February 06, 2023
When I was a child, there was a persistent playground rumor that the letters “BMW” in the German car manufacturer’s brand name secretly stood for “Black Man’s Willy,” a “willy” being an infant British slang term for a penis. When we grew up, none of us wanted to ride one.
In modern-day South Africa, BMW (which actually stands for “Bayerische Motoren Werke”) has now alienated a different sector of its potential target audience in the shape of today’s key, ever-growing demographic of hyper-oversensitive black people. In mid-January, the firm apologized after putting out a poster ad in which a young black African woman posed next to a new BMW 5 Series model accompanied by the slogan “WE ARE OUR
ANCESTORS’ WILDEST DREAMS,” the word “ANCESTORS’” being struck through with a line of deletion.
The trouble was that, in much traditional African religion, one’s tribal ancestors are considered sacred, so their name being scratched through like this in the name of making the brand seem fashionably forward-looking could be taken as sacrilege. According to BMW PR spokesbot Hailey Philander, the poster was actually “conceptualized to showcase South Africa’s diversity and inclusivity,” but outraged malcontents like the black “media personality and poet” Ntsiki Mazwai predictably disagreed.
“What level of racism is this now, where our things get used to sell white things?” Mazwai asked via social media (just wait until someone tries to push her a fridge freezer). “Why do they feel that they have a right to use African spirituality in their advertising campaigns? BMW is disgusting.” Other blacks agreed. “The picture [being implied] is clear to us,” wrote one, “that our ancestors were primitive and couldn’t fathom owning sophisticated futuristic electronics” like the BMW 5 Series.
Up until the formal end of racial segregation in 1994, the only time a black person would have appeared on a poster in South Africa would be to illustrate the dread warning “KAFFIRS WILL BE SHOT” outside a whites-only swimming pool, so some more historically aware black Twitter users accused Mazwai of taking needless offense where none was intended. Surely the ad actually represented progress? How many firms would have been advertising expensive luxury cars to black South Africans during the dark days of apartheid, after all? You might as well have tried selling beluga caviar in 1980s Ethiopia.
Mazwai herself tweeted back haughtily that “If the BMW advert was not offensive, then nobody would have been offended,” the all-time reductio ad absurdum summation of the solipsistic, witch-hunting anti-logic of today’s contemporary Zulu woke-warrior. (If Mazwai ever wants to see a genuinely racially offensive poster, by the way, she should take a look at this recent Spanish advert for a new armchair model called “ginger,” whose letters were carelessly rearranged to spell…something else entirely.)
White Goods, Black Markets
One wonders what Mazwai would have made of Henry Ford’s famous old Model-T sales quip “You can have any color you like so long as it’s black”? If she had been a member of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), she may have taken Ford’s slogan as good advice. From October 2022, ARCON introduced new, legally binding rules that were widely interpreted as banning white people from appearing in the country’s TV adverts at all, in the name of freeing the land from its inherited “colonial mentality” as a former outpost of the British Empire.
This was not technically the case, as ARCON’s specific instruction that, henceforth, “All advertisements, advertising and marketing communications materials are to make use of only Nigerian models and voice-over artists” still gave scope for the occasional non-white Nigerian citizen to slip through central casting, but the legislation’s effective intention in a 99 percent black nation was clear: to ethnically cleanse whitey from native screens. According to Steve Babaeko, president of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, “People [today] will tell you, ‘There are about 200 million of us [black Nigerians]. Are you telling me you could not find indigenous models for this commercial?’”
Fair enough, say I. Why shouldn’t the cast members of Nigerian adverts look like actual Nigerians? But, to be logically consistent, why shouldn’t, say, the cast members of Chinese adverts look like actual Chinese people—that is to say, not terribly like John Boyega, the perpetually angry black British BLM activist and occasional Hollywood actor who, in 2015, had his image drastically reduced in size on the Chinese-market poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Beijing admen? At least he fared better than his fellow E.T. of color Chewbacca the Wookiee, whose equally brown face was chopped from the image entirely, Leon Trotsky-style.
