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?