Skin care brand Nivea is currently pushing its line of men’s grooming products with ads telling men to step their appearance game up. That’s great but, um, unfortunately they’ve decided to take a shot at our afroed brothers:
Post-Racial America, ladies and gents!
Unsurprisingly, the internet uproar got back to the folks at the company and the ad has been pulled. An apology appeared on the company’s Facebook page just one day after scans hit the net: “Thank you for caring enough to give us your feedback about the recent “Re-civilized” NIVEA FOR MEN ad. This ad was inappropriate and offensive. It was never our intention to offend anyone, and for this we are deeply sorry. This ad will never be used again. Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of our company.”
Good for them for listening this time, but the greater issue remains. You see, while we have started to get to a place where Black women have a bit more room to wear their natural, in locs and in braids and be considered “civilized” enough for workplace acceptance, a Black man who isn’t clean-shaven with a close cropped hair cut doesn’t enjoy the same freedom. While a White man would probably face some challenges at work for wearing hair down to his shoulders and a scruffy beard, he’s not subject to the same scrutiny based on how his natural hair looks as it grows naturally from his head.
The idea of an Afro as a radical or unkempt hairstyle is pretty ridiculous. This is how Black hair grows and looks if it isn’t cut or whipped into submission. It’s amazing to see that we are still required to turn the volume down on who we are in order to make White folks feel more comfortable; also troubling is how easily it is that which we may consider to be beautiful or simply normal can be disregarded as ‘uncivilized’ by someone else. Furthermore, where was the ad with a White guy looking like Zach Galifianakis or a long-haired hippie?
Every time some racially insensitive ad comes out, we always ask “Are there Black people working there?” To be honest, there very well may have some Black hands involved in this nonsense (there was at least one person aware: the handsome model who posed for the picture in the first place); remember, it was Hampton University - not a White school – that prohibited its business students from wearing braids of any sort. We can be just as vigilant as anyone when it comes to enforcing Eurocentric standards of decorum and appearance on ourselves.
Our men deserve to have more grooming options than ‘dark Caesar, light Caesar or bald’ and we should make it quite clear to Nivea and anyone else that our hair is not inherently uncivilized. Shame on the folks responsible for this ad and for those continue to perpetuate the standards that would make a man with an Afro and beard seem like some sort of threat to social graces and norms.