“What You May Not Understand” #writerwednesday #black #blackhistorymonth #race

(Updated repost)

I’m sure you heard about the H&M “monkey hoodie” scandal and other insensitive advertisements i recent times but in this post, I’m focusing on the “Dove ad” controversy from a while back.

And if not, you can click on the link above and the link 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, racist or okay, that’s up to you to decide.

However, for those of you who don’t see why the ad could possibly be disrespectful, I’m sharing a few of my experiences to show you.

You may not understand all about:

  • a little boy in my kindergarden class (who had probably never seen a Black person before) who turned up his nose 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 say how “brown” and “black” people were smelly and stupid (keep in mind that I was the only “black” person, the “brown” boy was the only East Indian, the only unshowered stink came from that teacher herself); or
  • the next door neighbor kids who would call me “caca” through our chain link fence for years.

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

You may not understand all about:

  • a loser classmate in high school who would sit behind me just to pull on my braids and call me “Medusa” (which only stopped because I introduced him to my fist);
  • growing up bombarded by ads and messaging reinforcing that the only path to “pretty” was blond hair and blue or green eyes; or
  • knowing that “skin tone” make-up or “nude” colored pantyhose didn’t include people like me.

So as a teenager, I accepted that I had to live with being “ugly” because I could never meet those unattainable norms and standards plastered in magazines, on billboards and on television.

You may also not understand being complimented on how you are “pretty for a Black girl”, having someone touch your hair without your permission, or assuming that because your hair is long it must be a weave (and then again, touching it) like you’re not worthy of personal space and boundaries.

So as a grown woman having had to endure those kinds of early experiences, 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, that Dove ad is …”quiet”.

But for others, it is a quiet menace that speaks volumes. It is a reminder of the false truths many of us were taught and learned about being “bad”, “unclean”, “unworthy”, “dirty” and “not the ideal”.

You see, with the tiny bit I’ve shared with you, maybe your eyes will not catch what is insensitive about the ad.

Because from where I sit and through my dark eyes, that is what lies behind the controversy.

All Rights Reserved ©2018 Marquessa Matthews


42 thoughts on ““What You May Not Understand” #writerwednesday #black #blackhistorymonth #race

  1. 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 3 people

  2. 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

    1. I agree. And I hope that companies like them “vet” future ads by involving a level of “diverse”. My teenage niece grew up with better societal messages but she still saw the issue right off the bat!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

    1. 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

      1. 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

  7. 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 2 people

  8. 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

  9. This. Oh yes, THIS! “You may also not understand being complimented on how you are “pretty for a Black girl”, having someone touch your hair without your permission, or assuming that because your hair is long it must be a weave (and then again, touching it) like you’re not worthy of personal space and boundaries.” You expressed so eloquently and elegantly the frustration I often feel. Thank you, sis. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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