Posted by: Khatija on Aug 24, 2011
A black person can call another black person a n*gg**, a white person cant. A black person can refer to another black person’s hair as nappy, a white person cant. A black person can joke with another black person about being uncivilised, No, Nivea, you can’t!
I didn’t invent the rules; I’m just playing the game.
Skin-care specialists, Nivea’s, “Re-civilize yourself: look like you give a damn” campaign was recently banned after a controversial advert contrasting two African-American men was published.
One clean-shaven, well dressed, supposedly, ‘civilised’ man holding the head (possibly his own) of a seemingly angry, nappy-headed, supposedly, ‘uncivilised’ man.
There are two problems with this advert; firstly, it is the use of the black man in an already race-sensitive world. I am arguing here that had it been a white man, carrying another white man’s head, the advert would have aroused a different reaction.
Both African and American continents grapple with a history of segregation, the people of colour in those continents store memories of being called names such as baboons, barbarians and uncivilised. I guess it can be described as a case of forgiven but not forgotten.
Not only is it too soon to be making references such as these in an advert but it can also be interpreted as unnecessary, racist and unethical.
The second problem is the tag line: “Re-civilize yourself.” This is what caused all the commotion. Is Nivea saying that by using their product, male customers transform from uncivilised to civilised? The use of another word, such as “Re-invent” instead of “Re-civilize” would have made all the difference.
The public condemned the ad campaign on facebook by posting pictures of themselves and celebrities with afros celebrating beautiful, talented, civilised African-American actors and highly-esteemed university graduates.
Nivea then posted an apology on their facebook page which read:
Thank you for caring enough to give us your feedback about the recent "Re-civilized" NIVEA FOR MEN ad. 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. Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of our company.
I’m sure those responsible for the advert are an intelligent and creative bunch. Did they sign off on the advert with the intention of purposefully rustling the feathers of readers?
The Constitution of South Africa states that “No person may publish, propagate, advocate or communicate words based on one or more of the prohibited grounds, against any person, that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to be hurtful, be harmful or incite harm, or to promote or propagate hatred.