#ThoughtfulTuesday: What You May Not Understand…

I haven’t written a post for my “From Where I Sit” feature for a while so here goes…

You may have heard about the recent “Dove ad” controversy and if not, you can Google it or click here for a general idea.

It was quite interesting to read social media comments that varied from “That ad is racist and I’m boycotting the company” to “In what world is that ad offensive? Get a grip you over-politically correct people!

Whether the ad was insensitive, offensive or racist, that’s up to you to decide.

However, for those of you who don’t see how the ad could possibly be disrespectful, I’m sharing a few experiences to show from where some of the controversy may come.

People may not understand about:

  • that little boy in my kindergarden class (who had probably never seen a Black person before) who turned up his nose in disgust and asked me why I came to school “dirty” right before scraping his finger along my arm to see how much “dirt” would come off;
  • my second grade teacher who had no shame in saying how “brown” and “black” people were stupid and smelled back (I was the “black” one, the “brown” boy was from Indian descent and believe me, the only unshowered stink came from her); or
  • the next door neighbor girls who would call me “caca” through our chain link fence for years and years.

But as a child, I understood that I was seen as “less than” and dirty because of the color of my skin.

People may not understand about:

  • a loser classmate in high school who would sit behind me to pull on my braids and call me “Medusa” (until I introduced him to my fist);
  • growing up bombarded by ads and messaging that reinforced that the only path to “pretty” was having blond hair and blue eyes; or
  • not being able to buy basic make-up for my skin tone because “skin tone” color had nothing to do with me.

But as a teenager, I accepted that I had to live with being “ugly” because I would never meet the impossible beauty standard plastered in magazines, on billboards and on television.

People may also not understand the reality of being “complimented” on how you are “pretty for a Black girl” or having someone touch your hair without your permission to see if it’s real (because if it’s long it must be a weave) like you’re some kind of object unworthy of boundaries.

But as a grown woman and having endured those kinds of experiences as an early backdrop to my life, I quickly noticed the “issue” with the Dove ad, as did my 79 year old mother and 16 year old niece when I showed it to them.

At face value and for many, the Dove ad is…quiet.

But for others, it speaks volumes and is a reminder of the false truths we learned about “black” being “unclean”, “unworthy”, “dirty” and “not ideal”.

You see, if you had experienced just a tiny bit of what I’vr shared with you, your eyes may also have caught the image of a Black woman bathing the ‘black” off to get “clean” and “pretty”…

From where I sit and through my brown eyes, that is what lies behind the controversy.

All Rights Reserved ©2017 Marquessa Matthews




29 thoughts on “#ThoughtfulTuesday: What You May Not Understand…

  1. Pingback: Thoughtful Tuesday: What You May Not Understand… – The Militant Negro™

  2. I was appalled when I saw that ad. I simply couldn’t find the words to express my disbelief. Well expressed post. I know where you are coming from ‘cos I’ve been there and even now as a grown woman, I’ve learnt to live with the smallmindedness of people and the challenges associated with ‘being born black.’

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My wife showed me the ad last night. Both of us were shocked. I’m with you on this. It was wildly inappropriate, and bordered on blatant racism. I still am baffled at what they were thinking. Any criticism they receive is well-warranted, I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    What bothers me most is that Black people are saying to boycott now when Dove has had the stupid “from normal to dark skin” label on their shimmering lotion for years! There are way too many Black owned soap, shampoo and lotion brands for us to support Dove. We should be seeking out Black owned brands and brands that cater to Black people instead of boycotting for a few weeks every time we hear something we don’t like.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was shocked when I seen it, and that’s the crazy world we live in. People always seem to say we need to get over it. How, when it’s happening everywhere? That’s why I personally like to support Black owned business. Thanks for sharing this, Marquessa.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Even as an old white dude, when I saw that ad I was like “WTF were they thinking?!” They must have dug up some old soap ads from back when ads were routinely racist. It’s frustrating that there still are people who would think this was ok.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I hadn’t seen — or even heard of — the ad till I visited the NPR link you provided. I am incredulous. It’s laughable that anyone in today’s world could possibly have thought that was a good idea, much less anyone representing a “beauty” products company..

    At the same time, Dove was the company that ran the ad campaign using an FBI sketch artist to compare how women see themselves with how others see them. (http://www.adweek.com/creativity/dove-hires-criminal-sketch-artist-draw-women-they-see-themselves-and-others-see-them-148613/) And there was Dove’s legacy film about how a mother’s self image affects her daughter’s self image (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pqknd1ohhT4)

    Both of those projects honored diversity. So what led Dove to go so drastically wrong? I hope those responsible at any level are now seeking new employment.

    You’ve written a powerful piece, Marquessa. It gave me insight into racism I haven’t ever experienced from either side. But it also made me see how similarly advertising and people in general have treated another group of people that crosses all color lines. Substitute “dirty” with “lazy”, and “black” and “brown” with “fat”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have also admired some of their past ads…except the fact that there labelling is “off” too (take a look at Kelley’s comment). Someone was asleep at the wheel and all it takes is one incident…but this is ad incident #2… I’m glad that I was able to shed some light.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not familiar with their other ad incident either, but then I don’t generally pay much attention to any commercials anyway. I came across the two I referenced when I was more caught up in Facebook. The labeling issue Kelley mentions is either completely thoughtless, or a throwback to a Fifties’ mindset. It does seem to be an institutional problem with that company.

        Do you remember when Crayola renamed the color they used to call “flesh”? Even as a kid, I wondered why they used that term for a color that didn’t represent all people’s flesh. Later they came out with a 16 crayon box called My World Colors, that was labeled “Skin, hair, and eye colors”.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I loved your post – very necessary for many people do not understand what it is all about. Regarding the Dove ad I cannot but help suspect that it was a carefully planned advertisement campaign. They made a point, they got noticed and then apologized gracefully made the right noises and the entire world is doing nothing but talk about Dove. And when we go to the market, the subconsciously instilled notion of white being better than black makes the shopper absently reach for the one echoing in the recesses of their brains – Dove and they laugh all the way to the bank. A bit far-fetched perhaps but I cannot quite get this suspicion out of my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am so sorry you — and millions of others — grew up knowing people thought you were less because you’re black. I sometimes wonder when I’m caught scowling at something — maybe a passing thought, maybe the raindrops — by someone who’s black, do they think it’s directed at them? I never wonder about that with those who are white. I’m acutely aware that after a point you can’t discern the difference between those scowling at their own thoughts and those scowling at you, in this case because of who you are. Now, most people have more sense than I’m giving them credit for here (that is to say, they don’t think about it as much as I do) but my point is when people you should be able to trust (like teachers) are bigots, you don’t know who to trust.

    Liked by 1 person

Great blogs thrive because of comments and readership. I'd love to hear from you!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s