In the past week, a new Facebook ad arose for Dove, a popular soap and skincare brand. This controversial ad has me and many other people of color outraged at the implications that this ad suggests. This ad depicts a black woman with a brown t-shirt that closely resembles her skin color sitting next to a bottle of Dove body wash. Underneath this picture, the same woman can be seen taking off the brown t-shirt which ultimately transforms her into a Caucasian woman with a cream shirt. This is incredibly offensive because it suggests that black women and women of color in general are “dirty” for their darker skin color. And in order to be perceived as “clean” black women must use Dove to wash off their blackness. Why is being white still the perceived notion of perfection in the 21st century?
This equalization of “black” and “dirty” is not a new development in the history of oppression against black people. From “tar babies”, to “coons, to “jiggaboos”, to“monkeys”, and many other derogatory names, black people were never considered to be good enough or light enough to be human. To our oppressors, our skin color defined our abilities from birth. We were unintelligent, loud, uncultured, lazy, and unfit to be anything other than laborers. But, oppression did not stop at the hands of just white people against black slaves. The oppressors furthered our separation as a people through use of the brown paper bag test. This test made us our own enemies from the early slave era until the modern day which we live. They would hold it up to our skin and the lighter blacks (mixed heritage) would work inside as cooks, maid, or butlers; the darker would work outside in the fields from sunlight to sundown. The brown paper bag test was proof that being “too dark” was dirty, undesirable, and unwanted. It made it clear that beauty or worth could only come from some form of whiteness.
Therefore, this ad further reiterates the narrative of injustice in America towards people of color. Our blackness is still unacceptable and “dirty”. Colorism is still perpetuated into our minds and have turned us into our own worst enemies. Ads like this remind us that we still live in a society that aims to disenfranchise us, to lower our self-esteem, to dehumanize us, and to capitalize on our pain. The increased outrage has drawn exceedingly high media attention from black activists to humanists alike due to its insensitivity. Dove has since removed the ad from their page. They also issued a public statement on their social media accounts to apologize for their “mistake”. Many still, however, have decided to boycott Dove products. For a Dove consumer, this choice to boycott their products is a tough one for me, however, my blackness was not a choice, is not a choice, and will not ever be a choice. Therefore, I choose to take a stand with the boycott and I plan to speak out until “mistakes” like this stop happening in our society.