People of Color Are Not a Commodity: Stop Using Black People in Racist Commercials To Up Your “Diversity”

Commercials have always been used by companies as a way to reel in all sorts of people to buy their products and convince them why they are indeed the best at what they do. Although the premises of these commercials are general, there is usually some target audience that they really want to hit; it could be children, teens, women in their mid 40’s or people of color, specifically Black People.

Companies have started going after minorities as a way to adapt to this influx in diversity and empowerment, all a part of our cultural and societal change where many youths are starting to understand social justice and the many issues in our society. The youth has inevitably become more open-minded as we begin to see everything wrong with our society, and many corporations and companies want to get a hold of our demographic. It could be clothing stores like Forever 21, trying to sell this “fast-fashion” faux feminism while inherently going against everything feminism stands for, or it could be companies, most recently, like Pepsi attempting to advocate social justice and the problems with police brutality (and heavily missing the mark).

One company, however, that is clearly a repeat offender, and learned almost nothing from their many mistakes, is none other than Dove. Not the chocolates (Thank God), but the hair and skin care company. You might have used their Dove Soap Bars, their shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, deodorant or whatever else it may be. One selling point of their commercials, however, is the fact that they not only use Black actors and actresses in their ads but they also advocate “body-positivity” because they know what sells these days. If you pretend to be fake “woke,” you can attract a large following of people who truly believe you share their ideas of inclusiveness and, in the end, you can use their support to make a profit. However, most of the time, if you are fake “woke” you’ll screw up eventually. That’s what happens when you don’t actually have any regard for issues in this country and the world, and you trivialize matters that are very serious.

If you pretend to be fake “woke,” you can attract a large following of people who truly believe you share their ideas of inclusiveness and, in the end, you can use their support to make a profit.

Recently, Dove released an ad for a Dove body wash featuring a black woman who uses the product and then all of a sudden she is white. There are many things wrong with this ad. For one thing, it implies that dark skin is equivalent to dirt. This theme of dark skin being dirty has long been used and is another example of racism being so rooted in our society to a point where ads like this are able to pass in the 21st century without people initially not seeing what’s wrong with it.

Someone gave a green light to this ad, and that’s what is so scary and disappointing about it. Someone didn’t think this was racist or offensive or how it would make people with dark skin feel. Being South Asian, I’ve seen the racism and disdain for dark skin rooted in my community, so much so to a point where companies like “Fair and Lovely”, skin bleaching brands, have been able to capitalize off of the fears of South Asians, and sell them products that are not safe, not healthy and clearly forwarding a message that if one has dark skin they cannot be accepted. These commercials normalize a very dangerous belief held by many people that primarily eurocentric features are the standard of beauty by which we must all abide, and if we don’t, no one will want us. This obsession with light skin has reached an unhealthy level, and just as we as a society move on, something always drags us down. AN ad for Fair and Lovely.

The worst part about these ads is that they use people of color as if they are some product. They use them to target an audience and then they completely shatter that audience’s confidence and the “empowerment” it was supposed to bring quickly turns into something else. These ads are racist, but these companies don’t want to admit it because they still have that mindset that if there’s one person of color present in the ad, they are not racist and open to diversity. In response to the backlash, Dove said this:

They never acknowledged the racism behind it, in fact, they were not even sorry they offended people, the way they worded it shows they regret that you feel offended. They don’t feel sorry for anything because that’s what happens when companies and big businesses try to capitalize off of social issues. They are a money-making machine and they don’t have any emotion attached to these issues. Support Black Business, support small business because big businesses have clearly made people of color into some commodity, a product, a target. Racism in the media and ads will never stop, but our response to these ads can create change. Don’t let these things slide by, don’t give them an O.K, or a pass, let them know what they’ve done is wrong.



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