Last week consumer mega-company Procter and Gamble launched an online ad of black parents across decades discussing racism to their children. The two-minute ad, known as “The Talk,” is part of the company’s My Black Is Beautiful campaign that promotes black women and self- empowerment.
As a black American, it’s practically the “norm” to get the race talk (which is in and of itself upsetting). From the day we’re born, our enslaved history is engraved into our brains. Even I can remember the day my great-grandmother and mom got together to discuss the issue. It was a life changing conversation that awakened my eyes to the ignorance in our society.
The video has received unwarranted backlash from conservative whites, specifically from Conservative Fighters News who described the ad as being potentially “the most racist commercial any company has ever produced.” (It’s funny how quick the “news” site was to use the word racist without even understanding what that word means… one YouTube video isn’t systematic oppression).
Why is it so hard for people to understand and accept the difficulties minorities face in America? Why do some people think it is “racist” to showcase the reality and perspective that we have as black Americans?
“Our goal and job is to reflect the variety of conversations that are happening,” said P&G spokesman Damon Jones. “The desire and hope is that people come forward and engage in constructive dialogue … and that means understand[ing] the point of view of the black women who are reflected in the advertising.”
In the video, six mothers educate their children on the struggles they will inevitably face being black in America. In the first scene, we zoom in on a mother braiding her daughter’s hair, eventually telling her she isn’t just “pretty for a black girl,” but that she is “beautiful period.” The next scene focuses on a mother discussing the same problem to her son. “It’s an ugly nasty word and you are going to hear it. Nothing I can do about that. But you are not going to let that word hurt you.” At a baseball game, another mother explains to her son that being black means a denial of rights and privileges. While waiting for a school bus, a daughter is told “the difference is you have to work twice as hard and be twice as smart.”
However, the two scenes that started the most backlash were the scenes dealing with police brutality: a vital and statistical reality that has been a huge part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement (which by the way was founded by three queer black women).
In a scene, a mother tells her son to carry his ID, “in case they stop you.” Another mother teaching her daughter to drive nervously says that is not if but “when you get pulled over.” The daughter tells her mother “she’ll be fine” to which the mother explains, “it’s not about getting a ticket. This is about you not coming home.” That quote is one of the most chilling lines in the ad because we can feel the fear in the mother’s voice.
“The Talk” hones in on the thought-provoking conversations the black community is currently having. It isn’t about promoting hate for the police or sparking a tug-of-war with the law; it’s about opening an honest dialect about issues that impact our community and changing the way some people view us as individuals and a race.
One Twitter user described the video as being a “propaganda video with no truth posted. Black violence towards police is what you’re promoting.”
— Sharon Lynn (@blessedone333) July 28, 2017
That woman, and many of those who agreed with her, seemed to coincidentally forget about the intense amount of recent police brutality cases. They refuse to believe that police brutality is an ongoing and real occurrence despite the plethora of facts and stats to prove so. We can’t forget Eric Garner, choked to death by police as he desperately screamed: “I can’t breathe“; about Michael Brown, 18, unarmed and black, shot and murdered by police in Ferguson only weeks after Garner’s death; or about Philando Castile, unarmed and shot multiple times after being pulled over for a broken taillight with his wife and 4-year-old daughter in Minnesota. We cannot forget about the countless amount of trans women of color who have been taken from us.
In a recent study by Mapping Police Violence, black people “are 3x more likely to be killed by police,” with 30% of black victims being unarmed in 2015 (a higher rate than whites at 21%).
“I try to help them understand the concept of the campaign,” said Jones for The Washington Post. “I don’t think race has ever been an easy subject for us to tackle in this country, but avoiding it doesn’t push us forward, and part of this campaign is about getting people to have these difficult discussions so we can get to a better place.”
Procter and Gamble continues to support “The Talk” through the controversy.
“We do it because we believe in talking about these topics leads to great understanding and that leads to change,” said Jones. “At the core of that, we believe strongly in equality so we have a world that’s not only good for society but for business.”