Six months ago, almost to the day, I wrote "No advertiser would dare run an ad that openly mocks African-Americans." Incorrectly, as it turns out. If you'd asked me to guess which advertiser could possibly be idiotic enough to run a blackface ad in the 21st century, the United Nations Children's Fund would have been pretty far down the list.
And not just UNICEF, but the German branch! Is there a country on Earth more motivated to at least project the appearance of tolerance than Germany? Translated, the third ad reads "In Africa, kids don't come to school late, but not at all." (Read Malena Amusa's AlterNet post for translations of the other three.)
Rudi Tarneden, Press Officer for UNICEF Germany, explains:
"This campaign aims to raise awareness on the fact that nearly half of all children in Africa lack even primary education."
Hmmm. His English might not be so hot, but that is a worthwhile cause. Maybe Rudi will be able to talk his way out of this, after all!
"The idea behind is that children from Germany demonstrate their solidarity with children in Africa by showing up with a coloured make up."
Then again, maybe not. I think it's important to note that Rudi wrote the above line after the shit hit the fan. A sane person would admit a horrible error of judgment and beg forgiveness, but Herr Ironballs actually argues that the ad isn't really racist at all. Silly black people! It was all in your kinky-haired heads.
"Before publishing the ad, we had carefully discussed possible misinterpretations and the agency had also tested public reaction in a survey in Germany, without receiving negative comments. Neither did we receive any negative reaction from the German public after publication... Obviously, the perception of the ad varies by country."
Which is not to say it doesn't happen here:
Let me leave you with three things: a brief history of racist advertising from Slate; the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia; and the trailer for Resident Evil 5, where you play a white hero who mows down hordes of Africans (zombies, sure, but still...).
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