Where to begin? On Sunday evening I was scrolling through social media, minding my own business — I am still suffering from “Insecure” HBO withdrawal by the way — when I ran across this screenshot from a recent Dove body wash advertisement. If you don’t know what I am talking about, then you’ve definitely been living under a rock for the past few days, which might not be such a bad idea given all of the tomfoolery that has been occurring in our country lately, but I digress. Back to the ad...
Like many others, at first glance I was completely disgusted. As I attempted to digest and dissect the ad, I experienced a barrage of emotions. All sorts of racist rhetoric began to flood into my mind. First I wondered, is Dove trying to say that my magical, melanin-rich skin is dirty? I know they know better than that. Then I thought, are they suggesting that white is right? Are they implying that I will get lighter if I use their funky little body wash? Seriously, what are they trying to say here, and who on God’s green earth thought this ad was okay? I guess to say I was offended is an understatement. Lastly, I became angry. I immediately threw away my Dove soap which really hurt my heart to do, because their soap for sensitive skin has been a staple in my bathroom for years, let me just say. I mean, I had a full “Dove-you-tried-it-but-I-bet-you-won’t-ever-get-another-dime-of-my-hard-earned-money-again” moment, and I know I wasn’t alone. Almost every post I read on social media about the ad included a “let me throw away all of my Dove products” comment.
In response to the backlash, Dove did what most companies do (ahem, Shea Moisture), they issued an apology. And while I appreciate the fact the company owned their mistake, their apology fell on plenty of deaf ears... Ok, maybe just mine. Yeah, I honestly had the same face as that cute, unimpressed baby whose picture is floating around on social media right now... Like, really, Dove?
I was completely over it until I saw a friend’s Facebook post urging people to view the full ad. So, I took a step back, decided to be fair (I am all about equity), and did just that.
Webster’s Dictionary defines racist as “showing or feeling discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or believing that a particular race is superior to another.” This particular ad, when viewed in its entirety, does not fit that definition in my opinion. Therefore, I don’t believe the intent was malicious per se’ and I, personally, don’t find it racist. However, it does prove what we, African Americans, have always known: We need a seat at the table. At what table am I referring? Oh, I want a seat at all of them. Yep, all of the tables.
African Americans need a seat at any and every table where major decisions are made.
We need a seat at any and every table where major decisions are made, which is why I can’t fully let Dove off the hook for this ad. I refuse to believe there were senior-level black people involved in the development of this advertisement campaign. Maybe I am being naive, but I would like to think had there been, something would have been said prior to the ad’s release. I imagine someone would have asked, “Do we really want the black woman to take off her shirt and become a white woman?” “How many different ways can that be interpreted?” And before anyone accuses me or any other African American of being overly sensitive, let’s take a little trip down memory lane, shall we? Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a company has been compelled to issue an apology after launching a culturally insensitive ad campaign and it probably won’t be the last.
Earlier this year, Nivea (whose skin firming lotion gave me so much life) featured an ad with the most ridiculous tag line, “White Is Purity.” To which I replied, “Oh, I guess I’ll just have to step up my squat game or walk around with lumpy thighs because I will never buy another bottle of Nivea again!” Sigh.
And who can forget the repulsive, controversial laundry detergent ad that surfaced last year? Get this. The commercial actually featured an Asian woman shoving cleaning liquid down a black man’s throat and placing him in the washing machine. Afterwards he, much to her delight, immerges as a much lighter, Asian man. The ad was beyond offensive to say the least.
Of course, I can go back much further than 2016...
You get the picture. Historically, there have been several racist ads that depict African American skin as ugly, shameful, and unclean, which makes the Dove ad campaign that much more inexcusable for a lot of us. We are simply tired of giving passes. For years we have been inundated with deplorable images of us that have been used as marketing ploys and ridiculous standards of beauty that often don’t include us, yet big brands, such as Dove, still want our money. Sorry, but we’re just not here for it in 2017. Though some don’t believe it, according to Nielson.com, African American buying power was estimated to be $162 billion in 2016 among Black Millenials alone. Whether that number is overinflated or not (and I doubt it is), no one can deny the fact that we have money and we spend it. At the end of the day, money talks and quite frankly, until we get several seats at all of the tables, in my humble opinion, it’s high time for our money to walk.