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The Whiteness

The Whiteness

by Andy Davis / 19.05.2010

KAK. These days, you only find racially complex advertising like this in rural areas, like the town of Bizana between Flagstaff and Port Edward in the Transkei. The whole ad revolves around the concept of “whiteness” as something to be aspired to. It hearkens back to the era of skin lightening cream and the same kind of racially offensive advertising found in magazines like Drum back in the 1950s and 60s, that promote this concept of “whiteness”, while casting African-ness as something antiquated and abhorrent. The fact that Surf is a washing powder that supposedly makes your clothes white is secondary to the idea that “whiteness” represents all that good shit like wealth and sophistication, and is something desirable. Big brands like Surf spend a lot of time researching what messages will sell their products to rural audiences. So advertising like this act as a social barometer. I guess the question we need to ask is do they entrench these ideas or simply reflect them.

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  1. Black Like Me says:

    Making your blacks blacker…

    Maybe you could stick a poster up in your office to help alleviate all of that white guilt that seems to be tormenting

    Are there any reverse-michael-jackson type operations (yes i know it was “disease”) for the guiltily pale writers of Mahala?

    “When the sins of our fathers visit us
    We do not have to play host.
    We can banish them with forgiveness
    As God, in his His Largeness and Laws.”
    August Wilson

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  2. 'badi says:

    It is ignorance on both sides… Good peice: ignore the first comment… Dude be projecting!

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  3. Black Like Me says:

    JFC. It is just an advert. The below was lifted at random from the net…

    Ultimate Light:

    White is purity, cleanliness, and innocence. Like black, white goes well with almost any color.

    Nature of White:

    To the human eye, white is a brilliant color that can cause headaches for some. Too much bright white can be blinding. (Is this is what you are suffering from Andy?)

    Culture of White:

    In most Western countries white is the color for brides. In the East, it’s the color for mourning and funerals. White is often associated with hospitals, especially doctors, nurses, and dentists. Some cultures viewed white as the color of royalty or of dieties. Angels are typically depicted as wearing white. In early Westerns the good guy wore white while the bad guy wore black.

    Using White:

    In most cases white is seen as a neutral background color and other colors, even when used in smaller proportion, are the colors that convey the most meaning in a design. Use white to signify cleanliness or purity or softness. Some neutral beige, ivory, and creams carry the same attributes as white but are more subdued, less brilliant than plain white. Use lots of white for a summery look. Use small amounts of white to soften a wintery palette or suggest snow.

    Using White with Other Colors:

    Used with light or pastel tones, white is soft and Spring-like and helps to make the pastel palette more lively. White can make dark or light reds, blues, and greens look brighter, more prominent. Red, white, and blue makes a patriotic palette.

    Language of White:

    The use of white in familiar phrases can help a designer see how their color of choice might be perceived by others, both the positive and negative aspects.

    Good white

    White as the driven snow – pure, clean, innocent
    White elephant – rare, valuable but perhaps unwanted
    White knight – someone who comes to another person’s rescue, someone perceived as being good, noble
    White list – list of good or acceptable items
    White sale – sale of sheets, towels, other linens
    Pearly white – teeth, especially very white teeth

    Bad white

    Whitewash – cover up, conceal
    Whiteout – zero visibility
    White flag – surrender
    White lightning – moonshine, illegal whiskey
    White elephant – rare, valuable but perhaps unwanted
    White knuckle – something that is fast, exciting, or frightening

    White Words: These words are synonymous with white or represent various shades of the color white.

    Snow, pearl, antique white, ivory, chalk, milk white, lily, smoke, seashell, old lace, cream, linen, ghost white, beige, cornsilk, alabaster, paper, whitewash

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  4. Black Like Me says:

    Also worth checking out…


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  5. Roger Young says:

    The thing that strikes me is that it’s whiteness not cleanliness that is being held forward as the key to being able to “feel like a movie star”. Regardless of how you feel about “whiteness” this ad essentially says, Movie stars are white and you can’t be one, but we can help you “feel” like one. It’s a bit fucked up.

