One racist ad makes you suspect.
Two racist ads makes you kinda guilty. pic.twitter.com/hAwNCN84h2
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) October 8, 2017
Dove, a company that has made millions selling skin care products, came under fire this past weekend after releasing a Facebook ad promoting racist stereotypes.
In the ad, a black woman takes off her shirt to reveal a white woman, suggesting that the black woman was “dirty.” The next scene is a white woman taking off her shirt to revel another light-skinned woman, which is why many are saying this was just an oops on the part of advertising officials.
Yet, this is what we’re known for doing as a nation—making excuses for racism.
It seems that whenever there are ads, comments, or statements that could be deemed racist, we always explain it away as accidental, or at least it seems the white community does.
So many times in conversations, I hear those with light skin say that racism isn’t a real thing anymore, that we’ve come so far from slavery, and that any issues of supposed racism are just black people blowing things out of proportion. The bigger issue is that these thoughts and comments are proof of white privilege—because light skin has been deemed more acceptable and less threatening, those who are white don’t have to think about these issues.
We’ve become lax when it comes to equal rights.
We think that because it’s 2017 and because we’ve convinced ourselves that the days of Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges are behind us, that we’re equal. We fail to realize that our socioeconomic system is set up to perpetuate racial divides and segregation.
Ads like this only exacerbate the long-held belief that being white is somehow better—that light skin is cleaner and more beautiful. This ideal of beauty gets transferred to us through the representation of skin color, hair type, body shape, and even style.
In May, Dove also received criticism after releasing soaps in bottles that were supposed to mimic body type and skin color in the United Kingdom. While Dove continues to tell women to embrace who we are, they also feed us counterproductive messages by making us believe that darker skin is somehow less clean, less desirable.
Sadly, it doesn’t end there.
In 2011, Dove was scrutinized after another ad, which featured a black woman standing in front of a before shot and a white woman in front of an after shot of skin treated with its products. Their slogan was, “Visibly more beautiful skin.”
Each time a company like Dove “accidentally” releases an ad that can be construed as racist, we are expected to believe it was not on purpose and to once again close our eyes to the bigger picture.
Racism is not going away, and what’s worse is that we seem to be desensitized by all the nuanced ways in which it appears in our lives. It’s not about whether Dove released these ads by accident, but instead, why people still accept this type of subliminal racial conditioning.
For so many, it’s easy to disregard this ad as a simple misstep and move on. But this is about more than skin color. As a nation, we still harbor views about race similar to those present during slavery. We haven’t come as far as we’d like to believe.
During the time of slavery, in which almost 600,000 Africans were stripped of their rights and dignity, white men created and perpetuated the perception that slaves were impure, hyper-sexual beings who were to be controlled. These stereotypes are still perpetuated today with the belief that black men are to be feared and black women are not as pure, as “clean,” as white women.
I’m sure there will be people who feel I’m reaching and that no one thinks about race this way anymore. No one wants to be seen as racist, as someone who believes that skin color makes a difference; yet, until we’re able to stand up and be real about our own limitations and ideals, what we’re really doing is letting our silent complacency fuel the fires of passive, racist ads like this one.
How far does this have to go before we open our eyes and see what’s right in front of us?
In many ways, ads like these are worse than flat out, straight-to-your-face racism, because they are mass-marketed to people everywhere—people who don’t even realize they are being taught to unconsciously accept that “white is right.”
Dove claims they just “missed the mark”—but I’m not buying it.
Perhaps once could be seen as a mistake, but two, even three times? That is a decision, and while I am in no way suggesting that everyone at Dove harbors racist beliefs, I don’t think there is any way to dispute the reality that what these ads accomplish is keeping down a significant part of our population that has historically had to fighter harder for the same rights.
The first step in changing anything is acknowledgement, and that means taking a stand and not being afraid to talk about what matters.
And at this moment, there isn’t anything that matters more than telling the truth about racism.
Author: Kate Rose
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina