We Jumped to Conclusions on the Dove Advertisement

Last week, the internet went up in flames over a seemingly racist advertisement by Dove. In addition to the latest ad that sparked major controversy, the beauty company was called out for their history of racially insensitive advertisements. But what if the advertisement wasn’t racist?

Yes, it seems like once again, black people were used as the butt of a joke. It’s nothing new, as companies have mocked colored people for decades in their ad campaigns...especially soap ads.

I mean, what better way to promote that colored people are dirty, and that your soap is the best cleaning product around? Like this:

Living in a world practicing systemic oppression- and living in a country built on racism- it becomes easier and easier to point out the discrimination and racist tactics that affect our lives on a daily basis. As minorities continue to use their platforms to speak out on racism, it feels like we, as people of color, must always be aware of racist practices, ready to call them out.

Perhaps we’ve become so engulfed in it, that we may have developed a hypersensitivity to almost everything we see. I believe that we have become so used to having our identities dragged through the mud by different forms of media, that we sometimes jump to conclusions when we feel we’ve been attacked.

This image was plastered all over social media. Even now, over a week after the ad was at its peak of criticisms, it is still being discussed. It is easy to say, after seeing an image of a darker-skinned black woman changing into a fairer-skinned white woman, that the ad is clear racism. I even thought so myself, given the history of Dove’s insensitivity towards ethnic people and people of color.

However, I decided to view the original ad rather than the screenshots. Sure enough, the original ad shows the same two women, but it also depicts the white woman changing her shirt into a tanner skinned woman. So how could this ad promote whiteness if the lighter skinned woman turns into a woman with darker skin? 

Even though parts of the ad were taken out of context and blown up for criticism, it is possible that the backlash could have been avoided. Perhaps changing the sequence of the women featured could have saved Dove all this heat. Maybe if there were more people of color in these board meetings, companies would not make these mistakes.

The advertising industry still remains largely dominated by white men. According to 2016 statistics from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 4.1% of employees in “advertising, public relations and related services” are African American or black. Only 5% are Hispanic or Latino. And within those small percentages, even fewer minorities hold positions as creative directors.

If advertising industries want to increase their profits and effectiveness through advertisements, It is necessary that industry officials start holding these companies accountable for their lack of diversity.