Is this ad really racist?

This ad was brought to my attention by an article on boingboing, and it got me thinking.
There is no doubt that some people have been offended by it but I personally don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Now this ad was displayed in Amsterdam but, no surprises here, most of the outcry seems to be coming from America where there is a lot of PC self-consciousness about proving to everyone that you’re not racist and a lot of African-Americans who seem to have a slightly shaky relationship with white Americans.

The major argument by those that think its racist are the following.

  1. It implies the use of ‘black’ and ‘white’ to describe skin colour (dude they’re perfectly viable descriptive terms not racist expressions of hate)
  2. It shows a white person dominating a black person.

Given the history of black slavery in America the second argument is understandable although still a little stupid. The first thing to keep in mind is that to the average European the idea of racism is so far from their mind that the only thought of black and white upon seeing this ad would be “what a visually effective contrast” which is exactly what sony were trying to do.

Now personally I think this visual would have had more impact and I think that there would have been none of the outcry over the image.

And what is the main difference?? The black woman is dominating the white. Which brings up an important point.

Racism is treating a person or making judgements about a person based on race.

So if you were offended by this ad, and would not have been offended by the ad if the two women swapped roles. Then you are racist.

17 thoughts on “Is this ad really racist?

  1. John Lucas July 6, 2006 / 10:08 pm

    I’m gonna say what I just said over there at on this article.This voluntary blindness about the reality of racism annoys me.QUOTE:Let’s put this in another perspective.Let’s say Microsoft trying to finally break into the Japanese market with the launch of their X-Box 360 does this:They make ads to show the power of their system……simply using a giant mushroom cloud explosion and trademark green lettering saying “We’re back”.Now what do you think the Japanese will have to say about that coming from an AMERICAN company trying to penetrate their market?You wouldn’t even have the paltry amounts of 360’s they sold NOW!Hey why not sell Wiis to Israel forming the Wiimotes into the shape of a SS Cross saying “The Revolution begins now”?If you don’t know, learn this:Messages can be sent by MUCH higher means than merely words & letters.UNQUOTEAll symbols are meaningless & meaningful at the same time. An upside-down lowercase “T” is simply an upside-down lowercase “T”. A mere intersection of a vertical line & a horizontal line. But you try selling something to those who consider themselves Christian using that symbol & let’s see how far you go.It’s not in a global corporation’s best interest to alienate potential buyers. Sure they have the freedom to do it but they can’t be surprised when others have the freedom not to contribute to their bottom lines.Why not use the Twin Towers in an ad? It’s just a couple of buildings right? Have a couple of Wii-mote-like “Twin Towers” side by side & have the PS3 smash through them leaving fire & smoke.~It’s just showing company competition~. ~That was the intent, right?~Both me AND you are not that dumb or naïve.And if you ARE that naïve somehow then maybe you need to study a taste of black history.You can start here in the 1990’s. me know if you need some references to the public family (kids too)picnic hangings of black men in the 20th century.John Lucas


  2. miriam July 6, 2006 / 10:22 pm

    You do realise that just as many white people were enslaved by black people through the north African slave trade as black were enslaved by the white in America. Throughout history people have always mistreated minorities. That is an unfortunate facet of human nature. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Asians, Africans, Caucasians, Aboriginal people from every country have ALL been oppressed in some country at some point in history. America is very big, and what happened to black people there was terrible but it is by no means unique and to be frank do you REALLY think that the first thing that DUTCH people think when they see that advert is “oh no black oppression” no, because they don’t have that history. They’re not trying to sell the psp to Americans with this ad but to the dutch. So every one of your arguments about context are completely defunct. The ad may offend some people but it is not racist.


  3. Henk July 6, 2006 / 11:01 pm

    All I have to say: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So people who see some kind of racial thing in this ad are just projecting their own guilty consience and/or thoughts onto others. And they are probably white Americans compensating their consience by calling this ‘rascist’As I read in one of the comments on a forum regarding this hype:”As an ethnic minority in the Netherlands, I do not have a problem with this whatsoever.I can imagine the uptight Americans having a problem with everything, so this one as well.I watched the ads in amsterdam, and I did not see any riots in front of them, nor were people trying to damage it or tear it down.I think the dutch people are somewhat sensible enough to see through such an ad.”Hear, hear, and shame on Engadget for trying to blow this out of proportions!


