• Thu, Aug 18 2011

Nivea Thinks Afros Are Uncivilized

Nivea skincare drew fire from many today for an ad featuring a preppy-looking black guy with short hair holding another black guy’s head (his own?) by the Afro, apparently about to hurl it like a shot putter at a track and field meet in hell. The copy? “Re-civilize yourself” and “Look like you give a damn.” Oh dear.

This is disturbing on multiple levels. First, the idea that natural, non-relaxed or buzzed-off hair–the kind that grows out of most black people’s heads–is somehow inherently uncivilized. This idea has plagued our society for quite some time, but it’s rare that you see it so blatantly presented these days. Then there’s the disturbing beheading imagery, as if to say, “if you have an Afro, we will chop off your head and throw it like a football.” I’ll take American history for 500, please.

Then there’s the idea that people with Afros don’t give a shit about what their hair looks like. Obviously nobody at Nivea knows any Afro-wearers, because all the ones I’ve met have treated theirs like prized topiaries.

Most importantly, though, it shows that there’s not a single person of African descent working on any of the teams that saw this ad as it went through various levels of approval, and that is sad.

There have been a ton of responses under the hashtag #fucknivea on Twitter, but the top prize definitely goes to Questlove/?uestlove of The Roots, a famous Afro-wearer who obviously cares a great deal how he looks:

OH SNAP. I wonder what Barbadian pop star Rihanna, face of Nivea and the only black person currently pictured on their website, thinks of all this?

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  • MM

    This ad is SO FUCKING CREEPY. Even ignoring the anti-fro message, a good ad probably shouldn’t show a guy who looks like he just murdered someone.

  • Magda

    I have to wonder if this ad would have drawn the same amount of attention if it had a white guy looking preppy and clean cut holding a head with equally shaggy locks? Or what if it had a Hispanic looking guy holding a head that was over grown with crazy curly locks and a weeks worth of facial hair? Would it have drawn the same criticism?

    I mean, I might be a naive optimist here, but while I will admit that race and skin color is still a big issue here in the US and everywhere, I think that by constantly turning everything into a race issue or a feminist issue or any sort of T-issue (get it, tissue?) is just further escalating the problem.

    I can’t help but think of the phrase, “Pick your battles”.

    • SOPH

      i agree with you ! i think its good to look at things out of the box i believe the organizers probably have not understood the implication of what they did..as both black and white mostly socialized to believe such hair is for most part unattended but i still think they should have taken steps to know better … i am a black woman and i love wearing my hair afro …and it is not always easy ! .afro is how it comes for black woman as straight hair comes for white woman. it means its part of who we are ..it means its what we look when we are not trying to appear white ..i think its important to see the as a black woman afro is the most natural thing to do ..and we want to feel that it is ok to do it! i remember seeing an advert somewhere where a tall pretty lady is looking down to a dwarf man ..and the advert goes ‘ the difference is visible!’ what do u think of such advert ? isnt it discriminatory ? .to make matter short ..in my opinion black , white , short, tall or disabled must not be made inferior for looking who they are …and its important to change such attitude !

  • teethwhiteningkits

    It’s not a race thing for me – just made me shudder

  • criticalist

    I completely disagree with Magda. First off some may argue that it is ALL about race. I would argue that it goes beyond that and that the issue really is about socially constructed ideas of what is normal or acceptable. In this case a clean cut guy…regardless of race. Now, who determines what is acceptable?

  • criticalist

    I accidentally hit post…but was saying that those who operate within a dominant powerbloc where mostly whites occupy. Regardless of race it’s still benefitting or framed around someone’s (whites) ideas of acceptable.

  • spookontheporch

    @magda…….I wonder if it would cause an uproar if a white man was about to throw a black man’s head? In this case, it might as well be! Who and the hell thought this was ok? I can only imagine what they were thinking before they ok’d it……….”if we hire a black model for this ad, nobody will notice” lol. Maybe “blacks” own nivea now……..and if so, its still distasteful.