The Next Time China Criticizes the Way We Treat Minorities, Throw This in Their Face

This ad for a Chinese detergent is so hilariously (and racially) insensitive that you have to wonder if the whole thing wasn't created by The Onion.

MarketWatch:

This detergent is so strong it’ll wash the black right off!

That appears to be the not-so-subtle message in a Qiaobi-brand laundry detergent ad that’s been running on TV and movie screens in China, according to the Shanghaiist blog.

The basic premise: A black man who had clearly been painting walks into the room and starts flirting with a Chinese woman. In turn, she seductively lures him over. He leans in for a kiss. She sneaks a detergent packet in his mouth and stuffs him in the laundry machine.

Voila, out comes a clean Chinese man.

The blogger pointed out that perhaps this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering the country's “traditional beauty standards valuing white skin,” which has led to racist attitudes.

“As any foreigner who has ever lived in China can attest, attitudes regarding race and skin color are often quite different here from back home,” he wrote. “Still even with prior experience, sometimes this country can leave you completely and utterly dumbfounded.”

American Thinker's Thomas Lifson has another famous example of racial stereotyping in Asia:

Virtually everyone above a certain age who traveled around Asia remembers “Darkie Toothpaste,” sold in Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and a few other countries – and, as I recall, a brand of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.  It was never sold in Japan, perhaps because of the presence of large numbers of American servicemen and women in a position to make a stink.

Sometime in the late 1970s, I think, it was replaced by “Darlie Toothpaste,” which retained the image of a grinning black man in minstrel-like garb.

Amazingly, many Chinese queried about the ad could find nothing wrong with it. But the BBC doesn't find this unusual and bends over backwards to assure us that the Chinese are not racist:

However, experts say, that does not mean that Chinese think of themselves as the most superior, with some saying Caucasians enjoy a higher status in certain quarters.

There is a history of cultural bias against people of dark skin.

Barry Sautman, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, believes it shows the particular problems China has dealing with portrayals of race.

"It is not a question of Chinese not having anti-racist consciousness. They do."

In 2008, a World Public Opinion poll about government action to prevent racial discrimination interviewed people from 16 countries. China came second - 90% of Chinese respondents said racial equality is important.

The small number of Africans living in China does not help. According to the latest census, only 600,000 foreigners are living in China, a small portion of them black.

So the vast majority of the 1.3bn population has no experience interacting with black people.

There is little doubt that China has a race problem. And the view of Asians in general that they are superior to others also plays a role in these insensitive attitudes.

But at the turn of the 20th century, you could have seen similar racist ads in the U.S. Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, Sambo, and other offensive images were commonplace.

We have developed a sensitivity to race -- sometimes an oversensitivity -- that is the result of 300 years of trying to find ways to live together. Slavery didn't work. Jim Crow didn't work. Now we're trying a special kind of empathy that manifests itself as a realization that some language and some images are hurtful. Another way this empathy manifests itself is through political correctness, where any image or any language can be deliberately misconstrued to score political points against opponents.

It's not perfect. And for every step forward there are sometimes two steps back. But our society as a whole is trying. And it's time that Asians began trying too.