  4. John Lucas July 6, 2006 / 11:18 pm

    Oh sure. The brands of racism vary from culture to culture, nation to nation. The French-heritaged & the English-heritaged in Canada for instance. Mexicans Vs. Puerto Ricans. EVEN American Blacks & Haitians.And yeah I knew this was put as an ad to the Dutch. But do you REALLY think the world exists in a vacuum? ESPECIALLY in the internet age??? That whole furor about the cartoon editorial on Mohammed was valid. Not because they used a picture of Mohammed which goes against Muslim code but REALLY HOW they portrayed the founder of that religion with the bomb-fashioned headwrap. And yeah it was only shown to the Dutch but word got out didn’t it? And there is a Muslim population there in Holland isn’t it?Stuff like this only deepens these attitudes. It legitimizes them. People will have all sorts of negative evil thoughts but when the culture signs off on them it makes it “legal” so to speak. It makes it fashionable. They will feel less reserve when expressing that attitude.And BELIEVE ME BABY it ain’t just America that has a negative image toward Black people. This is a WORLDWIDE phenomenon.No matter where Blacks go they are often seen as LESS than the others.That’s not to say all people around the world subscribe to this mentality just as it’s the same in the USA but it exists. It is real.Blacks in videogames are even an afterthought most of the time. How many black characters villain or hero or otherwise do you see? There are some but often blacks are the discardable ethnicity.Less value upon this wide-ranging group of like peoples.So even though this is shown in Holland it perpetuates the message conveyed by the picture & accompanying message.Black is lesser than White.And everything about that picture makes that message. With the height advantage of the white model to the more glamorous clothing of the white & blonde model to the picture clarity of the black model (so much so that many people from the board thought she was a black *man*) to the plain obscuring clothing of the black model. The whole light effect with the white light surrounding & engulfing the black model struggling with the white model.Nobody can possibly be this naïve, I’m sorry. Dutch descendants keeping up a system called Apartheid in South Africa & we’re supposed to believe this brand of racism is only a local thing??? Or simply a figment of the mind???Bullsh*t.They knew better than to do this.They wanted to make a shock value ad in the worst way possible.It’s even more insulting than that “Play Beyond. $599” ad which is an insult to game-buying public. An ad that can easily be modified into “Pay Beyond” which is exactly what it seems like.Stuff like this shows me that Sony is desperate & the hype game will backfire on them BIGTIME.Unlike Nintendo, all Sony ever had was hype.John Lucas


  5. John Lucas July 6, 2006 / 11:31 pm

    One more comment to “caethes”:caethes: “You do realise that just as many white people were enslaved by black people through the north African slave trade as black were enslaved by the white in America.”John Lucas: When’s the last time you personally—or you as part of an ethnic group—faced social obstacles & difficulties due to a North African?Or to generalize further a black person?Black people STILL suffer the social effects of historic AND CURRENT *ongoing* discrimination of their kind & their culture in their own societies.You didn’t get turned down for a job you were qualified for simply because your name is “caethes”.But Jamal did.And so did Shaneequa.John Lucas


  6. Henk July 6, 2006 / 11:38 pm

    @John Lucas:It is only racist if you are narrowminded enough to see it as such.The fact that Muslims all over the world where protesting had nothing to do with them being insulted by those cartoons: it was just a hype because 99% (!!) of them never even saw the damn cartoons (by lack of papers printing them) . The protesters were just dumb sheep following some religious leaders that are the true racists and biggots of this world because their philosphy is that there is just one religion: Islam. And all other religions are heretics and should be either converted or killed. They are the same people that still do not give equal rights to women and still stone homosexuals to death!Now, how is that about racism? So stop giving the wrong arguments and examples please.As I said: if you want to see this ad as racism you probably have a guilty mind yourself and feel like your doing something wrong and your overcompensating this by crying ‘wolf’. Of course when you have a really guilty consience like, let’s say the Americans with their nice history of genocide (Native Americans) and slavery and racial segregation have – then you might have some have associations like ‘white person – master, black person – slave’ making this ad incredibly politically uncorrect. For us Dutch who see this add, these associations dont come at all, or maybe after long consideration. So for Dutch people this is just what it seems – an ad with a white person grabbing a black person. And – mind you – there are also images where the roles are reversed and the black woman is grabbing the white female.


  7. John Lucas July 7, 2006 / 12:00 am

    Henk, I’m black.Guilty conscience???And, please, racism is worldwide INCLUDING the Netherlands.Believe it or not I think America actually is more honest with its racist past than most other countries which is ironic!Not honest enough in my opinion but more honest.I kept reading over on people talking about Europe has overcome its racism & I’m like PLEASE.Let me tell you something. The riots of America’s 1992 in L.A. & the recent ones in France & Australia weren’t done because of the world’s “enlightened stance” on ethnicities.Sure I don’t believe everybody is racist but let’s get real, folks. And let’s get real about this ad.Nevertheless I don’t condone censorship & I say let it show. I like directness rather sneakyness.I hope this loses Sony some audience.And I hope they come over to the Nintendo Wii.Inclusive, connected, prejudice-free Wii.Because it’s not about you or me.;-)John Lucas


  8. miriam July 7, 2006 / 12:09 am

    Errm dude I’m female and studying engineering. I’m most likely going to be turned down for jobs that I’m qualified for because I have boobs. I will have less respect in my workplace because I’m female. I will be paid less than an equally qualified and experienced male because I’m female. Don’t talk to me about discrimination.But I’m not worried about it. It makes me determined to prove to those around me that being female doesnt make me incompetent. And don’t for a second think that being black makes you unique or special in terms of discrimination.


