The most “racist” ad ever? That’s what many are calling a recent advertisement for China’s Qiaobi laundry detergent.
Featuring a Black man and a Chinese woman, the ad begins with the two flirting and looking at each other suggestively. As the Black man leans in for a kiss, the woman pops a laundry pod into his mouth and shoves him into a washing machine.
A few moments later, a ‘cleaner’ Chinese man emerges in a crisp white T-shirt to the woman’s pleasure.
“Change, it all starts from Qiaobi laundry detergent pod,” says a voiceover.
Receiving some mixed responses, the ad has faced backlash from many while others have defended its purposes.
“My God,” writes a user on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblog. “Don’t Chinese marketing people get any education about race?”
According to the owner of the laundry detergent brand, he was unaware of any racial implications of the ad.
“I don’t know much about the advertisement,” said the man, only identified as Mr. Xia. “To be honest, I didn’t really pay that much attention to the advertisement.”
Many have also alluded to its similarity to an Italian ad that once faced the same amount of controversy by washing a white man and changing him to a Black man to advertise for a colored laundry powder.
Others, however, were confused as to why the ad was seen as controversial.
“Actually, it’s racist to take skin color into account,” wrote one Weibo user. “A non-racist person would only take it as a joke, just like black and white T-shirts having the same price.”
The idea of fair skin being seen as ideal is a very common phenomenon that spans throughout Asia, and a serious lack of outside ethnic groups in China doesn’t help much either. Out of the total 1.3 billion people living in China, there are only 600,000 foreigners and a very small portion of that number is Black.
“It is not a question of Chinese not having anti-racist consciousness. They do,” says Barry Sautman, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
It’s apparent that the majority of the population has had little to no interaction with Black people, which can sure enough lead to controversial occurrences such as this one.