Unicef German Ad With White Girls Wearing Black Face

Written by admin on October 2nd, 2010 in Racism.

Several letters have been written about these ads. What do you think?

Colleagues,

I, as many people, have been shocked and disgusted by the advertising
campaign featuring German (white) children ‘blacked up’ in sympathy
for their ‘African’ counterparts. I have used my networks to forward
the link to your campaign as widely as possible, so there can be
absolutely no mistake or misunderstanding on your part – the advert is
unacceptable, and many people of all ethnicities within Germany and
outside are agreed about this. The Unicef Schools for Africa campaign
racist and patronising. I am pleased to hear it has been removed from
the Unicef website, however a lot of damage has been done.

Even in the response to the criticism, the German Committee for UNICEF
has displayed a profound lack of judgement and awareness of the
effects of racial and cultural stereotyping. It simply isn’t good
enough to make sweeping judgements about “the children in Africa”,
“the schools in Africa”, “the teachers in Africa”… Africa is a
vast continent, as varied and diverse as any other continent in the
world – perhaps even more so.

I would like more information about the discussions that were had
surrounding the possible misinterpretations of the advertisment – what
was there to misinterpret? In your advert you are showing that
children from Germany are white (that German = white) – and these
white children show solidarity with African children, presumably all
Black, by colouring their faces – please explain?

From the little I know about some aspects of white German culture
(Children’s Book Struwwelpeter springs to mind) being Black is seen to
be something of a curse, something to be pitied, “they can’t help it
if they are Black” – so perhaps these white children colouring their
faces shows solidarity for how unfortunate it is to be Black? It
isn’t clear to me, or other people I have discussed this with, how
else to interpret this visual statement.

And now that this error in judgement has occurred, what is the public
relations exercise going to look like in order to correct the
misinformation that has been spread by this campaign? In the UK it is
common for apologies to be carried in the newspapers were those errors
occured. I would suggest this as a possible way forward. I would
suggest that these apologies should be as large as the original
adverts, that they contain a proper explanation about why the adverts
were offensive and finally, that Unicef at all levels of the
organisation and in every national committee agrees unequivocally on
this advertising campaign should simply not have happened.

I look forward to your response.

Sharon Otoo

www.talentedtenth.co.uk

———

To Whom It May Concern at UNICEF and JVM,

I am deeply disturbed– horrified– by your recent ad campaign
utilizing white children in blackface to “support” aid to Africa (?).
It is unclear to me how you find this stereotypical, white supremacist
racist treatment of the children of Africa to be helpful to them.
Clearly it is not obvious to you that coating white children’s faces
in mud does NOT effectively express their solidarity with African
children. In fact, painting the children of an entire continent as
uneducated, and utilizing blackface does NOT help those children. It
demeans them and perpetuates racist notions of blackness.
It also serves to hide the legacy of colonialism that has put former
colonies in the economic situations they face today, the situations
that make UNICEF relevant. Policies that the European Union supports,
including the work of the World Bank and IMF, establish the economic
dependence of former colonies on their colonizers, effectively
recolonizing them. Your use of blackface and descriptions of the lack
of education of Africans (all Africans can be lumped together,
apparently) obscures the role of your target demographics in the
ongoing colonization of the global South. It perpetuates the notion of
the “white man’s burden”.

Portraying “blackness” the way you have is counter to everything that
I have believed UNICEF to stand for. I will actively work to educate
others of the racist ideas UNICEF supports until there has been a
public apology made. I am going to publish this letter in as many
sources as possible.

Susan Wilcox, Ed.D., Co-Executive Director
The Brotherhood/Sister Sol
512 West 143 Street
New York, NY 10031

——

To Whom It May Concern at UNICEF and JVM,

I am quite shocked by your recent ad campaign showing white children in blackface supposedly to show solidarity with African children.

Do you not see how demeaning blackface is? Do you really think putting mud on children’s faces will help them understand the issue of education in Africa? How can you use such a grossly stereotypical, demeaning and racist depiction?

The message you are sending is that mud = blackness = uneducated. Shame on you.

Portraying “blackness” the way you have is counter to everything that I have believed UNICEF to stand for. I will actively work to educate others of the racist ideas UNICEF supports until there has been a public apology made. I am going to publish this letter in as many sources as possible.

Janice Stashwick
Civil Rights Advocate
Access Living
115 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60610

——-

To Whom It May Concern at UNICEF and JVM,

Your recent ad campaign in ignorant and racist. How can pictures of white children smeared in dark paint be seen as humanitarian? Unintentional or not, the effect is the degradation of Black people and children. It perpetuates racist notions of blackness and hides the legacy of colonialism that has put former colonies in the economic situations they face today, the situations that make UNICEF relevant.

Your use of blackface and descriptions of the lack of education of Africans (all Africans can be lumped together, apparently) obscures the role of your target demographics in the
ongoing colonization of the global South. It perpetuates the notion of
the “white man’s burden”.

Portraying “blackness” the way you have is counter to everything that I have believed UNICEF to stand for. I will actively work to educate others of the racist ideas UNICEF supports until there has been a public apology made. I am going to publish this letter in as many sources as possible.

Please remove the campaign, issue an international apology, and replace it with a more accurate and humanitarian message. Otherwise, you will lose supporters – such as myself – across the world by the hundreds of thousands.

Sincerely, M. Fu

****

July 24th

numerous reactions from PoC on american page “racialicious” HERE

The UNICEF ads of the white Germans in blackface are racist and need to be taken down immediately. First of all, the debate equates blackness with “mud” and makes all Africans seem uneducated. It also posits the whites as educated. It is condescending, racist and offensive.

Sai

Hello. I’d like to start by apologizing for not writing this in German
and thanking you for taking the time to read this.

