A new Dunkin’ Donuts ad campaign is being accused of being racist by a human rights group. They say the ads pushing the new “charcoal donut” is both “bizarre and racist.” The ads are currently on display in Thailand in cities like Bangkok and feature a woman in blackface.
Why are some finding the new Dunkin Donuts ad to be so offensive? The poster-size ads feature a woman with bright pink lips, the rest of her skin covered in dark black makeup while holding the new charcoal donut. The blackfaced woman is also shown in TV ads, sporting a hairstyle from the 1950s and a slogan telling viewers to “break every rule of deliciousness.”
The question, then, is maybe not whether or not the ads are racist, but how did such the strange Dunkin’ Donuts ad get approval for public use? According to NBC News, Thailand’s Dunkin’ Donuts branch operates independently from their US counterpart. Apparently initial claims of racism were dismissed by the head of Thai operations, Nadim Salhani, as “paranoid American thinking.”
The LA Times says Salhani believes these claims of racism to be “absolutely ridiculous.” He said, “We’re not allowed to use black to promote our doughnuts? I don’t get it. What’s the big fuss?” Apparently the ad campaign features Salhani’s daughter, the actress covered in black makeup.
Apparently Human Rights Watch does not agree with Salhani. In a public statement, the international rights group said that they were puzzled by the release of advertisements which would be met with outrage in the US. However, after mounting pressure to remove the offensive advertisements, Dunkin’ Donuts’ US branch officially apologized to the public. They say they are doing everything they can to get their Thai branch to get rid of the racist ads.
Thailand has become known in recent times for use of rather blatantly racist advertisements, ranging from Hitler-branded shirts to a cleaning product brand known as “Black Man.”
What do you think? Are these clearly racist ads meant to be malicious? Or are these recent Dunkin’ Donut ads the result of careless, but not forgivable, racism — possibly even a strange cultural misunderstanding?