A new campaign to “Save Africa”…with blackface!
I ended up writing a post titled “Saving Africa in blackface” for the Guardian’s group blog, Comment is Free. Here are some of my thoughts:
“I am waiting for my last day in school; the children in Africa are waiting for their first one,” reads the slogan hovering alongside a young German girl who’s just cute as a button. It would be just another run-of-the-mill solidarity campaign, were it not for the puzzling fact that her face, stretched into a farcical grin, is covered in mud. Let’s save Africa. In blackface.
I was a bit appalled, but laughed in spite of myself. I can appreciate satire. Lord knows after Kate Moss’s Nubian makeover and Gwyneth Paltrow gone native – OK, more Cherokee Indian than Chewa, actually, but why get lost in the details? – the debate over celebrity advocacy for Africa could use some.
But an email exchange with UNICEF headquarters in New York revealed that this children’s minstrel show was not, as I had hoped, the latest in a long tradition of internet hoaxes trafficking in bad taste. It was an actual ad campaign to promote an actual plan to give African children an education: UNICEF Germany’s “Schools for Africa” initiative. All I could do was shake my head.
Original post: A new ad campaign from UNICEF Germany. And here I thought Gwenyth Paltrow as an African Native American was bad!
This link was forwarded to our media-watch organisation by disturbed readers:
This is an actual ad-campaign by UNICEF Germany!
This campaign is „blackfacing“ white children with mud to pose as “uneducated africans“.
The headline translates “This Ad-campaign developped pro bono by the agency Jung von Matt/Alster shows four german kids who appeal for solidarity with their contemporaries in Afrika”
The first kid says:
“I’m waiting for my last day in school, the children in africa still for their first one.”
“in africa, many kids would be glad to worry about school”
“in africa, kids don’t come to school late, but not at all” (!)
“some teachers suck. no teachers sucks even more.”
Besides claiming that every single person in “Africa” isn’t educated, and doing so in an extremely patronising way, it is also disturbing that this organisation thinks blackfacing kids with mud (!) equals “relating to african children”. Also, the kids’ statements ignore the existance of millions of african academics and regular people and one again reduces a whole continent to a village of muddy uneducated uncivilized people who need to be educated (probably by any random westerner). This a really sad regression.
Bottom lines of this campaign are: Black = mud = African = uneducated. White = educated. We feel this campaign might do just as much harm as it does any good. You don’t collect money for helping people by humiliating and trivilaizing them first.
Unfortunatley, if it was clear to the average German that this is wrong, UNICEF and the advertising agency wouldn’t come out with such a campaign.
Please write your opinion and help make clear and explain why it is wrong to use „blackface with mud“, and write to UNICEF at email@example.com as well as the advertising agency at firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy to Black German media-watch-orgaiztion email@example.com what you feel about this campaign and why. Please include a line that you’re going to publish your mail and the response.
by the way, the slogan of the advertising agency who came up with this, reads
“we communicate on eye-level”.
NOTE: The pictures uploaded here are not in the same order in which they appear on the UNICEF site.