“If you don’t know me, don’t judge me. ” — Tupac Shakur
It seems like every season a racially insensitive ad perpetuates the media and causes controversy. I remember waking up to see the Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad and how problematic it was and writing about it. Today, I’m frustrated yet again by another advertisement that is blatantly racist and disrespectful to the black community.
An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.
— Dove (@Dove) October 7, 2017
“An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully,” Dove brand wrote on Twitter. “We deeply regret the offense it caused.”
Of course in typical guilty AF fashion, the company removes the image and politely apologizes. This notion of being blatantly racist, apologizing for it and moving on doesn’t satisfy me. Burger King, Pepsi, Dove are all financially successful companies each generating over a billion dollars in revenue in 2016. Each of these established have also made racist ads in the past three years. It is frustrating that companies with this level of influence and resources lack the sensitivity not to create racist ads.
Maybe these billion dollar companies just don’t know better. Luckily for them, I’m a black man, a writer with a platform and an HBCU graduate. I have no problem suggesting what these companies can do to stop creating offensive and racially insensitive advertising.
Diversify Your Team
Lack of diversity is an issue that we as a country are continuing to battle in every space possible. Today we hear of prestigious schools such as Harvard welcoming its most diverse freshman class in history. Companies and institutions are looking for different perspectives. One way that a group can make sure racist ads don’t have life is to hire diverse help to create a more inclusive work environment.
As a student of Television, I understand the infrastructure of how any television show or advertisement is produced. When a company is looking to create any content that is going to be out in the world, make sure the development team is diverse. In the pitching phase of a commercial or advertisement, look to ask someone if this material offensive or problematic.
Acknowledgment and transparency can fight racism.
We all should have individuals in our lives that are different from us who we can converse with about different ideas. It doesn’t take much energy to e-mail a person of a particular demographic and say,
“Hey we are looking to create this ad, I don’t know much about this issue and wonder could this offend someone.”
The statement above is honest, transparent and acknowledges ignorance. I’m confident if someone on the Pepsi or Dove team contacted an activist from Black Lives Matter or even a diversity specialist in HR, a constructive conversation could have been had. Imagine all the production costs that could be avoided with a free simple email. Instead, these vast productions take place and have to be “removed” because they are offensive.
2) Play It Safe
The old saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” We all have issues that we may not be entirely aware of. For me, I don’t know much about The Transgender movement. I have nothing against trans people I just have not allotted the time to do substantial research about the movement. With that said, I would never use my platform or voice to portray or discuss trans people because I’m ignorant.
Companies should make decisions with the same method. If you don’t know about a specific community or don’t have them represented on your teams, don’t say anything at all. Acknowledge your ignorance and stay away from that community until you can address them with sensitivity, competence and respect.
3) Get Smarter
Books, Music, Films and social media are filled with content regarding race relations. Anyone in the world who wants to know about another group’s struggle can quickly learn. We all should look to familiarize ourselves with literature that doesn’t look like our own. Last summer I read, “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance, after doing so I have a whole new understanding of working-class white people. In Brene Brown’s new book “Braving the Wilderness,” she preaches that it is hard to hate someone up close. When you look to understand someone with an open heart and mind, you will treat them better. Companies should look to reading up on black dehumanization, systematic oppression and why specific ads such as the Pepsi and Dove advertisements could be offensive.
We all make mistakes, and I get that. What is important is that we look to one another to learn so we can stop making the same mistakes. This is 2017; there is no excuse for ignorance or racism in the day we live in. I hope that after this habitual notion of offending blacks in media, we can all look to learn from one another and do better.