The most recent ad from Nivea meant to promote skin-lightening products in Africa.
The most recent ad from Nivea meant to promote skin-lightening products in Africa.

When Skin-Care Lines Cross the Line

Given the current climate of today's society, it is really unfathomable that we are still having conversations about whether or not a skin-care ad is racially charged. I think I speak for most African-Americans when I say, "We don't want your apology; we want you to stop."

These ads from skin-care companies are eerily reminiscent of ads that were featured during the Reconstruction era, and in all honesty, nothing has changed. They still demonize or show intolerance of black skin, while emphasizing the "purity" of all that is white.

Frankly, it is never "okay" to spread racist, hateful messages about people of color, or to even suggest that any color or race other than white is impure.

This may come as a surprise to some, but this is not the first time Nivea has launched a controversial ad that sparked outrage. In 2011, Nivea first attacked African-Americans when it launched an ad featuring the words "Re-Civilize Yourself" with an African-American man holding an African-American head with an Afro and a thick beard accompanied by the phrasing "Look like you give a damn."

Was the public to infer that an Afro and a thick beard on an African-American man was not a civilized look?

In April of this year, Nivea had to pull an ad campaign in the Middle East that caused severe backlash over its wording. The ad featured the phrase "White is purity" paired with "Keep it clean, keep it bright. Don't let anything ruin it..."

Again, why are these ads specifically targeting people of color? These ads are strategically placed in countries that are heavily populated by people who are of "color."

This German-based company, in the most recent attacks against people of color, was highly criticized for an ad that was promoted in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal — this ad promoted a product that would aid in achieving "visibly fairer skin." The only problem with the ad was that it had an African-American woman who used the product and as she used it, the part of her skin was then "visibly" lighter by more than a few shades when compared to the rest of her body.

This ad campaign was launched in the Middle East in April of this year, but was taken down because of controversy shortly thereafter.
This ad campaign was launched in the Middle East in April of this year, but was taken down because of controversy shortly thereafter.

The idea of darker black skin needing to be lightened is outrageous, and many feel the same way. This is an effort to subconsciously impart self-hate to people of African descent. Many will argue that this is not about color, but more about poor marketing; I beg to differ. This is absolutely about race, racism and intolerance. If it were just about removing dark or unwanted spots, then why not say just that?

Why is it that anyone who has a hint of melanin is considered "dirty," "unclean" or "diseased"? What if people of color began to imply that those of European descent were just that — diseased? What if ads by black businesses targeted those of European descent with the intent of spreading self-hate? Would you call them "sensitive," or would every single product be pulled from the shelves within a matter of 48 hours?

Maybe African-Americans should stop buying products from companies who clearly don't care if those they are targeting are offended or not? In the meantime, stop making excuses. Stop trying to say it's not about color. Please stop telling those of us who are offended we are being too sensitive — it's insulting.

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >