AURN — Human Rights Watch is demanding the Thailand franchise of Dunkin Donuts remove an ad they are calling “bizarre and racist.” The controversial ad depicts a white woman coated in blackface makeup with bright pink lipstick and sporting a braided hairstyle.
The ad was part of a campaign to launch its "Charcoal Donut" in August. Opponents say the ad is reminiscent of 19th and early 20th century American minstrel show stereotypes that are now considered offensive symbols of a racist era.
In posters and TV commercials, the campaign shows the woman with a shiny jet black, 1950s-style braided beehive hairdo holding a bitten black doughnut alongside the slogan: “Break every rule of deliciousness.”
Human Rights Watch said it was shocked to see an American brand name running an advertising campaign that would draw “howls of outrage” if released in the United States. A representatives from the organization said:
“It’s both bizarre and racist that Dunkin’ Donuts thinks that it must color a woman’s skin black and accentuate her lips with bright pink lipstick to sell a chocolate doughnut,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “Dunkin’ Donuts should immediately withdraw this ad, publicly apologize to those it’s offended and ensure this never happens again.”
Despite the American shock, the campaign hasn’t ruffled many in Thailand, where it’s common for advertisements to inexplicably use racial stereotypes. A Thai brand of household mops and dustpans called “Black Man” uses a logo with a smiling black man in a tuxedo and bow tie. One Thai skin whitening cream runs TV commercials that say white-skinned people have better job prospects than those with dark skin. An herbal Thai toothpaste says its dark-colored product “is black, but it’s good.”
The CEO for Dunkin’ Donuts in Thailand dismissed the criticism as “paranoid American thinking.”
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said CEO Nadim Salhani.
“We’re not allowed to use black to promote our doughnuts? I don’t get it. What’s the big fuss? What if the product was white and I painted someone white, would that be racist?”