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  6. Tara says:

    I think they’re poking fun at racism, and perhaps if it werent for all the rehashing of the actual sentiment at the moment (which really just seems to be SA and the world testing how far we have really come, a small test and it will be over soon) then perhaps the comedy wouldnt be as easily misconstrued.
    Skin whitening cream, however, thats another story altogether. That and hair straighteners.
    Who said curls arent luxurious.

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  7. omo says:

    reminds me of those comandandt brandy billboards you get in rural eastern cape -reading “Fronteirs” one learns how the xhosa kings where conquered through brandy and kept drunk until their kingdoms crumbled. Cape Smoke they called it. Next thing they sobered up and found themselves on Robben Island -Seeing these massive billboards with the dark riders of doom staring down at the rural masses is a bit surreal to me. I think the breitling watch on juju’s wrist is a kind of surf powder-the whiteness is big hollywood style wealth a clear indication that one is not some poor rural fool….why else does Mugabe dress like the people he hates -The add guys are just tapping in to this no?-maybe black guilt will follow shortly

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  8. skip automatic (for washing machines only) says:

    @black like me
    what white guilt are you talking about??? – that was so last generation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    the new generation is the malema generation – the pulling the race card generation…

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  9. Tumie says:

    I would like to know the Ad Agency that did this AD,,,,,,Hmmm,,,,

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  10. hum says:

    to me, it’s an ironic ad. a hot black bird laughing at the fact that she’s clearly successful, sassy and a star, without having to be white. in fact, the only thing white about her are her clothes – she has no desire to be white, or emulate white folk. the camera angle and her pose clearly indicates a very black, and very self-confident woman. this meaning is pretty obvious to me, and i think you’ve all been too quick to jump on the race wagon. maybe this ad is poking fun at you folks. people in rural areas are not as dof as you all make out.

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  11. Uyabetha Mfowethu says:

    How does an image of a hot African woman cast ‘African-ness as something antiquated and abhorrent’?

    The assumption that blaxploitation is still practiced by advertisers in the rural backwaters betrays an ignorance of the paradigms within which modern South Africans live, and agencies operate. The ad sells aspiration to an audience which is keenly aware of the cues of upward mobility, in this instance the Hollywood image.

    Assuming anything other is a subjective construct, bordering on patronising, and is furthermore something any agency worth its salt would be plainly aware of and steer clear of. And what of the Skip Intelligent ad, which puts it thus: ‘Black does so much for you…’ – would you go so far as to frame that ad in the same racial terms?

    Wise up, Mr Davis, and shake that over-sensitive cloud of guilt following your lilywhite ass around this corner of Africa.

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  12. white like my nostrils says:

    and there we have it-ad peeps are really educating us to a state of non-racialism-fuck who would have thought!i guess thats what happens when u shnarff too much surf-

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  13. sometimes I rejoice says:

    Uyabetha Mfowethu, your words are a breath of fresh air in this ridiculously polarized nation of ours. Please feel free to put the fatalistic nay-sayers in their place any time you like. And maybe write a piece or two of your own for this blog?

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  14. Doctor L. says:

    @Uyabetha Mfowethu I don’t know, bro. Andy’s always been a cool cat, in my view. He raised points on this, and maybe the thing to remember here is that he’s not writing to rural audiences, but to people who aren’t immune to this line of thinking, black and white alike – people with the money, but not the wherewithal to know what a subjective construct is.

    Omo, on the other hand is painfully ignorant. Perhaps it woul do well to spill some of this well-intentioned ire around his quarters – for educative purposes? I would, but lord knows I’ve had my fair share of the moderate-right denialist-cum-revisionist expat contigent on here. One favours, rather, to not encourage them.

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  15. omo says:

    what about the far -left?

