Outrage erupts over ‘racist’ detergent ad

Updated 7:36 AM EDT, Sat May 28, 2016
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Story highlights

Commercial has been criticized for being racist

Shows a black man being washed and transforming into a Chinese man

(CNN) —  

A black man and a young Chinese woman are flirting, as he leans in for a kiss she thrusts a detergent capsule in his mouth and bundles him into a laundry machine.

She sits atop the machine as the man spins and screams inside until, to her apparent delight, out pops a handsome Chinese man dressed in a clean, white t-shirt.

“[Due to] the harm that has been caused to members of the ethnic African communities as a result of the advertisement’s circulation and the over-dramatization by the public opinion, we hereby express our apology and sincerely hope that the internet users as well as media will not over-analyze,” the company said in a statement. “We strongly oppose and condemn racial discrimination.”

“My god,” wrote one user on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. “Don’t Chinese marketing people get any education about race?”

“If you don’t understand why it’s racist, congratulations, you’re a racist,” wrote another, after some commenters tried to defend the ad.

Stigma and stereotypes

The ad seemingly rips off a similar, and also offensive, Italian advert, in which a slim Italian man is washed with “color” detergent and emerges a muscular black man with the slogan “Color is better.”

The company behind the Chinese ad, Qiaobi, did not respond to requests for comment from CNN, and has not addressed the growing outrage on the Chinese web.

This wouldn’t be the first time an ad in China has been accused of racial insensitivity. There was considerable criticism online after the Chinese posters for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” seemed to downplay black actor – and co-lead – John Boyega.

While a large number of Africans live in China, particularly in southern Guangdong province, many have complained of discrimination and prejudice from locals due in part to a widespread stigma against dark skin.

That stigma also exists in other Asian countries, a Thai beauty company was forced to withdraw an ad and issue an apology after it released a commercial saying “just by being white, you will win.”

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