Some Jamaicans Seem To Love It; White People Find It Racist
VW shot a Super Bowl commercial with a white guy (supposedly from Minnesota) and his various rather uncool officemates talking in Jamaican accents.
(The notion is that Jamaica is the land of not worrying about things and being happy -- you know, like the Bobby McFerrin song of that name.)
I don't find the commercial very funny, but I sure don't find it offensive.
Bruce Horovitz writes at USA Today:
"It's pretty horrific," says Ricki Fairley-Brown, president of the multicultural marketing agency Dove Marketing. "Why do they have a white guy from Minnesota faking a Jamaican accent?"
Even more troubled by the spot is Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, chief hispanic marketing strategist at Walton Isaacson, an African-American, Gay/Lesbian and Hispanic agency. "What happens in this ad is that the culture becomes a punch line, and that is offensive."
Pop cultural guru Barbara Lippert is not amused, either. "It made me uncomfortable to see all of those white people in an office setting doing this," she says. "I found it offensive."
Even then, she says, after offering a similar commentary on NBC's Today Show, "I've heard from thousands of people telling me to lighten up." An online polling of Today viewers concurred with that sentiment. More than 93% said they like the spot.
So does Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica's minister of tourism and entertainment. "We view it as a compliment," says McNeill. "People should get into their inner Jamaica and get happy." He's even negotiating with VW for some sort of co-branding.
As for the actor who stars in the spot, well, he's just hoping it gets to air.
"People are entitled to their own opinion," says Erik Nicolaisen, the 33-year-old actor. But for a second opinion, he asked his brother-in-law, who is from Kingston, Jamaica. "He loves it."
If it isn't "racist" or whatever-ist to have people talk in French, German, or British accents during a commercial -- why is it racist when people talk in Jamaican ones?
Oh, wait -- because Jamaicans are black.
So, we're allowed to make fun of various people, or use their way of speaking in commercials and elsewhere -- unless they're black.
Pulling out a group of people and treating them alone with kid gloves -- isn't that the most patronizing and racist thing of all?