Chinese Racist Ad

A supremely racist ad by a Chinese detergent company (Qiaobi ) has been going the rounds.In it, a black man and a Chinese lady are flirting. It looks like he’s going to get some. But as he leans in for a kiss, the Chinese lady thrusts a detergent capsule in his mouth and bundles him into a laundry machine and then sits on top as the black man spins and screams inside. True to the power of the detergent, when the washing ends, the laundry machine spews out, not a black man, but one who has been washed and has now become a handsome Chinese man in a clean white t-shirt.

chinese ad

It is 100% racist but it did not make me angry. I’m tired of being angry about racism. I’m also coming to the realization that we cannot complain about racism forever. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the ad was a result of what the people who made it have been taught since they were young. Recently, a writer friend posted a picture. She was in Vietnam (I think), seated in a cafe, and there is this young boy, who was curious and was scratching at her skin, wondering why the black was not coming off. It is the image of a kid trying to scratch off a black skin so that it would become lighter, whiter, like his and the highly educated adult designer developing an ad where a black man is pushed into a washing machine and washed until they become white, so that a white female can accept them as a lover.

Chinese racist ad

In both cases, the reaction is coming from the black people, from the ‘othered’, and this shows that the societies where these things happen have internalized the othering. For the kid, it shows you that their parents and schools have completely eliminated any references to a black person, and images of black people, whether in history, in music, in movies, in art, in writing do not exist in the worldview of these kids. They simply don’t know that there are black people in the universe, and so their innocent curiosity allows one to see where these kids are coming from.

In such a society, it is easy to see how the person making the ad did not think of it as racist. What is racism? How can an ad be racist? He doesn’t view the black man being pushed into the washing machine as human, as deserving of being treated as human. That is what they were taught since they were kids, to exclude the black people from human civilization, from the dignity of being human.


Now look at the contrast in black families and schools. One can say that in the 21st century, it is only black children who are aware of the complexities of the human species. Before 10 years, an average black child in a village in Siaya has encountered images of all races. This kid knows the difference between a European and a Chinese. He knows Europe is not a country, neither is Asia. The white man colonized Africa and installed whiteness. They send you Europeans and Americans in the villages for charity, to teach Africans to stitch and make bangles (read ‘economic empowerment’). They are the new Mother Teresas.

Today, in most places, the image of a white priest is sanctified in the minds of all Catholics. They bow at the feet of the Pope. They have been taught that this bowing means respect. They have been taught that humility is a virtue. That submission is a virtue. Like among Catholics, in all Christian denominations, this image of whiteness is an archetype of holiness. Almost every church, despite their Bible telling them that Jesus was a Jew, hangs a picture of white Jesus on its walls. White beautiful baby holy face. Blemishless. Long holy hair. Arms are held in prayer position. It is a picture than introduces all Christian babies to the godliness of whiteness, and throughout their lives, a certain deference will always be extended to a white man.

Back to the subject of awareness, so an African child may stare on first contact, but deep down in their brains, they are not imagining the human skin as something artificial, as something that can be wiped off or blackened to look like them. I have never heard any story where a black kid asked a white person why their skin is white. Have you? Do share.

They are aware of the world, of diversity, of different humans. Of course this awareness, coupled with institutionalized inferiority complex, makes these kids see the white man or the Chinese as superior. Something which has serious negative effects on identity and self-esteem. Plus all the narratives, in history, in music, in movies, in art, in writing are narratives of superiority. Outside Africa, children are either taught negative narratives about Africa, or Africa is completely excluded from their worldview. I think it is only in African schools where world history is taught. From ancient irrigation in Mesopotamia, China and Egypt, to past empires, to very specific histories in all world wars of any history of ‘world importance’. Most Africans know so many things that when they get scholarships, they perform so well in their classes, much to the surprise of many.Now this awareness of the world is what Africans take for granted. This awareness can be used to conquer, not submit.

There are only two options: we can exclude other people’s ‘superior’ histories from our syllabus and replace it with our ‘superior’ histories. or we can create a balance – 70% African history, 30% world history, and because we are more aware, it should be easier for us to see the imperialist strategies of China in Africa , or decades after China will have recolonized Africa and settled 400 million of their population here to become the new administrators of Africa, our grandchildren will be complaining about the same racism we are complaining about today. But we are sleeping. Our government’s snore can be heard as far as the Pacific. We’ll wake up once our politics and our economies have been overtaken by a ‘benevolent colonizer’. We’ll wake up as colonial subjects in a future that is already taking shape.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s