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By Cherry L.

Cigarettes are unhealthy without doubt. Despite the fact that there’s countless number of researches, experiments and living proofs, we can still see the cigarettes being sold almost everywhere. Cigarettes, even though they are extremely unhealthy and cause deadly diseases, are still on markets because of high demand. The government has been raising its prices, but there are still lots of people buying cigarettes. Those cigarettes will be there always unless people quit smoking. Just like racist advertisements. They exist because there are people with racism and companies would make advertisement that may draw attention and flatter public in order to make a huge profit. The racist advertisements exist because of racist people, but those people have learned racism from racist advertisements since they were little, and it will pass on to their offspring. It is the vicious cycle of racism.

I spend my childhood in a society where more than 90% of population is composed of one race. There were some foreigners in my town, but I didn’t really get to have conversations them because of the language barrier cultural differences. At that time, the only possible way to see and learn their distinct life was watching Hollywood movies. In the movies, especially the older ones, people with darker skin were portrayed as minions, servants, incompetents, and villains, while people with fair skin were leaders and heroes. Those movies taught me a wrong perception of the race; that people with light skin are superior, good and right, but people with darker skin are inferior, has violent, bad nature. Fortunately, my parents taught me about the history of slavery, racism, and the reason why the movies I watched are racists and wrong, but there is no racism anymore and every race is treated equally in the United States. At least, that’s what I believed until I started researching on racism in advertisements. There has been racism in advertisements from few centuries ago and it is still going on, with more diversity.

Back in late 1800’s and early 1900’s, racism in advertisements was mainly about African Americans being inferior to white Americans and their physical features being insulted. One example for illustrating dark skin color as dirtiness is the advertisement of Fairy Soap. In this advertisement, a Black girl is being used as a symbol of dirtiness in contrast of the trademark of this brand, while the white girl symbolizes cleanness, asks the black girl, “Why doesn’t your mama wash you with Fairy Soap?” It is not the black girl’s cloth being dirty; it is her skin color. The white girl thinks black girl’s dark skin color is caused by some kind of dirt that can be washed by using soap. Also, there are lots of advertisements illustrating black people playing servant role is continued till 20th century. Even though the slavery had abolished long time ago, people perceived black people as group of people who are supposed to do insignificant duties. Such as Maxwell House Coffee, Jell-o, Aunt Jemima, Cream of Kentucky, and many more are using black race as servants in their ads (Julian, Businesspundit.com).

There is more diverse race in today’s society than early 1900’s. People from different parts of the world are living altogether in the United States. Since there are more diversity in race and ethnicity today, there are more stereotypes than old times. Today there are stereotypes on Latinos, Asians, Middle Easterners, and many more. And obviously, companies started using those stereotypes on their advertisement, just like what they used to do. For instance, after 9/11, Muslims became a symbol of terrorism.  Volkswagen applied this stereotype to their commercial to show how tough their car is (David-C, owni.eu). The other example, Intel’s 2007 ad used image of black athletes crouching their bodies and there’s white guy in shirt standing in the middle of them. This ad was criticized because the combination of their slogan “Multiply computer performance and maximize the power of your employees” and the image of this ad made black athletes look like black servants bowing after their white master. Intel admitted their mistake, apologized to the public, and withdrew this advertisement (Richards, targetmarketnews.com)

Both audience and companies are responsible for endless production of racist advertisement. We, the audience with racist ideas and stereotypes being attracted to racist advertisement, companies make them because they want to be more popular and make profits, and those racist advertisements feed people with racism. Younger people will learn racism and older people will review racism. It’s a vicious cycle we’ve been having for centuries. The only possible way to end this cycle would be the termination of racism and stereotypes. It is not easy at all, but it looks like we are getting better and better. While I was searching for racist advertisements, I’ve found some advertisements that are not that racist, but there were people criticizing how racist those advertisements are. Apparently those advertisements were even banned because of those people.  It may seem like people are over exaggerating. However, it is a good phenomenon because it means people are aware of racism and willing to get rid of it from the mass media. Lot of times, I see people who think racism mostly applies where non-white people being discriminated. Anyone can be a victim of racism, it benefits nobody. People should learn racism right, be more aware of it everywhere in the society; especially in the media, so it won’t be passed on to younger generation and finally end the vicious cycle of racism and stereotype.


Works Cited

Julian. "Business Pundit." Business Pundit RSS. Julian, n.d. Web.

C, David. "OWNI.eu." Racism in Advertising: 50 Shocking Examples » , News,    Augmented. David C., n.d. Web.

Richards, Jonathan. "Intel Issues Apologies for Racial Insensitivity in Its Recently    Pulled New Product Ad." Intel Issues Apologies for Racial Insensitivity in Its    Recently Pulled New Product Ad. Jonathan Richards, n.d. Web.