Boyega has in the past complained that black people do not enjoy as great a prominence as they should in Star Wars, a grievance that completely ignores the major role Darth Vader plays in proceedings, but in 2020 the oriental Wookiee-abusers really annoyed Boyega by remaking an advert he had scripted for upmarket perfume brand Jo Malone with a domestic Chinese star of stage and screen, Liu Haoran, without Jedi John’s “consent or prior notice.”
The original ad showed Boyega poncing around in his multicultural childhood London home of Peckham in the company of people of all colors and creeds, a real-life Mos Eisley Cantina, but inexplicably the Chinese one was set in China and featured absolutely shitloads of Chinamen. Yet “dismissively trading out one’s culture this way is not something I can condone,” Boyega declared online, promising followers that “I assure you this will be dealt with swiftly,” as if anyone reading actually cared. “I don’t have time for nonsense,” Boyega continued, but it sounds as if he has time for little else.
Cleans Your Blacks Whiter Than White!
Unfortunately, Chinese consumers as a whole appear to be highly racist. Only 600,000 non-Chinese people live amongst China’s billion-plus souls, and when domestic beer brand Harbin cast black former NBA basketball star Shaquille O’Neal in an ad campaign there in 2012, there was a consumer boycott led by worried drinkers who feared being given AIDS by “orangutans.” In 2016, a notorious TV and cinema slot for laundry detergent brand Qiaobi featured a black home-invader being pushed into a washing machine by a concerned Chinese housewife, until he came out looking whiter than white, whereupon she appeared much more content to become his next rape victim. Few Chinese viewers saw anything much wrong with this.
The sole purpose of advertisements in any sane society (i.e., not today’s West) is to sell products, not promote diversity. Why should Jo Malone have paid good money to run a campaign in China that would actively deter the nation’s happily racist consumers from buying its products, just to keep John Boyega’s Force in balance? If he was really that desperate to get his face on Chinese State Television, he should have swallowed his pride and climbed inside another washing machine.
Advertising Your Virtue
Boyega could easily have landed a role in any given Western TV ad, where extensive footage of possible Nigerians now appears every bit as mandatory as it is in central Lagos. Qiaobi’s campaign may actually have been modeled upon an earlier Italian one in which a compulsive white masturbator transforms an unappealing white native Italian woman into a toned, muscular black male Adonis via the interracial transgender magic of Colereria Italiana washing-machine fabric dye, accompanied by the openly racist slogan “Colored Is Better”—a real-life instance of trying to flog people products by directly associating them with Black Men’s Willies.
Contemporary Western adverts seem prejudiced too—but prejudiced in favor of black folk, which is A-OK. A 2019 investigation into U.S. financial ads demonstrated how America’s blacks were hugely overrepresented in investment adverts, both as investors and advisers. At the time, however, less than 4 percent of real U.S. financial advisers and only 8 percent of customers with taxable investment accounts were black, leading one to wonder why people of this specific clearly non-target audience race were cast in such roles in such blatantly unrealistic proportions. Why, it’s almost as if they’re subliminally selling some kind of skewed political message alongside the surface commercial one here…
The absurd end result of such trends can be seen in a November 2022 ruling from the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banning Britain’s Ministry of Justice from running a series of job adverts seeking new prison officers, on the grounds that the officer in one such ad was white, and the prisoner black, something that “showed an imbalanced power dynamic.” There were several ads in the series in which both prisoners and guards were of many differing ethnicities, but the mere existence of this particular one was deemed likely to cause “serious offence,” as “the black prisoner was depicted as a criminal,” as many prisoners these days do tend to be.
The Ministry objected that all the people photographed in the ads were actual real-life jailbirds and jailers, so the black criminal was not “depicted” as a black criminal, he was a black criminal, but the ASA refused to budge. Adverts depicting black criminals as black criminals rather than as, say, Our Lord Jesus Christ or His Holiness the Pope were likely to be seen as “perpetuating a negative racial stereotype,” so the image had to be suppressed.
I thought there were supposed to be laws against false advertising? Not if the misleading product you’re pushing is blackness, evidently.