Me against the world –is not a sadist statement but a living reality for one and all. We all have our own battles that we constantly strive to win. Irrespective of the geographic and demographic versatilities, one of the most common and ancient enemy for one all is Racism.

Racism is the prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people based on their colour, caste, status and other factors. 

We all are cognizant of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Since then, many businesses have sought to take proactive steps to distance themselves from any measures that would lead to their association with any form of racism and consequent trolling on social media.

Today we are here to talk about corporate shenanigans, which if not more, are equally, unjust, unfair and unacceptable. The wave of #BlackLivesMatter has forced giant corporate houses to knock down their age-old strategies from packaging to marketing to discontinuing a whole product line if need be. 

Here is the list of a few shocking racial stereotypes from renowned corporate giants.

Aunt Jemima (PepsiCo)

Bottles of Aunt Jemima Syrup

Aunt Jemima is one of the most iconic brands in the history of USA, associated with pancake mix, syrup, and other breakfast foods. The packaging of this century-old brand showcases a black woman, indicating how African American women were perceived for generations. For years the brand has sparked controversy owing to its on-the-face connection with a racist history. The branding has undergone several changes with time but nothing so major until now. 

After being called out, Quaker Oats, the subsidiary of PepsiCo, acknowledged that the brand’s origins were based on a racial stereotype and announced that it will work to make packaging and name change towards the end of 2020.

Johnson & Johnson

Marketing picture for Clean and Clear

For decades the consumer giant sold a line of whitening products under the brands Neutrogena and Clean & Clear in Asia and the Middle East. Due to mounting pressure, the Company has decided to completely suspend the production and distribution of the above-mentioned line of products. 

Officials from the Company stated ‘Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our Neutrogena and Clean & Clear dark-spot reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone. This was never our intention — healthy skin is beautiful skin’.

This truly is correcting one’s wrongdoing. 

Hindustan Unilever

Marketing picture for Fair and Lovely cream

For years, the cream Fair and Lovely has promoted a negative notion regarding darker skin tones, making girls with darker shades feel insecure and inadequate. Now, the worldwide awakening of racial discrimination has put the Company on thin ice. 

An executive made a statement that ‘We recognise that the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘white’ and ‘light’ suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don’t think is right, and we want to address this.’

Following two separate petitions signed by more than 18,000 individuals, the Company has made a public statement to change the name of the product to Glow & Lovely and also remove all references to ‘whitening’ or ‘lightening’.

The question that still remains is can HUL, by merely changing the name of a product stop colourism and the sentiments associated with it.

Shaadi.com 

Picture of Hetal Lakhani’s online petition

Shaadi.com is an online wedding portal that aims to provide a superior matchmaking experience by expanding the opportunities available to meet potential life partners. 

At the time of joining, users were asked to select the tone of their skin. One could filter the list of their prospective partner based on their skin tone and then daydream about their fair bride. How racist is that!

Hetal Lakhani from Dallas, USA, wanted to address this matter and started an online petition. Within a short span of 14 hours, the petition took off like wildfire and more than 1,500 individuals signed the petition. 

Resultantly, the Company proactively removed this feature stating that the filter was not serving its purpose in any way.

Colgate – Palmolive 

Darkie Toothpaste which later changed to Darlie

Somewhere in the early ‘90s, Hawley & Hazel started a toothpaste brand named Darkie symbolizing the brand with a man in blackface. The brand name was tweaked to Darlie soon after Colgate-Palmolive partnered with the brand. But in China even today, the name of the toothpaste is Hei Ren Yagao—‘Black Person Toothpaste’—and it’s one of the nation’s top sellers.

Rising tension around such racially abusive brand forced Colgate spokesperson to clarify stating ‘We are currently working with our partner to review and further evolve all aspects of the brand, including the brand name’.

Corporates are legal entities that are expected to fulfil their social responsibility. They need not wait for heart breaking instances to bring the change. And most certainly should not profit from the prevalent disparity and inequality in society. With changing times, corporates will have to be cognizant of societal equities and act proactively to represent the consumers they serve.