In a recent ad published by Dove, a message to Black families and viewers across the world about the old American tale that white skin is clean and black skin is dirty was sent without intent. As Dove has issued official statements regarding the ad, the perceived message has already been placed in he minds of many viewers, regardless of race. However, there’s more to the ad than meets the eye. As an Educator, my hope it that the ad will challenge our scholars to look beyond what meets the eye. This is not the first and only concern with Dove. The labeling on the products is empowers negative stereotypes about dark-skinned people. It empowers the insensitive culture of defining beauty by skin color. Why is dark skin identified and separated from normal skin? I understand that perception is also in the eye of the beholder but that doesn’t take away from underlying messages implied through statements or words. Even the usage of “exotic” or “Intriguing” when referring to people of color insinuates that darker skin is not what the Dove packaging states as “normal.”
Colorism is an age-old issue that certainly plays a major role in our society. Some critics of Dove’s ad have highlighted that the change from the Black, to White to Asian tone innovative reflecting on how Dove’s products transcend the race problem in marketing. The marketing department for Dove, much like Pepsi which their recent ad, should have consulted with its diversity department. It’s funny that instead of departments within major corporations have diversity within its talent, they refer to the “Diversity” department but I digress. There have been so many recent issues with race within our county, the African-American culture in particular, Dove should have asked if the world would be ready for this view? Of course not. Not when we have reigning President that has brought racial tension to the forefront of this country. He is someone who has spoken harsh words publicly against all racial and minorities groups. Marketing departments shouldn’t take lightly the impression that it’s okay to think messages that can be racially charged are okay in our current, racially tense and racially sensitive atmosphere. Besides the questions most people have already asked from how did Dove think this is okay, what other areas of marketing are culturally insensitive to how did this get released. There is one question that should concern us most; what message does this send to Black and Brown children? . . .
- Black & Brown Lives Don’t Matter
- Black is not Normal
- Light Skin is Better than Dark Skin
I can see that Dove desired to send a message that their product works for any skin color or even how strong their product is to work on various skin types, there is still an underlying tone sent through the message that darker skin is dirty. This just continues to happen way to often, especially in the technology age. Where researched, examples, studies and data are to readily available, companies should not be making age-old mistakes seen in cultural insensitive advertisements. In a society where “Make America Great Again” supporters can openly show their dislike for citizens of different racial/ethnic backgrounds, it’s not okay for ads to personify the notion that in order to be clean, fresh and beautiful you need to use Dove that can change any darker skin to lighter. This is the interpretation of a youth leader at my middle school. Scholars are having dialogue about why do people of color always have to justify their beauty?
The messaging does teach a valuable lesson that is evident in our daily existence as Blacks in America. Race does matter. On record, Dove representation states, “We missed the mark representing Black women”… but the question to companies around the world is when will we stop missing the mark? We don’t seem to miss the mark when it comes to other races in particular what has been identified as mainstream white or European culture. Even if the commercial/ad was created for an “intended audience,” it’s still the representation and messaging reflected on Black women/people that lighter skin is cleaner, better or “normal.”
So what’s next?
In talking with Black parents about the ad, they want to know, “when will our children be able to say we are well represented in the marketing pool?” For those who grow up in the 70’s feel like their children will experience a similar “Black is Beautiful” movement due to the influences and current culture in America. Yet, there is hope! Black parents celebrate the fact that we are still breaking barriers. The message many Black families are choosing to take away from the Dove ad is that our presence is needed. It doesn’t neglect the insensitivity of the ad, but acknowledges that the change begins with us. Let’s help set our children’s aspirations to be top executives and investors in not only Dove but their own companies. In order to change the perception of beauty, we have to continue to be in places and positions to do so. We have to change the message of how the Black culture is perceived by highlighting our own successes with our communities, schools and businesses. Practical changes have to happen with how we educate, empower and inspire our children about our culture, that Black is beautiful and that the perception of beauty begins within you. The controversy about this ad should be used as a stepping stone for our children of color to
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.