Nivea Apologizes for 'Re-Civilize' Ad

The company seems to be taking its own "Look like you give a damn" advice.

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Nivea has apologized for an ad (see full image here) featuring a black man holding the head of what we guess we're to assume is his former self (with a beard, an Afro and an angry expression), along with the words, "Re-civilize yourself" and "Look like you give a damn."

Because obviously, black men need to purchase all the shaving products they can get their hands on and remove as much hair as possible from above the shoulders if they're to have any hope of giving the impression of being civilized and caring about life. Obviously. It helps to stop making those scary, snarling expressions that always accompany Afros (check out the "before" head), too.

Shockingly (only to Nivea), people were offended, and now the company has apologized, posting a message on its Facebook page:

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 out 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. 

The problem isn't that the ad doesn't promote "diversity and equal opportunity" (after all, it seems to have given one black model more publicity than he ever bargained for). The issue is that it both depends upon and reinforces long-standing and harmful ideas of black men as uncivilized (or scary or violent or unprofessional -- take your pick).

When you consider the origins of these characterizations and the ways they make their way into real life issues, from criminal justice to politics, it's clear why this ad was more problematic than its companion (a white man holding the head of another long-haired, bearded white man with the tagline, "Sin City isn't an excuse to look like hell").

Was it intentionally racist, as many are alleging? Who knows. What's more disturbing is that the image of black men as uncivilized is so deeply engrained that it can casually be used to sell a product without any ill intent.

If only getting away from these deep-seated stereotypes were as easy as a haircut and a shave. It's far from a solution, but this canceled ad campaign  -- even if Nivea doesn't quite understand why it's sorry -- is a start.

Read more at ColorLines.

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