The American writer Ta-Nehesi Coates excellently explains in his book Between Me and the World that race is the child of racism. In fact, from a biological point of view, by now we know that races do not exist. The differences between human beings attend to a matter of adaptation to the environment they have traditionally inhabited. Everything else, that if the rhythm in the blood, that if the penis to the knees, that if you are beasts in bed or that if we are good at sports but not so much in thinking, it is, plain and simple, a social construction. A lie that, however, has consequences on a day-to-day basis.
Why then do we have so assumed a series of topics with respect to black people?
Above all, because none of the systems of oppression that are articulated in today's society, be it machismo, classism or racism, do so through a single axis. They are so well equipped that they act from different flanks, sometimes in such a discreet way that they go unnoticed by the part of society that does not suffer from them. Until we stop to think.
Advertising is part of those bricks that can build walls in the brain. Each piece of that mental wall would be a prejudice and, unfortunately, putting them up is easier than knocking them down.
We have selected some ads from Spanish and foreign brands that have contributed to cementing the ideas that exist about black people. It is one of the topics that I usually comment on social networks, where I collect examples of these bricks of racism. We could divide them as follows:
black people are dirty
This is a classic that permeates the day to day of a lot of black children who, at some point in their lives, have claimed that they stain. The song Dirty Face, by rapper and educator Chojin, talks about it. I suppose that those sooty Baltasares from the cavalcades that did leave traces of bitumen have not helped much.
Along these lines, for a time, a good part of the soap commercials associated the cleanliness of their product with being white. Fairy, for example, had an ad in which a blonde white girl asked a black girl why her mother didn't wash her. But she was not the only one. It was common for them to use drawings of black people who, when bathed with the soap in question, turned white.
These are advertisements from the beginning of the 20th century and as such, they connected with a historical moment in which colonization was a reality, slavery, in some countries such as Brazil (in force until 1888) or Spain (until 1886 in Cuba, which is still was Spanish territory) were a recent memory and the American Jim Crow segregation laws (1876 -1965) still applied. So, so to speak, it all fitted together.
However, the amazing thing is that in this same century it is possible to find spots that continue to drink from that racist logic, like this one, from 2016:
Against Cola Cao, a campaign has already been launched by the black community that used the hashtag #colacaonosinsulta, in which several Afro people, including myself, talked about how they had sung the little song to us in our childhood as a way of insult. Again, a racist representation of black people was reproduced that connected with the (harsh) production of cocoa, initially by colonized peoples and that, over the years, had become something that ridiculed us. It all started when Cola Cao Shake came out. In the video you can see a black waiter whose hair is the foam, while the skin is the liquid. Very funny, very mature and most original (read ironically).
The Negrito ice cream, which is now called Negritón, saw fit to include the “blanquito”, after several summers of advertisements in which black ice cream vendors appeared with a supposed Caribbean accent who squinted, while the rest of the people who appeared, white, danced to the rhythm of a song that said something like “here comes the black, Negrito, the Frigo with a little wiggle. Chocolate ball and rich cream for you. This summer, Negrito”.
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There was a year that they included the version of white chocolate, cream and walnuts called Blanquito and that continued with the “flat” theme, in which a female voice, already “without an accent” (very conscientious quotation marks) sang a similar song. Again everyone, white, of course, was shaking their skeletons, except for a dark-skinned guy who played a flute to charm a cobra. There goes another topic.
This is another "classic". It has many whys: from the meeting between the first Europeans who went to Africa and took the nudity of Africans as something lustful, to the division that was established between humans to excuse slavery. This led to the establishment, in a profoundly theocratic era, that some had souls and others did not, so that this would serve to justify the kidnapping, transfer to another continent, sale and forced labor of millions of beings. humans uprooted from the African continent.
When these theses ceased to have force, Enlightenment through, other reasons were appealed to such as that white people were the possessors of universal wisdom, they had the ability to create, think and invent. In the case of women also of femininity and delicacy. Black people, for their part, considered themselves beasts of burden deprived of reason and associated with uncontrollable sexual instincts.
In these assumptions they were based after slavery to, in the southern states of the USA, lynch countless black men who were accused of raping, whistling or simply looking at white women. Black females were confined to domestic work and many were groped and raped by the white "head of the family" of the homes in which they worked. If they denounced, they were blamed for being the ones inciting some “poor men” who allowed themselves to be seduced.
From then on, the kilometric penis or black female sexual insatiability have crept into jokes, movies, series and of course, also into advertising.
I leave here a recent Pepsi ad from 2001, whose text says "now your tail can be bigger" and where, oh, coincidence, black men appear. Also another of a Nestlé chocolate candy, which is sold in several Latin American countries called "kiss of black". The pack features a black woman wearing a matching scarf with a minimal t-shirt that allows part of her lush breasts to show through.
Cannibalism and animalization
The claim that Africans are cannibals has been repeatedly repeated, so that advertising could not be left out. Navidul made it “festive” in a 2009 ad, which has a short and a long version. In it, the Africans, again "primitivized" as in the old Conguitos spot, not only like human flesh but their oracle is a monkey, which shows that everything can always be worse.
But he also has a history of comparing black people to monkeys. Everyone will remember the moment when Dani Alves, a former Barça player, exhausted from hearing simian sounds on football pitches every time he touched the ball, decided to eat the banana that was thrown at him from the stands of the Villarreal stadium as a gesture of rejection. This being the case, that last year, when the H&M brand featured a black boy in its advertising with a sweatshirt that could read “the coolest monkey in the jungle”, Twitter jumped on him is not surprising. The Swedish company apologized and removed the photograph from all its channels.
The question is, is an apology enough or is it beginning to urge advertising companies to include non-white people, women, sexual dissidents and other conscientious non-normative bodies in their templates so that creatives are genuine and without prejudice? ?
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