Wash the Black Away!

So this came to my attention via one of my good friends on twitter. It appears Dove made a lot of folks angry with this ad that seems to portray that Dove will literally clean the black off your skin, taking you from Black to Latina to White in a matter of days.

Strangely, Michael Jackson was NOT the first thing that came to my mind here

If you look at the ad, it becomes kind of clear that the before and after pictures refer to the pads on the wall, and are not about the women. I think. However, Dove has made enough gaffes and stupid moves before to write this off as a simple mistake and move on. They have been called racist and guilty of promoting unhealthy stereotypes before, from their many casting calls specifically calling for lighter and less “curvy” women. You would think that Dove would have received enough backlash to have the sense to actually show their ad to women and people of color in focus groups to make sure it works. Nope. Epic fail on their part and no amount of apologies will make up for the stunning stupidity here.

However, I think the reaction in the blogosphere, in which widespread anti-racist condemnation of Dove has spread like wildfire, is a bit overblown. I don’t think a sensible person wishing to keep his job, regardless of how racist he or she really is, would have intentionally done this. Black folks have reached a level of oversensitivity to these things and tend to miss the big picture (part of why this blog was created) and I think the reaction to this ad is a function of this. However, it’s tough to blame the reactions when these ads ACTUALLY HAPPENED:

My God, look at that Side eye

Yeah so this stuff isn’t new by any means. It’s happened so much and was once so culturally ubiquitous that we HAVE to react some way when things like this happen, even when they appear to not be malicious (or at least I think not). Of course there’s the underlying insecurities and issues with Black beauty and the beliefs that we must white wash or bleach ourselves (literally and metaphorically) to become beautiful and the exploitation of those insecurities that companies like Dove do on PURPOSE to sell (they are definitely guilty of that).

So I can kind of understand why folks are so angry. Dove is part of an industry that has consciously strived to marginalize blackness and create insecurities. They deserve extra scrutiny and criticism during events like this. But I just can’t get behind the idea that they were either  brazen or stupid enough to purposefully make a racist statement here. But I may be wrong.

What do you think? Intentional or unintentional?

3 Responses to “Wash the Black Away!”
  1. Posky says:

    One of my best friends wrote a similar article after seeing a video about little girls in Korea having eye widening surgery. I have to agree that there is an over emphasis on the importance of “white culture” and would like to see people enhancing their own beauty. I would also like to see media and marketing act a little more responsibly and stop screwing with people’s self image.

    You can see his article here at

    My opinions on the matter, while not identical to his, are similar.

  2. Lafemmeroar says:

    The ad seems to be a Freudian slip on Dove’s part. Hmmmm….

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] to Black self-images and beauty aesthetics. Twitter and the blogosphere are afire about it, and we we wrote a piece on a similar mistake by another cosmetics company a while back. This type of thing isn’t new, as we detailed in that article, and the “innocent” […]

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