An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.
Durban - A “racist” social media advert by personal care and beauty brand Dove has ruffled feathers with some social media users, and they are even proposing boycotting the product.
The advert, which was posted on Facebook last week, shows a collage of photographs in which a black female dressed in a brown T-shirt is seen taking off the garment.
As she takes off her shirt, a white woman clad in a light-coloured T-shirt is revealed.
The international company apologised on Sunday and said it had missed the mark.
“Dove is committed to representing the beauty of diversity. In an image we posted this week we missed the mark in representing women of colour and we deeply regret the offence that it has caused.
“The feedback that has been shared is important to us and we'll use it to guide us in the future.”
South Africans lambasted the advert on social media on Sunday.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa was one of those.
“We strongly condemn this racist campaign by @Dove and note with concern that this is not the first time they've been called out for racism,” he wrote on Twitter.
Mthethwa said while he noted the apology by Dove, he felt there was a shortcoming in that it did not say what action would be taken at a structural level.
Many ordinary South Africans joined in the chorus, with a few even making light of the situation.
“I have been using Dove shower gels and soaps for years, yet I remain black, not white as their ad suggests. Can I sue?” Facebook user Duma Pewa posted on Sunday.
Black First Land First (BLF) leader Andile Mngxitama said he was not surprised by the advert.
“The only shocking thing is that black people are shocked by racism. This suggests we are in denial about racism,” he said.
Mngxitama said the racist messages coming through in marketing campaigns recently were “a reflection of the dominance of whiteness” in corporations.
“Twenty-three years into democracy, the ruling party has been very timid in dealing with white people,” he added.
BLF has proposed an anti- racism bill, which it submitted to Parliament. Mngxitama believes that those who are found guilty of racism should not only be made to serve time in jail but should be deported to Europe.
Verlie Oosthuizen, an attorney and partner at Shepstone and Wylie, said it was unlikely that Dove could face any legal action.
She said although the advert may be seen as offensive, the intention behind it was not to perpetrate hate speech.
She added that advertisers should be more careful, especially with their social media campaigns.
“More often there seems not to be thinking through what the ramifications could be. It (social media) is an area in which people have to be extra careful because it is so powerful and is so quick.”