By Ryan Velez
Dove has provided a formal apology after dropping an ad that instantly caused an outrage and many an accusation of racism about as soon as it came out. The New York Times describes the ad as a Black woman wearing a brown shirt removing it to show a white woman in a white shirt. While the ad may be gone and Dove has given its apology, many question what allowed this ad to even make it to the public, not to mention the dark racial trend that it continues.
To be clear, this isn’t the first time that soap advertising has used the connotation of Black people as dirty to try and push their products. In fact, this dates back decades. One of many examples includes an ad by the N. K. Fairbank Company, which was in business from 1875 to 1921. In it, a white child asks a Black child, “Why doesn’t your mamma wash you with Fairy soap?” The combination of the history and the blatant connotations of the Dove ad led to quick social media condemnation.
On Saturday, Dove — owned by Unilever — apologized, writing on Facebook: “Dove is committed to representing the beauty of diversity. In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused.”
A spokesperson for Dove, Marissa Solan, added that the ad “was intended to convey that Dove Body Wash is for every woman and be a celebration of diversity, but we got it wrong and, as a result, offended many people.” On top of this, she mentioned that the company was “re-evaluating our internal processes for creating and reviewing content.” One hole in the apology that is sure to raise some eyebrows is no mention on who reviewed the ad, or if anyone in that process was African-American.
Unsurprisingly, critics found the apology lacking. “What was the mark?” the Facebook user Ariel Macklin wrote in a comment that was liked more than 1,100 times. “I mean anyone with eyes can see how offensive this is. Not one person on your staff objected to this? Wow. Will not be buying your products anymore.” This isn’t necessarily uncommon. Some may recall a 2016 ad from a Chinese detergent company where a black man is washed into an Asian man. Another example from this year is a Nivea ad using the term “white is purity.”