A big story making is making the rounds that is telling about the state of our society: Dove’s apology for a “racially insensitive” ad about their product.

For those of you who haven’t seen it (it’s been removed but being shown as the centerpiece of reportage on the debacle), a black woman with a dark brown shirt (with a small bottle of Dove in the lower right corner) is shown morphing, as she removes the shirt, into a white woman with a pale tan shirt, and the effect is repeated with a third woman with dark hair and a medium complexion wearing a mid-range colored shirt. Honestly, after seeing the ad, I had to go back and recheck it online to see what all the hoopla was. So, clearly, I’m racially insensitive.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

If I were racially sensitive, I’d have recognized (as I did after doing some Internet research) that there is a history of racist ads in the past with cartoons depicting black people being “washed” white with soap. In that context, I might be inclined to view this modern incarnation as more of the same.

If I were racially sensitive, I’d assume there was a conspiracy among the Dove ad committee that commissioned and approved the piece to run the risk of alienating a large swath of their consumers, both black, white and anything in-between, because of deeply ingrained racism.

When you view the world through racially sensitive lenses, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, for many, impugning racial insensitivity is tantamount to calling out bigotry. But perhaps “racial insensitivity,” for most people, is a product of the true goal: color-blindness. If you have a non-bigoted, racially insensitive person, and set this as the baseline, might that not redefine the racially sensitive person as “hypersensitive”? And does this hypersensitivity (or lack of insensitivity) unmask covert bigotry in the person crying foul? Something to think about.

Like most of us, I understand the inherent evil of racial prejudice and bigotry, but I think I’ll stick with my “insensitivity.” I understand why the makers of Dove had to go belly-up—it was the right corporate decision. But I’m not selling anything.

And when it comes to the idea that I have to look for hidden racial bias in everything, I’m not buying, either.


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