The Real Discrimination Of The VW Ad

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A scene from the VW Superbowl ad. (VW screen grab)
By Felicia Persaud

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 1, 2013: Much ado has been made this week on the VW ad that’s set to air on Super Bowl Sunday. If you have missed the hoopla, the ad features a White actor who speaks Jamaican and urges his co-workers to get happy.

Several media and so called experts have slammed the ad as racist while Jamaicans themselves have largely embraced it, calling it funny and saying they are thrilled at the brand exposure it’s given to their island.

But while the New York Times Charles Blow calls it “black face with voices” and the Wall Street Journal described it as the “Jar Jar Binks of 2013,” lost in the entire brouhaha is not the ad but the underlying ‘real’ discrimination that persists.

1: When I looked at the ad initially, I first assumed it was a White Jamaican. Upon further investigation, I found out he was simply a White American actor, hired to play the part, which to my mind is the real discrimination.

Why couldn’t VW find themselves a real Jamaican or an actor, to do this ad, even a White one? And is this simply a way for VW to compete with Nissan, which has Usain Bolt as its ad spokesperson, and benefit from Brand Jamaica without paying a Jamaican? (Yes there are White Jamaicans who speak like that guy! Just ask Butch Stewart of Sandals!.)

2: The mainstream media in America sees everything in black and white so the so called expert opinions being quoted and sought are African Americans. Why? Where are the Jamaican and Caribbean experts on this subject or where are the Jamaican voices in the United States being quoted on this? Or don’t the producers of these talk shows or newspaper articles know any? That then is the real racism!

They could have walked down Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn or found any on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, NY or Gun Hill Road in the Bronx and asked their opinion. But they did not? Why? Because they don’t really matter!

How can an African American, whose socialization is largely black and white, relate to a cultural identity that is multi-racial and multi-dimensional, and truly understand and have an informed opinion on an ad such as this one? They cannot!

Blow’s “black face with voice comments” speaks to this ignorance. The assumption that all Jamaicans are black could not be further from the truth.

3: And thirdly, this ad may never make it into the Jamaican or Caribbean media. So why VW smiles all the way to the bank, benefiting from the sexy, coolness of Brand Jamaica, and Jamaicans cheer them on, the only person who really benefits is VW.

That my friends’ is the real discrimination!

Be the judge. See the ad here:

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.