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This Chinese laundry detergent commercial is jaw-droppingly racist

On first thought, a laundry detergent commercial may not seem like a place for any message about race whatsoever. But as the blog Shanghaiist reports, a company in China apparently decided blatant racism was the right way to sell laundry detergent.

The ad, for Qiaobi laundry detergent, starts with a woman doing her laundry, when a paint-splattered black man appears. The woman signals him to her washing machine, then stuffs detergent in his mouth and pushes him into the machine. After the wash is done, a young, clean Chinese man rises out of the machine.

There's not much to explain here. This ad is blatantly racist. (And based on a similar Italian commercial.)

But it's also a reminder that attitudes over race and skin color in China can be very bad. Shanghaiist explained:

Thanks to traditional beauty standards valuing white skin, many Chinese people have a well-established phobia of dark skin which unfortunately also breeds racist attitudes towards people of African descent, who are viewed by some as "dirty" simply because of their skin tone.

Another recent example of how this shows up in marketing, also cited by Shanghaiist, is the promotion for Star Wars: In China, posters for The Force Awakens were altered to minimize John Boyega, a black actor who plays Finn, a central character in the movie.

The Chinese promo poster for The Force Awakens leaves out John Boyega, a black actor. CNN

Of course, China is not alone in its struggles with race and ethnicity. The US has a very long, bad history with how it treats minority groups, and the West is increasingly seeing an increase in Islamophobic attitudes. The racist detergent advertisement, then, is just another ugly example of the kind of racism that's too common around the world.


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