Update: Acura spokesman Gary Robins has addressed the controversy, saying, “Any of the creative directions didn’t come from Acura. They would’ve come from the casting agency.” In a statement to CNN, Acura said, “We apologize to anyone offended by the language on the casting sheet used in the selection of actors for one of our commercials. We sought to cast an African-American in a prominent role in the commercial, and we made our selection based on the fact that he was the most talented actor.”
Cathi Carlton Casting, the agency hired by Acura to choose actors, declined comment. An employee who answered the phone at the agency’s Santa Monica, Calif., office told CNN that they would defer to Acura’s apology.
EARLIER: In many conversations about the impact of colorism — once described as “the crazy aunt in the attic of racism” — on African Americans, the exact sources of this insidious type of prejudice can be hard to pin down. When assigning blame for the preference for light over dark skin, we normally blame it on “society” and “Hollywood” in general terms.
And then there are stories like this, where it’s all written out, in black and white.
TMZ reports that the casting-call document for the Acura commercial with Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno that aired during the Super Bowl included specific complexion requirements for the role of the African-American car dealer. In short, “only light-skinned blacks need apply.”
According to the casting doc, the role of African American car dealer would be played by a “Nice looking, friendly, Not too dark” African American car dealer.
We just got hold of the document from an African American actor who didn’t fit the profile, and who’s pissed.
We made lots of calls, trying to find out why “dark” African Americans weren’t right for the role. Someone associated with casting the commercial tells us … one of the reasons for the “not too dark” restriction was because lighting and special effects would get tricky.
We made calls to Acura but no one got back to us.
Guess this actor’s complexion passed the “nice” and “friendly” test. You can bet black people offended by this debacle won’t be applying those adjectives to Acura in the near future, though. But even worse than the bad PR for the car company is the reality that its preferences probably weren’t at all unique.