Cosmetic giants are trying to purge their brands of any racist stereotype
Update by Sylvie Claire / June 27, 2020
The latest company to date, L’Oréal announced on Saturday that it would remove certain words, such as "whitening" or "clear", from the description of its cosmetic products.
“White”, “whitening”, “clear”… After Johnson & Johnson and the Indian subsidiary of Unilever, the L'Oréal group, a French cosmetics giant, has decided to remove certain words from the description of its cosmetic products on its packaging, in a global context of anti-racist demonstrations since the death, at the end of May, of the African-American George Floyd, in the United States.
In a press release published on Saturday June 27 and relayed by Agence-France-Presse, L'Oréal announces that it has "decided to remove the words white / whitening, clear (fair / fairness, light / lightening) from all its products intended to standardize the skin ”on the packaging of its cosmetics. He does not give more details, in particular on an immediate withdrawal or not of his products from the shelves.
L’Oréal taken to task
In early June, L’Oréal tweeted that it was "in solidarity with the black community and against all forms of injustice". His message had received negative reactions, the group's business model and advertising being focused on white consumers.
Munroe Bergdorf, L’Oréal UK’s first openly transsexual model, had publicly noted the brand's hypocrisy. Munroe Bergdorf was sacked in 2017 after speaking out against "white racial violence" after a parade by the American far right in Charlottesville.
Excuse my language but I am SO angry. FUCK YOU @lorealparis. You dropped me from a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy. With no duty of care, without a second thought. pic.twitter.com/nnBfiP5Oqg— Black Trans Lives Matter ✊🏾 (@MunroeBergdorf) June 1, 2020
The group decided to react, apologizing to Munroe Bergdorf and offering to return to the group to take up a position as an adviser to the new UK entity responsible for diversity and inclusion. Offer that the model has accepted.
Unilever reactions in India
Before L'Oréal, the Indian subsidiary of Unilever had chosen to rename its Fair & Lovely lightening cream: the Anglo-Dutch company promised to no longer use the word fair ("clear"), saying it was "committed to celebrating all skin tones ”.
In India, lightening creams are popular, especially with Bollywood stars. One of them, Priyanka Chopra, was taken to task on social networks for having supported the Black Lives Matter movement while keeping her role of ambassador for one of these brands.
For its part, the American giant Johnson & Johnson has decided to go further, by banning this week the sale of lightening substances designed for Asia and the Middle East. "The debate of the past few weeks has highlighted the fact that certain names or promises appearing on our Neutrogena and Clean & Clear products aimed at reducing stains represented whiteness or clarity as being better than your unique complexion," deplores the group. in a statement quoted by American public radio NPR and the New York Times. "It was never our intention: healthy skin is beautiful skin," adds Johnson & Johnson, announcing the end of its Neutrogena Fine Fairness and Clear Fairness by Clean & Clear lines.
After the L’Oréal press release, some in France questioned the decision to delete words from packaging without, however, questioning
Si j’ai bien compris le groupe L’Oreal supprime les mots «blanc/blanchissant» de ses produits mais maintient la vente de ces cosmétiques destinés à éclaircir les peau « mates » et noires?— Rokhaya Diallo (@RokhayaDiallo) June 27, 2020
C’est donc ok de continuer à se faire de l’argent sur ce désastre? https://t.co/jfdFZkJnYd
Beyond cosmetics, some American companies have announced that they are going to make disappear or modify their visual identity which perpetuates racial stereotypes. This is particularly the case of Quaker Oats (a subsidiary of PepsiCo), who will soon get rid of his Aunt Jemima, and Mars, who says he is thinking about developing his famous Uncle Ben’s.
Hygiene and household products giant Colgate-Palmolive has announced that it wants to "re-examine" its Darlie toothpaste sold in Asia and whose name means "black person toothpaste" in Chinese. The brand was called, until 1989, Darkie, a racial slur.
But beyond an image to be corrected, companies are lagging behind in taking diversity into account, especially at the highest level. According to a 2019 report from the Boston Consulting Group, only three African-Americans and 24 women lead the 500 largest US companies by revenue.
Credit : Le Monde