'Afro Sponges' for Sale: Racist or Cute?


British company Paladone has some cleaning up to do after experiencing a backlash against its effort to give some dish sponges funky 1970s disco makeovers. The company says that the sponges, just released in the United States and the United Kingdom, have been a "phenomenal success" since hitting the shelves. But not everyone is thrilled.


The Daily Mail reports that protesters have attacked the manufacturer for its latest line of products, which include a caricature of soul legend Diana Ross, with a steel-wool pad for hair, and an accompanying male sponge figurine labeled "King of Disco." The offending items (check out more photos here), according to Unite Against Fascism's Weyman Bennett, are problematic because "trying to compare black people to Brillo pads is not really a positive image."

"That can't be a positive thing in the 21st century that we are using images that were really invented in periods of slavery and discrimination," he added.

A company spokesman responded to the controversy by saying, "Our range of four washing-up sponges are designed to make an everyday chore like washing up more fun."

But they're not Bennett's idea of a good time. The kitchen implements "open the door for people to produce racial stereotypes, and that's not something we want to see in our society," he told the Daily Mail.

But wait. It's Diana Ross, not Aunt Jemima! So what exactly is the negative stereotype we're worried about here? It's not as if black people worldwide are battling a nasty reputation for flipping upside down and washing dishes with their hair while wearing disco attire. Not to mention, the ability to grow hair into an Afro — yes, even one that resembles a Brillo pad — isn't actually a bad thing.

Add to this the fact that the company also makes "Beehive," "Punk" and" Diva" models — which we assume are not black — and we at The Root are going to make en executive decision not to worry about kitschy sponges today. At all. What about you? Let us know in the comments.


Read more at the Daily Mail.

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