Welp, that didn’t take long. Just 24 hours after the Internet took note of the unpleasant racial undertones of their “
Decapitate Re-civilize Yourself” ad, Nivea has pulled the ad and apologized. They posted the following note on their Facebook page:
Thank you for caring enough to give us your feedback about the recent “Re-civilized” NIVEA FOR MEN ad. This ad was inappropriate and offensive. It was never our intention to offend anyone, and for this we are deeply sorry. This ad will never be used again. Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of our company.
This is a pretty classy response, but it sort of boggles the mind how it ever made it into circulation in the first place. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it was not due to overt racism on Nivea’s part, but racial insensitivity and, ironically, a cookie cutter stab at diversity.
You see, I’m willing to bet they made the ad featuring the white guy first:
And then they were like, “this ad campaign needs more diversity. Let’s make a black version of this.” And they did, without really thinking about it. Add some unfortunate copy, and bam, unintentional racism.
Here’s the thing: these two hairstyles have two completely different meanings in our culture. Shaggy hair on a white guy is generally associated with being a rock and roll dude, or maybe a hippie. It’s also sometimes associated (by squares) with slovenliness. Casting judgment on someone for being a dirty hippie isn’t nice, but you can’t say it’s racist.
Meanwhile, Afros have long been a symbol of black beauty and black pride. Prior to the 1960’s, most popular black hairstyles were aimed at mimicking Caucasian hair, but the “Black is beautiful” movement rejected notions that one needed to look as Caucasian as possible in order to be beautiful. This was a good thing! I won’t pretend I know what it’s like to be a racial minority in America, but I can only imagine being told your skin and hair are inherently ugly from the time you’re very small has a negative effect on your psyche.
It’s a shame that stuff like this keeps happening, but hopefully we can learn from it and move forward. Additionally, I will personally donate an American history book to anyone at Nivea who’d like to bone up.