We’ve been down this road before, in 2013 to be exact. Dunkin’ Donuts’s operation in Thailand launched a campaign for a product called the “charcoal donut.” The ad for the chocolate confection included an illustration of a female face painted completely black, except for the lips, which were rendered in hot pink. When Human Rights Watch and similar outlets complained about the stereotypical image, the CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts in Thailand shot back:
Not everybody in the world is paranoid about racism. I’m sorry, but this is a marketing campaign, and it’s working very well for us.
Now it’s happened again. This time the offending Asian nation is China, and the TV commercial the government in its infinite insensitivity has permitted to run has gone viral in the West. Here is the video:
And here is a cross-section of the predictable reactions from the Left, via ABC News:
Insanely racist! Reminds me of some of the issues I found when researching my thesis on racial conflict in China… https://t.co/jMNEazJZTQ
— Mira Sorvino (@MiraSorvino) May 28, 2016
— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) May 27, 2016
The response from Shenzhen Leishang Cosmetics Accessories, the company that manufactures the detergent, was equally predictable:
We meant nothing but to promote the product, and we had never thought about the issue of racism. The foreign media might be too sensitive about the ad.
What this all boils down to is a fundamental difference in how East and West respond to the same visual stimuli. What we may find offensive in the West is perceived as benign in Asia and vice versa. While patting a child on the head, for example, is widely recognized in these parts as a friendly or affectionate gesture, in Asia — where the head is considered a sacred part of the body — it is frowned upon as rude.
But there’s a larger question that arises out of this discussion, and that is how the Left goes about picking its fights with foreign cultures. The mainstream media and Tinseltown, of which Stephen McDonnell and Mira Sorvino are respective members, have no problem sounding off on social media when a Chinese soap ad offends their sensibilities. Yet, they choose to be deafeningly silent on the systemic and ongoing brutalization of women in the Arab world. Anyone out there care to explain?