(Antfer) #1
◼ BUSINESS Bloomberg Businessweek June 29, 2020

15

DARLIE


AD:


ALAMY.


QIAOBI


AD:


QIAOBI/YOUTUBE


THEBOTTOMLINE TheBlackLivesMattermovementhasraised
awarenessofracialbiasin marketing.Butchangecouldbehardin
Asia,wheremanyconsumershavelongcravedwhiterskin.

toothpastemarketinChinaandevenbiggersharesin
Malaysia,Singapore,andTaiwan,saysEuromonitor
International.Darlieis sopopular,it’seveninspired
animitator:Heimei(BlackSister)toothpaste,made
byChina’sMassonGroupCo.
Darlieis justoneofthemostprominentexamples
ofAsianproductsorservicesplayingoffimagesasso-
ciatedwithslaveryorJimCrowintheU.S.Shanghai-
basedWantWantChinaHoldingsLtd.sellsa typeof
candywiththeEnglishnameofHeyNew;inChinese
it’sBlackGirl.Andin 2016 a Chineseadforlaundry
detergentQiaobipromotedtheeffectivenessofits
cleaningpowerbyshowinga youngwomanstuff-
inga Blackmanintoa washingmachineandthen
pullingouta light-skinnedAsianmaninhisplace.
Becominglesscolor-consciouscouldbeespe-
ciallydifficultinAsia,a regionwherecosmet-
icscompanies—includingL’Oréal,Shiseido,and
Procter& Gamble—havelongdevoteda bigpart
oftheirbusinesstomarketingcreamsandlotions
thatpromisetolightentheskintoneofthepeople
whousethem.Somerefertotheirproductsasskin
brightenersandsaytheycanhelphidefrecklesand
coverdarkblemishes.Othersarelesseuphemistic
abouttheracialimplicationsofproductsthatoffer
tochangetheskintoneoftheirusers.
TheIndianaffiliateofUnileverPlcsellsskin-care
productscalledFair& Lovelytobrightenskin.In
neighboringBangladesh,Unileveris moredirect,
sayingonitswebsitethebrandis theworld’s“first,
safeandeffectiveskinlighteningcream”anddating
it toa HindustanUnileverscientist’sdiscoverythat
vitaminB3couldlightenskincolor.“Realisingits
potencyandimmensepotential,hebeganexplor-
ingthepossibilityofusingit toalterskinpigmen-
tation,”accordingtothewebsite.
Men’sskin-carebrandFairandHandsome,from
anotherIndiancompany,EmamiLtd.,promises
“intensewhitening”tousersofitsadvancedwhit-
eningcream,andtheproduct’spackaginghasa
split-screenphotoofa model:Inonehalfhehas
darkskin;intheother,skinthat’smuchlighter.
InmanypartsofAsia,“whitenesshasbeenpor-
trayedassomethinghigheronthepowerhierar-
chy,”saysYiu-tungSuen,anassistantprofessorof
genderstudiesattheChineseUniversityofHong
Kong.“It’sprettyeasyforpeopletohaveinter-
nalizedthosestandardstothinkthatwhitenessis
somethingthat’smorevalued.”HindustanUnilever
didn’tcomment.RepresentativesforEmamididn’t
replytoanemailandcallseekingcomment.
The recent racial awareness protests have
ledJohnson&Johnsontoretreatfromtheskin-
whitening business. The company says it will stop
selling its line of whitening products under the Clean

& Clear Fairness brand in India and its Neutrogena
Fine Fairness line in Asia and the Middle East.
“Conversations over the past few weeks high-
lighted that some product names or claims on our
Neutrogena and Clean & Clear dark spot reducer
products represent fairness or White as better than
your own unique skin tone,” says J&J spokeswoman
Kim Montagnino. “This was never our intention—
healthy skin is beautiful skin.”
Many cultures have difficulty seeing the prob-
lem with potentially offensive racial depictions. In
Malaysia a store chain had to apologize after airing
a blackface commercial in 2017. A Chinese New Year
skit on state-controlled TV featured a performer
in blackface in 2018. And in June a Taiwanese pop
group with more than 1.4 million YouTube follow-
ers posted a video of the three singers in blackface.
That these cases keep happening shouldn’t be
surprising, says Jason Petrulis, an assistant professor
of global history at the Education University of Hong
Kong, because blackface in Asia dates to the 1850s.
That’s when Commodore Matthew Perry’s U.S. Navy
ships forced the opening of Japan to the West and
his crew brought minstrel shows—with White sail-
ors performing in blackface—to the region. “Those
images are about the contrast between the Black
body and the idea of cleanliness or whiteness,” he

says.“Whatthat’ssayingimplicitly,is youwantto
eliminateblacknessfromyourlife.Youcanseewhat
powerthestereotypeshaveinthattheypersist.”
That’s why Petrulis is skeptical about
Colgate’sabilitytooverhaultheDarliebrand.
“Atthecoreof Darlieis minstrelsy,andyou
can’tgetridofthatthroughcosmeticchanges,”
he says.�BruceEinhornandYunongWu,with
AnkikaBiswas and Riley Griffin

▲ A commercial for
Chinese detergent
brand Qiaobi showed
a Black man being put
into a washing machine
with the product, then
coming out as a light-
skinned Asian

“Black people
are so far from
our daily life, so
I only have one
image of them:
white teeth”