Monkeys, n-words, and slavery, oh my!
It is the 21st century, but the corporate world seems to still be stuck in a less enlightened time as evidenced by the racist, tone-deaf, and extremely offensive advertisements and products some companies proffer.
Here’s a short “greatest hits” of some of corporate America’s most recent racist offenders. Clearly these companies did not read, print, and frame for future reference our handy dandy Dummies Guide for Avoiding Creating Racist Ads.
Do you remember these flubs?
Earlier this month, Amazon felt the wrath of social media when a screenshot of an offensive product made the rounds online. A third-party retailer used Amazon’s platform to offer up a range of products emblazoned with the words “slavery gets sh*t done” over the a depiction of Egyptian pyramids. Baby bibs, mugs, and t-shirts were all up or grabs.
The offensive merchandise was removed and the retail giant issued a statement that basically said “It wasn’t me.”
The popular Swedish clothing retailer H &M started off the year with controversy after an ad surfaced featuring a Black child wearing a hoodie that said “Coolest Money in the Jungle.” Twitter was livid. Artist Chris Classic was so moved by the ordeal he manipulated the image to have a crown covering the offensive words. He also placed a crown on the young man’s head representing his kingly NOT primitive disposition.
The backlash prompted the company to issue a couple of limp apologies and eventually create a new diversity director position. Question remains, why didn’t have someone in that position before any of this ever happened?
Italian beauty brand Wycon got into hot water on an international scale when they recently released a gel nail polish shade called “Thick as a Nigga.” What color is that, exactly? You guessed it…black. Other nail polish colors in the collection have cutesy names like “Dirty Talk” and “Lap Girl,” but the black version gets the racist treatment.
After being called out, Wycon renamed all of their nail polish shades to just numbers, but the company never actually apologized. It was more of a “Sorry you feel that way” statement and of course they found a way to blame their flub on Black music artists.
A Wycon’s statement, as translated by Forbes, reads:
“We’re sorry that this post has triggered these types of reactions: every color from our Gel On collection is inspired, with a cheerful attitude and a pinch of naivety, by famous song titles, many of which derive from the landscape of hip-hop. For example, “Drop it like it’s hot” by Snoop Dogg, “Bootilicious” (sic) by Beyoncé (sic), “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent, Lollipop, Lady Marmalade etc… The reference here is “Thick Nigga” (sic) by DBangz. Wycon is the brand for everybody #nobodyexcluded is our motto and we didn’t mean to offend anybody!”
In the Spring of 2017, Black beauty brand Shea Moisture made a drunken stumble in their haircare commercial. The ad showed three women talking about how Shea Moisture products helped them embrace their natural hair.
A Black woman with long, springy, Tracee Ellis Ross-curls is shown talking about how people used to make fun of her hair. The commercial continued with two white women (one blonde, one red-head) who also lamented about their past hair shame. Some Black women felt like Shea Moisture was turning its back on its core customer base—Black women with a munch kinkier, thicker hair texture than that of the women in the ad.
Shea Moisture owned up to its mis-step, admitting that they f**ked up on that one. Late last year, Shea Moisture announced that Unilever was acquiring it. Wonder what that means for future ads to come.
An ad from popular beauty brand Dove caused a stir for its racist undertones. In a set of four images, a Black woman pulls a brown shirt over her head and morphs into a white woman in a beige shirt. The implication was that the woman had become “clean” using Dove. Needless to say, associating Black with dirt and white with cleanliness did not go over well.
After getting hammered on social media, Dove issued an apology and removed the offensive ad. Dove and Shea Moisture are now under the same parent company, Unilever.
Chinese detergent company Qiaobi stepped into a big steaming pile of trouble in 2016 when they released a commercial that washed the “black” off of a man. In the short commercial a Black man with paint spatters on his face and shirt whistles at an Asian woman.
She motions for him to come closer and pulls him in as if she were going to kiss him. Instead, she stuffs a detergent pod into his mouth (something that no one under any circumstances should ever do despite what they see on YouTube) and stuffs him into a washing machine. The man pops up out a fresh and clean, smiling Asian man and the woman looks thoroughly impressed.
If the Dove ad implied that being Black means being dirty, the Qiaobi commercial only pushed the notion further with a 50-foot, neon billboard. At first, the company did not apologize and saw nothing wrong with what they had done.
A Qiaobi spokesman said “The foreign media might be too sensitive about the ad. We meant nothing but to promote the product, and we had never thought about the issue of racism.” Well damn.
Eventually, Qiaobi pulled the ad (after running it for months) and issued a non-apology. You know the kind that companies like this are so good at issuing.
“[Due to] the harm that has been caused to members of the ethnic African communities as a result of the advertisement’s circulation and the over-dramatization by the public opinion, we hereby express our apology and sincerely hope that the internet users as well as media will not over-analyze. We strongly oppose and condemn racial discrimination.”