North Carolina Dentists Apologize After Cosplaying in Native American, Japanese Clothing for ‘Whitening’ Service

Screenshot: Midtown Magazine via Raleigh News and Observer

Here’s the good news: This is a story involving white women that has nothing to do with calling the police on black people for horrendously trivial reasons!

Here’s the not-so-good news: They’re still on their bullshit.

As the Raleigh News and Observer reports, a team of three white North Carolina dentists had to apologize this week after running an ad in a local magazine for a (presumably nonironic) “free whitening service.” The Midtown Magazine ad featured the three blond dentists dressed in “traditional” dress from different cultures. One woman referenced traditional Scottish attire. The other two opted to put on Native American and Japanese costumes (or, rather, their stereotypical approximation of them).


The tagline for the Raleigh-based dental office ad was, “We all smile in the same language.” Underneath the photo of the three grinning white ladies was all-caps copy for (I shit you not) “FREE WHITENING SYSTEM.”

Screenshot: Raleigh News and Observer (Midtown Magazine)

Additional copy on the ad read: “No matter your accent or origin, everyone can appreciate a beautiful smile!”

You got to hand it to these colonizers, you really can’t get any whiter than shamelessly playing costume with people’s cultures to (quite literally) make some coin.


As one might predict, the internet did its thing once it got word of the ad, prompting the equally predictable next step in this kind of story: the mea culpa.

The group, called Renaissance Dental, took to its Twitter account to apologize for the ad.


“We attempted to focus on something that unites us ... the warmth and joy behind a smile. We now realize it was ignorant and offensive, and we are truly sorry,” the group wrote. “We have learned a valuable lesson in this situation.”

The group also posted the apology on its Facebook account.


As the News and Observer points out, the dentists have a penchant for playing dress-up, donning construction and referee costumes for their previous ads—ads that didn’t generate any outrage because those are professions and not cultural identities.

Of course, Renaissance Dental has its defenders. One Facebook commenter assured the group that it was an “excellent ad.”


“Nothing offensive about it at all,” wrote the Facebook user. “Clearly you celebrate and admire all cultures. Thank you for being good people and a good example to all citizens.”

“Celebration” and “imitation” aren’t synonymous terms, particularly when you’re dealing with stereotypes about cultures that are frequently misrepresented, misunderstood and marginalized. What’s truly, astoundingly stupid about this whole thing was the fact that they could have hired a Native woman, a Latina and a woman of Asian descent (and, if they insisted, a white person), had them pose in regular-ass clothes, paid them for their services and communicated the very same message.


Because that is what you do when you value people from different cultures: You don’t just plaster your smiling white face on their shit (or your personal interpretation of their shit); you engage them. And you let them represent—and speak for—themselves.

But no, instead we get another clueless advertisement, and another “valuable lesson” learned.

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About the author

Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?