‘Black is Beautiful’ Advert for Toilet Paper Sparks Outrage in Brazil

Dom Phillips, The Guardian, October 24, 2017

The manufacturers of a new brand of luxury black toilet paper in Brazil have been accused of racism for using the slogan “Black is Beautiful” as part of an advertising campaign starring a famous white actress.

The Personal VIP Black toilet paper was launched on Monday by Santher, a Brazilian company based in São Paulo, with a glossy advertising campaign starring Marina Ruy Barbosa, a white, red-haired, blue-eyed actor who appears naked except for swaths of the black toilet paper.

Black activists and commentators accused the company of appropriating the name of a cultural movement from the 1960s that spread around the world and was also used by South African anti-apartheid campaigner Steve Biko.

“People died so that this expression could be revered until today. People continue dying and this expression is more important and vital than never before,” Rio-based writer Anderson França wrote on Facebook. “But in Brazil if you key in #blackisbeautiful you are going to find ass paper.”

França’s post was shared thousands of times as anger over the campaign spread across social media.

“In Brazil #Blackisbeautiful is not a cause, now [it] is toilet paper. Where do black lives matter?” wrote one Twitter user.

“We see racism in everything or are you conveniently blind?” tweeted another.

Later on Tuesday, Santher and Neogama – the São Paulo advertising agency responsible for the campaign – said that they regretted any offense caused, and removed the slogan from their campaign

Humberto Adami, a leading black lawyer in Rio who chairs the National Truth Commission of Black Slavery in Brazil, said the controversy was the latest in a string of incidents involving Brazil’s advertising industry.

“When these adverts suggest this type of subliminal racism they should be removed, because they reinforce the teaching of racism,” Adami said. “This is very serious.”

Although more than half of Brazil’s population identifies as black or mixed race, advertising and television predominantly use white faces. Brazilian advertising agency Africa, for example, features dozens of staff in a photo on its Facebook page, but only one face is non-white.

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