This week Acura made headlines--and not in a good way. TMZ reported on Wednesday that an ad agency the car company used in a casting call for a Super Bowl commercial specified that the African-American actor to play the part of a car dealer be "nice looking, friendly, not be too dark." Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno starred in the Super Bowl ad.
A source involved with the casting process told TMZ that dark-skinned blacks were ruled out because it would have made the lighting logistics trickier. But others, including "The View's" Whoopi Goldberg, seemed to think that colorism was the real culprit. Goldberg remarked Thursday that light skin is perceived as less threatening.
"Apparently dark-skinned black men scare the poo out of people," she said. "So when they come up on the television screen people go (gasps)!"
Acura released a statement Thursday apologizing for the discriminatory casting call. The company remarked that skin color did not play a role in the selection of the actor who ultimately won the role.
"We sought to cast an African-American in a prominent role in the commercial, and we made our selection based on the fact that he was the most talented actor," Acura stated.
The car company said that they'd only just learned of the language used in the casting call and promised to take action to prevent such language from being used again in connection with the Acura brand.
I buy that Acura likely didn't know that the ad agency it hired used discriminatory language in the casting call. But I remain unconvinced that lighting is the only reason the ad agency asked for a light-skinned black man in the first place. While lighting different shades of skin side-by-side may have been an issue years ago, it's not so much anymore thanks to the technology available today. Besides, that excuse just sets a bad precedent. Anyone involved in casting commercials, TV shows or films could easily blame a lack of diverse actors on lighting, and that would be letting them off the hook far too easily.