1. News & Issues
Nadra Kareem Nittle

Arabs, Blacks, Call Super Bowl Commercials Racist

By February 3, 2013

Follow me on:

The commercials shown during the Super Bowl draw nearly as much attention as the game itself. This year two commercials have made headlines for fueling racial stereotypes. One, a Volkswagen commercial, features a white businessman speaking with a Jamaican accent. The point? To demonstrate the joy that Volkswagen owners have--because Jamaicans are, of course, perpetually happy. The other commercial in question is for Coca-Cola; it features an Arab traversing the desert with a donkey in a bid to reach a giant bottle of coke before a group of Vegas showgirls, cowboys and others beat them to it. Arab-American groups are none too pleased with the ad.

"The Coke commercial for the Super Bowl is racist, portraying Arabs as backward and foolish Camel Jockeys, and they have no chance to win in the world," Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies, told Reuters. Representatives from other groups such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee also took issue with the ad. Coca-Cola, however, denies any malicious intent. A spokeswoman described the brand as "inclusive" and "enjoyed by all demographics."

While the Arab-American community came out against the Coke ad, the Jamaican community has received the Volkswagen ad much differently. According to the Associated Press, Jamaicans are embracing the commercial. Jamaica's tourism minister, Wykeham McNeill, said he hopes the ad gives the island a tourism boost.

"I think this is a very creative commercial which truly taps into the tremendous appeal that brand Jamaica and its hospitable people have globally," he stated. Other Jamaicans told the AP they found it amusing to hear an American attempt to speak patois.

This reaction clashes with the responses African Americans had to the commercial. New York Times columnist Charles Blow, for example, described the commercial as "blackface with voices."

What do you think? Are these commercials offensive or funny?



February 4, 2013 at 5:09 pm
(1) KLS says:

I thought the Coca-Cola commercial was a bit odd, perhaps a throwback to the movie Hidalgo or maybe Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I didn’t think of it from a racial perspective. The VW commercial, on the other hand, received the side-eye from me. I easily saw it through a racial lens. It was received with mixed reviews at the Super Bowl party I attended. I am also not surprised by the tourism minister from Jamaica embracing the commercial. I’m sure he doesn’t represent the sentiment of the entire island-nation, but it’s not a stretch to believe the ad had been received well by many. My experiences in Jamaica revealed deeply entrenched self-hate (not different from other parts of the African diaspora). The citizens I interacted with didn’t have any trouble bending over backward to provide good service to the European tourists of every stripe but were reluctant or simply refused to do the same for black tourists (such as myself and those with me) who were willing to shell out good money in return for good service. So maybe the tourism minister is hoping the VW ad will bring more Europeans to visit the island so his constituents can fawn over them.

Overall, this year’s ads were weak compared to others in the past.

February 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm
(2) rzracer1 says:

I agree with the earlier comment as to the ads being weaker than past years. The VW commercial was funny in my opinion but not racist. There are black and white Jamaicans. I understand that some people can find racism in everything and anything. The coke commercial reminded me of Mad Max. As I stated earlier racism is where you find it if you look really hard. Don’t turn a blind eye towards it but it all boils down to a person’s opinion. Most people as a whole treat people that look like themselves the worst.

February 11, 2013 at 10:17 pm
(3) carol says:

I must have seen a different version of the Coke commercial.
The end of the version I saw had the racers reaching a mirage of a coke bottle while the Arab reaches into his ice chest and takes out an icy Coke.
I saw it Monday after the game. I thought the point was that the Arab was smart enough to know what a mirage was and to be prepared by carrying his own Coke.

February 12, 2013 at 1:00 am
(4) Hyacinth says:

I think the ad was good for Jamaica.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.