Why Cadbury should know better
There is no easy way to say this: In Britain the subtle complexities of racism are lost on the majority of white people. Object to a racist nursery rhyme and they react in horror, point out the term “black day” is offensive and they are aghast, remind them that the term “ black mark against your name” should not be used and they think your nuts. Tell them you don’t like being called “ sunshine” and they will tell you that have a chip on your shoulder usually adding that they could not possibly be racist because their sister is married to a black man.
Such accusations of racial insensitivity are met with a mixture of incredulousness and outrage. Rarely if ever is the response one of apology and acknowledgement. Today to accuse a white individual or organisation of being a racist is de facto evidence that the accuser is the real racist.
What is true of society in general is also true of the private sector.
Cadbury has recently caused offence with their racially insensitive ad campaign about their new product. Comparing their new chocolate bar with the supermodel Naomi Campbell they have so far refused to offer an apology although invited privately to do so before the story broke. And boy how this story has broke! An exclusive here on the OBV website the story has gone viral worldwide.
Cadbury should know better they really should. Firstly there is the fact that the company was founded on the profits made from the business of slavery and colonialism. Whilst the Cadbury family were not directly involved with slave trading they made handsome profits from slave grown and colonial manufactured produce.
In response to witnessing the horrors of the greatest crime in human history John Cadbury went on to become an anti slave trade abolitionist campaigner.
Secondly the disgraceful history of stereotypical images of black people in product advertising and chocolate in particular is well known.
Thirdly with virtually no black senior executives in the firm added to the fact that they do not use black media consultancies or PR firms, their own marketing department is as white as the milk in their chocolate, they are spectacularly unprepared to ensure they are sensitive to a diverse customer base.
Fourthly Cadbury should be sensitive to the fact that some of their products continue to be made by slave child labour in West African. Finally Cadbury have been here before with several adds that have attracted high levels of complaints such as the Trident chewing gum campaign and the most recent ham fisted attempt to promote their belated conversion to “ fairtrade ‘ chocolate from Ghana.
You would have thought that with all of that going on that someone somewhere would have had enough sense to think through the issues involved in their latest add campaign.
The reality is the corporate world of the UK private sector is blindingly white. They’re a few blacks in the boardroom and even fewer in the senior management teams. This leads to an executive blind spot when it comes to issues of racism.
A lot of fuss about nothing you may say. The black experience here in the UK teaches us that racism starts with a child calling someone a Mars bar or Chocolate chip cookie, it the association with black skin and all things dark. Things move on to gollywog or coon, from there they move to black bastard and onto nigger.
I bet the UK hairdresser James Brown the ignorant drunkard and clearly racist hairdresser began his career in boorish prejudice with some innocently intended remark. The huge and influential power of advertising means that big businesses has a responsibility to ensure that the images and advertising they use does not promote racist stereotypes. Cadbury should apologise.
Main picture: Slave child labour in West African