Japan Today had this the other day:
TOKYO — Cosmetic maker Mandom Corp has stopped airing a TV commercial containing an expression mocking black people, company officials said Tuesday.
In the commercial for face blotting paper for men, several black people wipe sweat off their faces with the paper, while a chimpanzee with a curly hair wig and a multicolor outfit imitates them and wipes its face besides them.
The commercial had been on air since March 28, but a human rights group criticized it for putting black people on the same level as apes.
After consulting with lawyers and advertising agency officials, the company stopped airing the commercial June 9 and has also stopped using a printed version of the ad in magazines, saying it “lacked an international sense of ethics.”
Motonobu Nishimura, a company executive, said, “We are very sorry. We apologize to viewers and other people who felt offended.” (Kyodo News)
You can’t blame them. If you ever see a black smiling in a high-class car you can’t help but think they’re a drug dealer. Who’d buy such a car? But Japan’s population is smaller than the number of blacks in the world! (tr: ie: We’re the minority!) It wasn’t right to treat blacks as badly as we treat the Koreans. What would happen if a few white people wiped sweat from their faces and then some blond ancient Greek with dark skin started mimicking them?
It should go without saying that this is totally unacceptable so I won’t say anything more about it unless someone comments. And I mean the racism, not the fact that they are marketing makeup to men, though I’m not a big fan of that either.
Here’s an excerpt from a protest letter, signed by Debito, who was involved in the movement against the commercial:
I find this advertisement to be highly offensive, particularly the use of a chimpanzee mimicking the actions of the Black men portrayed in the commercial. Visually equating Black men as “apes” or “monkeys” is a particularly egregious racial slur due to the fact that for hundreds of years, Black men have been referred to as apes in an effort to dehumanize and degrade them. Much of the anti-Black racist literature has claimed that Blacks are more akin to apes than to human beings, and the image of the ﾒBlack bruteﾓ has been used to associate Black men as dangerous ape-like savages.
Furthermore, dreadlocks in the colors of red, gold, and green are Rastafarian religious symbols. The dressing up of a chimpanzee in such garb would be akin to dressing it up as a Buddhist monk or a Shinto priest. It is highly offensive to members of a particular religious group, one that is particularly identified with Blacks of Caribbean origin, and should be avoided.
The use of a chimpanzee mimicking the behaviors of Blacks, in addition to its use of religious symbols as a costume, is, at the least, an extremely insensitive and tasteless attempt at humor. At the worst, it can be construed as a blatantly racist and degrading portrayal of Blacks. We request that Mandom Corporation terminate the broadcasting of this commercial immediately. Furthermore, we request that Mandom Corporation show greater sensitivity when portraying Blacks in future advertisements.
As someone living a sheltered life in the multicultural and liberal DC area, I’m curious to see examples of other countries (like China — scroll to the bottom to read about Condi’s treatment there) regarding black people with the same casual disdain that the above commercial revealingly portrays. Because outside of areas with large African populations, I suspect that it’s pervasive. At the Korean grocery in Virginia there’s an oreo ripoff cookie called “Black White” or something like that and on the cover are a cute cartoon white person and a grotesque, big-lipped black person cartoon. I was kind of shocked but then I thought Korea can’t be too different from Japan where comments like, “I wouldn’t want to eat food prepared by a black guy because it’s dirty,” are uttered as small talk, though perhaps not around the gaijin-san.
UPDATE: Shimizu4310 has an interesting take on the issue:
[Quoting from the apology letter] “Blacks are similar to apes,” that’s just too precious. Next we won’t be allowed to make jokes about afros! No more Danceman, Karaoke UGA (click the bottom link to see a HUGE afro), or Sergeant Afro? Human rights groups (Who are they and where did they come from anyway? They certainly aren’t the people from the commercial.), please tell me!
[Re: the protest letter] Umm… just looking at the ad, let me say a few words. Why are they using black people in their ads? Because black people are cool! This is a country where gyaru exclaim, “I wanna be black!” lest we forget.
If they intended to make fun of blacks OR apes, I seriously doubt they would make an ad like this. (I don’t know about the home country of Mr. “thoughtful denizen of Japan”, though! [tr: a dig at Debito I’m sure]).