  9. miriam July 7, 2006 / 12:17 am

    Oh and btw don’t forget to consider your opinions of white people. Racism goes both ways. Being a member of a minority in no way precludes you from being a racist. “No matter where Blacks go they are often seen as LESS than the others.”Hang out with a white guy in the middle of Kenya or Zimbabwe etc and see who gets stared at the most dude. Black people aren’t a minority everywhere. And if I were to go to work in Japan I would be thought of by some as ignorant and less than human because I was white so stick that in your pipe and smoke it.


  10. Henk July 7, 2006 / 12:52 am

    @John Lucas:The argument is about the question if Sony has put out a racist ad or not.Let’s try to see this then from a legal point of view: is the ad racist in nature from a legal viewpoint? In other words: if someone would take Sony to court in Holland, would a judge cancel the add campaign?Well let’s argue that a bit:The European Union has a law against disrimination: Article 21 of the charter prohibits “discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, color, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation and also discrimination on the grounds of nationality.”Now, ‘Racism’ refers to various belief systems maintaining that humans can be separated into various groups based on physical attributes and that these groupings determine or influence cultural or individual achievement or the essential value of human beings.Just by that definition this ad can not be ‘racist’ as it is an object. So one will have to look at the people behind it (Sony) and prove they are racist.Now, if you see racism more narrowly as “a system of oppression, based on ideas that one race is superior to other races”, you still have to ask yourself: is that what Sony is trying to do here? Can you prove this?I still do not buy that. I think no one can prove that Sony is an oganization that practices racism and is discriminating against and marginalizing a class of people who share a common racial designation.I mean: besides this ad: do you have any other examples from Sony?In other words: once again I remain at my point of view that people try to create a hype out of this (just like with those cartoons).Oh, and about the riots in Paris: after the initial riot that came from police oppression the others had nothing to do with what was going on: it attracted just a bunch of hooligans out for a fight.@caethes:I agree: equality between men and women as far as being paid equaly etc. is still not how it should be, and that’s a real issue! Not this ad.So let’s save the “racism” remarks for the cases where it really applies, like racism in South Africa where members of the black African majority are discriminating against the white European minority (and not so long ago it was the other way around and there is even racism between Africans themselves).


  11. scientaestubique July 7, 2006 / 9:58 am

    Forget racist, look at that hair! Crap ad really. A picture of the real thing would have been far better.I own a Ceramic White PSP.


  12. Anonymous July 9, 2006 / 11:47 pm

    Some people don’t know their ass from a whole in the ground. This ad is just as rascist as invading Iraq has made the world a safer place.The USA is clearly out of touch with reality. Now THAT’s a problem worth putting your energy in! Hans, Netherlands.


  13. Anonymous May 12, 2007 / 2:26 am

    It quite absurd when Dutch peopletalk about racisme in America whenthey have absolutly no notion ofthier own history. The genocide of Native Americans was done by immigrants from Europe(and thier children). They also forget thierown attrocities such as slavery,apartheid and thier inhumane treatment of people (Indonesia, Suriname, Antilles etc.). It’s aclassic example of the pot callingthe kettle black. The Dutch donottalk about this history (also inschools) because, it is easier toaccuse than to confront thier ownhistory and because they are cowards who always trying to provetheir misformed feeling of superiority. Thier perception ofrascism is that of a child of 6.Its always the others and never them. No room for improvement ormatureness.


  14. Anonymous August 15, 2007 / 3:51 am

    if the white girl in the picture looks anything like that or like nadia auermann she can dominate me any time no sweat I’m of african origin by the way


  15. Anonymous September 23, 2007 / 10:57 pm

    It look like someone is patting themselves on their own back.


  16. Emprice December 10, 2007 / 7:59 am

    Im an African American female, and honestly, Im not as offended by this as i guess other people would be. Not sure why. Maybe it’s because “our generation” (those under 21) arent as aware of racism everywhere. Though i am pretty sure that i am aware of many different forms of racism, i dont see this as a huge deal. Obviously, the company was implying that the new game system, the white color was coming out and that the black game systems were stepping aside. Im not sure what their intent was when chosing the white figure to “grab” the black figure, but does it even matter. If theyre not saying it to me directly or about me, Emprice, then, oh well.


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