Chinese Detergent Advertisement Apologizes For Promoting Racism

A Chinese detergent advertisement has triggered outrage, with many social media users criticizing it of deliberate racism. Following the online criticism, the laundry detergent company apologized for hurting racial sentiments, but blamed foreign media for fermenting the controversy.

Al Jazeera quoted the apology from Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics saying “We express regret that the ad should have caused a controversy. But we will not shun responsibility for controversial content.”

Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics affirmed that it strongly shuns and censures racial discrimination, but blamed foreign media for magnifying the controversy surrounding the ad, which first appeared on Chinese social media in March, but was stopped after it sparked protests this week following media reports.

The Chinese detergent ad for Qiaobi laundry scripts a black man, sporting soiled clothes and paint on his face, attempting to seduce an Asian girl. As he enters the room, she responds to his seductive glances and beckons him forward. As he comes near and hints for a kiss, she shunts a detergent capsule in his mouth and bundles him into a washing machine. She then sits on the lid while the man shrieks and groans inside. When the washing cycle completes, a fair-skinned Asian man emerges to the delight of the woman.

The Chinese detergent ad is reportedly a plagiarized version of an Italian advert for detergent, which is equally loaded with racial overtones that does just the opposite; a white man changes to black to promote “colored” laundry powder.

The clip went viral drawing outrage and numerous media reports outside the country. The detergent advertisement has provoked an uproar, especially in the United States where online users cited it as promotion of racism towards black people in China.

Reportedly, the controversial Chinese detergent ad is being shown on TV and in movie theaters in China since April, where such advertisements with racist overtones do not evoke much criticism. Racial stereotypes associated with dark-skinned people are allegedly encouraged in popular culture. According to the Guardian “the issue of racial discrimination never came up during the production of the controversial video.”

The Huffington Post quoting a Chinese website reported it as “The Most Racist TV Commercial Ever Made.”

“Thanks to traditional beauty standards valuing white skin, many Chinese people have a well-established phobia of dark skin which unfortunately also breeds racist attitudes towards people of African descent, who are viewed by some as ‘dirty’ simply because of their skin tone.”

The Chinese detergent ad is not the first instance where Chinese racial biases captured larger global attention. According to the New York Times, in 2009, online users attacked a mixed-race contestant on a Chinese reality show, ridiculing her for having a black father, triggering a series of international news stories.

According to USA Today, the detergent ad became the No. 1 topic on the online forum Reddit with the heading “Seriously China?”

It is pertinent to note that racial stereotypes centered on the skin color is rampant in other Asian nations. Recently a Thai cosmetic company removed an advertisement on its commercial saying “just by being white, you will win.” Reportedly, China and host of Asian countries including India are hooked to the fascination around fair skin. Bleaching products and skin-whitening creams are commercial success across Asia, despite growing campaigns trying to sensitize consumers on the inherent racism in propagating such cosmetic products.

While the controversial detergent ad pits China in racism debate, it cannot be singled out for being the lone promoter of racist bias. The United States, including many other nations have a checkered history on it treatment of minority groups, and the West is progressively witnessing an increase in Islamophobia. The racist Chinese detergent advertisement, then, is simply another unpleasant instance of the kind of discrimination that spans across around the globe.

[Photo by Mark Schiefelbein/AP Images]