It’s easy for most people in the U.S. to view racism as mostly an American problem. When we think of racism, often we think of images depicting black men being beaten, shot, or choked to death by police. But two very different laundry detergent commercials from overseas reminds us that racism is a worldwide problem.
First, there’s this laundry commercial from China for Qiaobi laundry detergent.
The commercial starts off with a young, very light skinned Chinese woman who’s in the middle of doing laundry.
In walks a young dark-skinned black man, who appears to have been painting with white paint, as illustrated by the paint bucket he’s carrying and the splashes of white paint on his face.
The young man whistles and winks at the woman, in a crude way reinforcing a common perception in Chinese culture that black men are sexual predators.
The woman suggestively signals the young man to come over, tricking him into believing that they are about to make out.
When he leans in to kiss her, she puts a packet of detergent in his mouth, grabs his head and pushes him into the washing machine until his feet disappear and he’s trapped inside.
She then sits on the lid and starts the washer, while the young man makes funny noises of distress.
When the machine stops, she lifts the lid and voila. The black man is magically transformed into a “perfectly acceptable,” young, attractive, light-skinned Chinese man.
The young woman’s very pleased by the transformation.
The new, “cleaner” man holds out a detergent pack and winks with an animated twinkle.
In Chinese society, whiter skin is viewed more favorably and accounts for a large part of their standards of beauty, according to the Kennesaw Journal of Undergraduate Research. People with darker skin are often looked down upon in their society, which helps drive the booming sales of various skin bleaching treatments popular throughout Asia.
So, it’s not surprising that black people are commonly used to depict the most undesirable aspects of beauty within different cultures throughout Asia. However, this form of racism isn’t restricted to Asia; it’s also prevalent throughout cultures within South America and Mexico.
On the flip side, there’s a different kind of racism that stems from the objectification of principally black males as being sexually superior all other males.
This stereotype derives from the days of slavery, where slave owners sought to breed the biggest and strongest black males to labor in their fields, often killing or castrating weaker males to prevent them from breeding. The result was usually stronger generations of black men, who somehow were believed to have much larger than normal sexual organs.
That brings us to the second detergent commercial from Italy by Coloreria Italiana, which was the original ad from which Qiaobi decided to copy.
The commercial has a similar setup, but they replace the black male with a pushy, skinny, somewhat hairy, light-skinned Italian man wearing nothing but tidy-whities. Same as the Chinese commercial, a beautiful Italian girl lures him in and pushes him down into the washer.
But this time out comes a very muscular black man with caption’s on either side of him reading: “Coloreria Italiana” on the left and “Coloured is better” on the right.
This type of stereotypical racism is less denounced than the more negative variety; many black men even subscribe to this fundamentally flawed self-image as a positive thing.
However, this stereotype continues to reduce black men to less than intelligent sexual objects; a “dark sexual secret” white women can hide from their family. Meanwhile, it breeds resentment and envy within white males who feel inadequate when compared to these unrealistic depictions of black men.
This misconception can contribute to more discrimination and more negative types of racism towards black people in general.