constituents, but what exactly are they saying? "Black" here does not simply seem to be a reference to the fashion cliche, but what does that make the relation between black people and the GOP? Was Democrat the old black (people)? It's almost like an attempt to coalesce the identity of black American with Republican. But then why are they "Raging" Elephants? Are white Republicans simply "Elephants"?
I'm really not sure if this billboard is encouraging, offensive, empowering, embracing, or just unclear and stupid.
GeorgeW: Perhaps we can blame "Saturday Night Live" for both the category mismatch and the ambiguous referent of "black" here. During the 2008 primaries, Tina Fey (in pro-Hillary mode) declared, "Bitch is the new black," while Tracy Morgan (pro-Obama) countered, "Black is the new president, bitch."
It's clear what they mean. The GOP are an oppressed minority who will rise up from their past of having been enslaved and segregated to become the next president. Oh, and the GOP are also cool like blacks. I guess….
@GeorgeW: No, that's a slightly different phrasal template. That is, there are two phrasal templates here: "X is the new Y", where X and Y are in the same general category, and "X is the new black", where X is anything whatsoever, such as "patriotism" or "selfishness" — and those are literally the first two abstract nouns I tried Googling.
I guess the two templates are two different generalized versions of "X is the new black", where X is a color.
It's apparent that the phrase does not semantically match the intent of the template "X is the new Y/Black", an unfortunate fault but not one likely to be noticed by many people. The intended meaning seems clear to me: it is in, au courant, with it, etc. for Black people to be in the GOP, or conversely, the GOP is cool or hip for now being the party for Black people. In essence it says ""GOP is the new (place/home/party if you are) Black".
@Kylopod–no they don't! It's clear as day! They are saying that the GOP is the future of Black as a group. Here, "Black" is certainly not a reference to color so much as a cultural identity. And the billboard states that the future of this collective Black is with the GOP.
Yes, yes, I know, you were mocking the group for their cluelessness…
But there is a hint of a philosophical–or philological–question here. It is not clear from the statement which semantic choice we are to make. "A is the new B" could mean that A is like what B used to be or it could mean–in the snowclonish way–that the qualities of A are now the qualities of B, or, finally, it could mean that whatever positive association you might have had with B, now you should have it with A. Note that any two of these are mutually contradictory, so the context must provide the semantic choice. It's like a word being untranslatable in isolation, but being perfectly understandable in context… Oh, wait! That's another thread.
Somebody put a lot of thought into this. At one level, the phrase "the new black," means "fashionable", in the sense that the GOP has (ostensibly) replaced the Dems as the party for African Americans. At the same time, "the new black" appears to be a reference to the (again, ostensibly) new class of African American professionals, suggesting that this class should differentiate themselves from, well, African Americans who are not members of this class (or what some have called the "undeserving poor") by voting for the GOP instead of the Dems. (and I hope it is clear that I do not endorse this message)
Joe: You will, I hope, notice that only the men in that billboard picture are dressed as professionals? The women are dressed as what we might call members of the sex class. Hardly the undeserving poor, I agree, but not executives. And a very telling split, frankly, by whoever put this ad together.
Where here "the new black" appears to mean something like "the fashionable political party for blacks", I saw another article where "the new black" had nothing to do with black (color, people, etc.). In an article, the author laments the continued usage of ASCII, "…when Unicode has been the new black for most of the past decade."
Would the GOP ever overly admit that it is the party of white ethnicity and affluence identity?
Their use of phrases like "class warfare" and "reverse racism" more or less hint at this reality. But in 2004, it looked like the GOP was making serious inroads with the Latino vote. In the last two years, featuring racially tinged attacks on the first Latino Supreme Court justice and Sharron Angle's dreadful ads about brown-skinned illegal immigrants, they seem to have thrown that potential away.
.Ah, so X is the new black where black = current fashion?
This is how it is used but there is some considerable irony here. If someone says pink is the new black is probably safe to say that pink is currently fashionable (though it is not likely to stay that way). What they are actually doing is making a (hyperbolic) comparison: In fashion black is known for being ubiquitous and never going out of fashion as a thing you can't go wrong wearing: c.f. the 'little black dress' as a perennial fashion must have. So to say pink in the new black is to make the claim that pink has now usurped blacks previous position as a standard (which has never actually proven to be the case). I have no idea when it was first used but it quickly became a instantly recognizable cliche of fashion journalism (and generally a sure sign of hyperbole on the part of the author) to the extent where it tended to be used ironically or as a short hand for (this seasons) must have/sure thing. To engage in wild speculation I would say that this is the point at which it spread outwards propelled by its ubiquity in fashion journalism, though carrying an ironic inflection of hyperbole that was lost by the time by the time it reached the cloth ears of republican organizations coming on like an creepy uncle trying to impress with his knowledge of the hip jive talk (Do my prejudices look big in this?).
"…when Unicode has been the new black for most of the past decade." is quite clever phrasing since it has long been promoted as the new standard and is now almost ubiquitous on computer systems, though its forever faced with ASCII as the dog that won't die.
@PaulM: I know it's snarky, but there's really no excuse for not knowing how and when the phrase originated and became popular - Prof Liberman explicitly linked to Dr Zimmer's post on exactly those subjects. Why not read it?