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  16. Anonymous says:

    I like her hair-do! it’s just about as far off being white as can be. very african, at least they didn’t straighten it for the ad. so I don’t think that the advertisers were trying to imply that you have to be white to feel like a movie star, but saying that, I don’t think it’s the best way of phrasing what ever the hell it is that they did actually imply. omo – nee wat. probeer maar weer.

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  17. Black Like Me says:

    Andy maybe focus your inner Debra Patta on this anti-revolutionary fact….it seems that the cheapest paints are…wh*te!!!!

    Is this some sort of wh*te supremasist plot to ensure that the world remains wh*te? Are they trying to ensure that the less reflective never gain the upper hand? By single-handedly esuring that the toiling masses remain below the povertyline they force us to buy the lowest cost paints…thereby ensuring that a majority of the world remains wh*tewashed. I’m sure we cannot sit idly and accept this tendancy. Worst of all. The cheapest colour in car models…wh*te. This giving the impression that the masses can only be mobilised by the pale which only serves to ingrain the long standing impression of servitude and further erroding black dignitiy. Why is Juju doing nothing….?
    Andy please. Enlighten us. Shit. Sorry. I’m not racist or anything.I mean. errr. Direct your keen intellect at these bastards at Plascon, Dulux & co. Down with Antimony White. Down with Barium Sulphate. Down with Lead White. Down with ZInc White. Down with Zinc White.

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  18. AT says:

    Semiotics 101. We learnt how to interpret this shit in week 1 of first year. Uyabetha Mfowethu is right on the money.

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  19. sleaze says:

    @roger “The thing that strikes me is that it’s whiteness not cleanliness that is being held forward as the key to being able to “feel like a movie star”: when was cleanliness the key to feel like a movie star ?-Next thing you will want them to “sparkle”

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  20. beyond the rariefied cosmopolitan bubble says:

    wow now i get it……the add guys are using black empowerment as a cover for the fact that a lot of white people have been historically advantaged and a lot of black people want to be like that too , who wouldnt- in jozi there is a developed black middle and upper class so the add makes sense, a poor black person has a lot of well off black people to aspire too as well as whites -in the rural eastern cape it means the opposite-so add covers all bases -and one can only guess where the add got more airtime – wow now thats sa for ya-pulling the wool over the eyes of the woolpullers-ya in my little cosmopolitan bubble ,kaffir means nonbeleiver -fuck means to have sex and white is a photoshop hue-wish it was so-but it aint unfortunately -so to claim that this add is just a funky empowerment piece is kinda deceitful in a very undrhand way-doublespeak is not limited to politics

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  21. Drifter says:

    Henry Ford said, “you can have any colour car you like as long as it is black”. I wonder what he was smoking.

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  22. Black Like Me says:

    Henry was obviously an abolitionist of the new age and not at all connected to the evil illuminati who are trying to maintain the firm pressure of their jack boot to the throat of the black giant that was conquered by highly unfair technological and hygenic means and that has always had the greatest potential to take the world forward into a bright new future where the world is one. No borders. No inequality of any kind. One colour. No capitalism. (though I think Henry kind of milked that last one….bloody agent)

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  23. High Plains Merchant says:

    I think we’re all missing the point.

    The point is, this woman’s glasses make her look like a giant fly.

    Also, I feel sorry for the losers who look at this advert and go: oh, oh! If I have white clothes then I can also be a movie star! What idjits! What morons!

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  24. googlethu says:

    LMAO! @ Really High Plains? Really?

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  25. rycooder says:

    I’m with High Plains. “The whiteness to feel like a movie star”… deeper racial meaning aside… whatthefuck.

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  26. YoDiddly says:

    The add is trying to get you to think and talk about their product, duh. They are yanking everybody’s chain, white and black, and to some good effect. Beautiful lady, wish we could see her eyes. The only thing I’d do with this ad, and blaxpoit it a bit more, put a Newport in her right hand. Maybe for the next round.

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