Unilever isn’t being racist – but you are
Playing on certain racial insecurities by telling dark skinned people that they can never really be beautiful – that’s what Unilever is doing… These products promote ethnocentric stereotypes about the superiority of white people.
Hmm. So in two sentences accusing Unilever of racism, she’s managed two rather irritating, patronising – and indeed, accidentally racist – mistakes.
The first is ‘non-white-European people don’t have opinions or make decisions’. So if Hindustan Unilever comes up with a marketing campaign, it must be because a white man in London told them to.
Great… except for the fact that Unilever’s Asian marketing operation is run by an Indian man in Mumbai, is locally devised and locally executed, and London doesn’t pre-approve campaigns.
The second is ‘the US-derived model of white-European versus everyone else is the only way to view prejudices and stereotypes based on skin colour’. So obviously if people in India are being told that lighter skin is better, that’s so they can be more like Europeans and less like Indians.
Great… except for the fact that the Indian preference for paler skin has absolutely cock-all to do with wanting to be European, and a great deal more to do with the fact that within India, long before the British invasion, the ruling castes have been paler-skinned than the workers (partly because they’re more likely to be of Persian descent, and partly because they don’t spend their time working in the hot sun).
Once you stop viewing non-European cultures through the prism of European race relations, playing on people’s desire to appear lighter is no worse than playing on their desire to appear less spotty or wrinkly. So if people from European cultures object to this campaign any more strongly than they’d object to a campaign for an anti-wrinkle cream, they’re basically telling Indians that they have to follow European values. Which is distinctly Not Cool.