Coffee Rhetoric: Uncivilized Afros and Slave Earrings

August 22, 2011

Uncivilized Afros and Slave Earrings

Twitter... My timeline makes me cry with laughter, furrow my brow in consideration, and mutter "hell no" whenever anyone re-tweets a link to something questionable or highly inappropriate. The latest marketing and media missteps caused me to exclaim just that when this past week, several re-tweets exposed skincare brand Nivea running afoul of folks with their Look Like You Give a Damn campaign geared towards men. The featured ad that ran in the September issue of Esquire Magazine presented a clean-cut Black man gripping a scraggly, brown rubber mask, with an unkempt beard and Afro with the tagline: RE-CIVILIZE YOURSELF. The general consensus was that the ad was racially insensitive, particularly since people of the African diaspora have historically been judged as being uncivilized and not entirely human. Twitter's Black community took Nivea to task, prompting the company to issue an apology, in which they admitted: "After realizing that this ad is misleading, it was immediately withdrawn." The company further reinforced Nivea as a company that promotes diversity and tolerance. "This ad was inappropriate and offensive. It was never our intention to offend anyone, and for this we are deeply sorry. This ad will never be used again." They promised.
While Nivea quickly retreated back to the drawing board for a more presentable, less contentious marketing campaign, Vogue Italia incited the Twitter masses to chorus again with their online editorial titled: "Slave Earrings."   
"If the name brings to the mind the decorative traditions of the women of colour who were brought to the southern United States during the slave trade, the latest interpretation is pure freedom." They advise. 
Apparently the Trans-Atlantic slave trade featured a ship packed with sexy, flirty, and fashion forward folk sporting killer hoop earrings. While some people want to push "post-racial" propaganda as a way to trivialize and not have to deal with racism and bigotry while whining that we're becoming a society that's riddled with excessive political-correctness, it seems that racially insensitive quips are on the rise. Political pundits want to glorify the good ol' days and regale the masses with tales of how wonderful slavery and racial oppression supposedly was and marketing heads seem to not have at least one or two people on their staff with some semblance of common sense, before putting ads out. People can't help but react when their communities are still... in 2011... being marginalized and exploited and then told to stfu, stop over-reacting and just deal with it. 
Vogue Italia could have taken a different approach in explaining the decorative customs of women from the African Diaspora and how tribal jewelry has influenced today's versions of hoop earrings... and NOT title the feature Slave Earrings. I can't help but have an impending  feeling of dread now, when I consider which pair of large, funky hoops to wear. I think we co-exist in an age where people are (or should be anyway) highly-evolved enough to have gotten a clue about respecting people's differences and understanding the fundamentals of what's acceptable versus what isn't, regardless of how far-removed they may be from how the rest of society lives or how politically correct they think we're becoming. It's not about stifling speech, forcing folks to like something about somebody, or thinking how much a group of people are overreacting... but about reaching a place where we actually consider someone's feelings when we tackle certain aspects of their culture and truly understand what place we're coming from before we engage in discourse about their lifestyle or history. 
Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.4