I’m sure you’ve received a number of e-mails, phone calls and letters
concerning your recent Unicef campaign featuring children with mud
“blackface”. Truth be told I don’t know a great deal about racial
relations in Europe, I simply assumed they are much better over there
than they are here in America. Perhaps it is because of this that the
use of blackface isn’t as taboo in Germany as it is America. Here the
use of black face conjures memories of white comedians who used black
paint to make fun of oppressed black people and enforce some very
negative stereotypes.

However my concern is geared more towards the words used in your
campaign than it is the mud “blackface”. I’m sure you had the best
intentions in mind when you came up with the campaign, seeking to
illicit as many donations as possible. Still, it is somewhat off putting
that you would trivialize the current state of the education system in
Africa. It may not be up to the high standards of your fine country but
they are far from having no schools or being as uneducated as your
advertisement may lead people to believe.

Unicef does good work, I’ve donated both my time and money to them in
the past. I would be honored to continue doing so. I am of the opinion
that this particular advertisement campaign is in need of some editing.
It’s true the mud “blackface” gets attention, and I’m sure the
controversy surrounding this campaign will get people talking, but
probably not in a positive way. Despite the negative feelings associated
with “blackface” I think the pictures themselves will be useful in
generation hype and getting them seen. So perhaps if you could just make
the text that accompanies them a little less offensive and more thought
provoking it would make this campaign even more beneficial to your
worthy and noble cause.

Once again I’d like to thank you for your time and apologize for not
writing this in German.

Sincerely,

Andrew S. Reed

—-

Colleagues,

I, as many people, have been shocked and disgusted by the advertising
campaign featuring German (white) children ‘blacked up’ in sympathy
for their ‘African’ counterparts. I have used my networks to forward
the link to your campaign as widely as possible, so there can be
absolutely no mistake or misunderstanding on your part – the advert is
unacceptable, and many people of all ethnicities within Germany and
outside are agreed about this. The Unicef Schools for Africa campaign
racist and patronising. I am pleased to hear it has been removed from
the Unicef website, however a lot of damage has been done.

Even in the response to the criticism, the German Committee for UNICEF
has displayed a profound lack of judgement and awareness of the
effects of racial and cultural stereotyping. It simply isn’t good
enough to make sweeping judgements about “the children in Africa”,
“the schools in Africa”, “the teachers in Africa”… Africa is a
vast continent, as varied and diverse as any other continent in the
world – perhaps even more so.

I would like more information about the discussions that were had
surrounding the possible misinterpretations of the advertisment – what
was there to misinterpret? In your advert you are showing that
children from Germany are white (that German = white) – and these
white children show solidarity with African children, presumably all
Black, by colouring their faces – please explain?

From the little I know about some aspects of white German culture
(Children’s Book Struwwelpeter springs to mind) being Black is seen to
be something of a curse, something to be pitied, “they can’t help it
if they are Black” – so perhaps these white children colouring their
faces shows solidarity for how unfortunate it is to be Black? It
isn’t clear to me, or other people I have discussed this with, how
else to interpret this visual statement.

And now that this error in judgement has occurred, what is the public
relations exercise going to look like in order to correct the
misinformation that has been spread by this campaign? In the UK it is
common for apologies to be carried in the newspapers were those errors
occured. I would suggest this as a possible way forward. I would
suggest that these apologies should be as large as the original
adverts, that they contain a proper explanation about why the adverts
were offensive and finally, that Unicef at all levels of the
organisation and in every national committee agrees unequivocally on
this advertising campaign should simply not have happened.

I look forward to your response.

Sharon Otoo

www.talentedtenth.co.uk

**********

Earlier letters (July 10th):

Unicef and Jung von Matt:

Thanks to (…) I was recently made aware of an advertising campaign created by your organizations that sought to seek support for education for children in Africa. While the intent of this project is quite laudable, I’m afraid both your organizations went about crafting the campaign in ways that not only highlight some of the stereotypical attitudes that many in the West have toward Africa and Africans but in an ironic turn point to the very attitudes many have about Germans and Germany. Neither is fair.

It is true that the problems facing those living on the African continent are many and that assistance is greatly needed particularly in matters concerning the education. Yet I cannot understand why you chose to place mud on the faces of children in order to solicit funds for this cause. Are Germans so ignorant of the situation in Africa that a crude, racist costume is required to convey this information? Or is this simply how Unicef and the Jung von Matt advertising agency think of Africans?

In the future, might I suggest that your organization, as Europeans in general and Germans in particular, exercise a little more cultural sensitivity when embarking on a campaign to aid those less fortunate than yourselves wherever they may reside. As you know all of us can easily be mocked by costume but the challenge is to see the humanity we share. I hope you can do better next time.

Marcus Dalzine, Esq.
New York, NY

Dear Representatives or Unicef,

I am absolutely disgusted by your “UNICEF-Anzeigenserie Schulen für Afrika!” (http://www.unicef.de/4500.html)

How on earth can you create a connotation of black children being represented by white children with DIRT in their faces! This makes me sick.

How do I explain this to my little daughter (4), who is suffering enough because she is made to want to be white in our society? Do you want to me explain that her being black is just like “having dirt in your face”??? What are her white school mates going to make of it, the next time there is an argument?

I can”t even give you the credit of “it was well meant” because an organisation like UNICEF should know better. At best I can give you and your advertising agency (Agentur Jung von Matt/Alster) the excuse of utter ignorance! At worst I have to accuse you of a notion of white supremacy and disrespect for other peoples!

For the sake of my daughter and out of respect to being different I would ask you to not feature this ad as it is offensive and hurtful to many people!

Your sincerely,

Andrew Naughton

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