big corporations don’t give a fuck about the struggle, support black-owned businesses

April 6, 2017

Yesterday, we wrote about how Pepsi’s new Kendall Jenner ad was probably one of the most tone-deaf marketing decisions of all time, and the company’s predictably being dragged by Black Twitter afterwards. Not to be outdone, Nivea decided to give the soda giant a run for it’s money, producing an even more ridiculously tasteless ad this week. In promoting a new deodorant, some genius at the skincare company came up with the tagline, “Keep it clean, keep bright. Don’t let anything ruin it, #Invisible” followed in big, bold letters by the slogan, “White is purity,” in an ad featuring a(n ostensibly) white woman from behind.

This isn’t the first time the Beiersdorf-owned company waded this deep into racial controversy. A few years ago, Nivea ran a shave cream ad showing a Black man with short hair getting ready to throw an older version of his head sporting an afro across a field, with the tag-line “Re-civilize yourself.” You can imagine how that landed.

All three ads fall in a long line of using anti-Blackness as a marketing ploy. Taking the cake for me is this inexplicable shit by Sony:

What’s clear is that white-owned, controlled, and marketed corporations don’t give a fuck about Black people. Anti-Blackness has been selling for over 400 years, and that’s just not going to change overnight. However, what’s great is that with social media regular consumers have more opportunities to voice and organize their outrage, and therefore these companies are more likely to face at least some consequences. But we shouldn’t have to wait until they predictably fuck up to recognize that they don’t really love us, and direct our own love elsewhere in return.

I’m not one to believe that Black people can free themselves by redirecting where their money goes alone. As the bombing of Tulsa, OK in 1921 demonstrated, Black financial independence will always be targeted for elimination by white supremacy. But even if it weren’t, there are way too many Black-owned organizations so caught up in the trappings of capitalism that they too invest in anti-Blackness. Black capitalism won’t save us.

But I do believe in the necessity of redirecting our focus around who and what we support–not just monetarily in the context of Black businesses, but also in the form of energy and other ways of encouraging and sustaining all Black artists, creatives, and folks trying to create news ways of living outside of anti-Black pressures in general. Until then, we may be able to cause enough noise to get an ad pulled down every now and then, but if we don’t have anyone who gives a shit about us controlling those messages in the first place, there will always be another.

*Hari Ziyad is a New York based storyteller and writer for AFROPUNK. They are also the editor-in-chief of RaceBaitR, deputy editor of Black Youth Project, and assistant editor of Vinyl Poetry & Prose. You can follow them on Twitter @hariziyad.