Backlash has glazed the Thai Dunkin Donuts market over an ad that supposedly employs “blackface,” a form of theatrical makeup applied usually on white actors to create a black person.
The advertising trends – and let’s be real, the thinking altogether – in Thailand are wacky through the scope of the metaphorical American binocular. When a university created a superhero mural that included Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, Thailand most definitely got shit for it, which lead to a worldwide apology.
And of course, Dunkin Donuts followed suit with an apology because if America is against it, obviously they’re wrong.
America, of course, is no stranger to shoving its face into someone else’s business. We like to stop, stare, and gawk at other cultures for their quirks but when we’re put on blast, we suddenly need to cock the hammer and fire back – even if it’s a subtle jab or misinterpreted. And we scold these countries for their very values. All of a sudden, the American way of thinking is top tier, a mindset reserved only for the mature and civilized. You wouldn’t understand, America would say. You’re just not seeing the bigger picture.
The Dunkin Donuts franchises in Thailand operate separately from its U.S. market and with that, so should the American perspective operate separately from Thailand.
The ad is harmless, fully deprived of the ragged caricatures depicted in American Blackface, instead replaced with a woman, completely painted in a smooth black coating, with pink lipstick and beautifully bound hair. African Americans have come to its aid with some even calling the work beautiful. One commenter on Facebook wrote that if you took away the doughnut and brand name, it magically transforms into art. The controversy, for the most part, has become a topic of cultural sensitivity – and honestly, if black people need to remind other black people of the history of minstrel shows and are, in turn, debated about how this is art, that just shows the impact– or lack thereof – of the offense. Need I remind everyone that Blackface was an American thing?
But of course, the debate still stands. Is this acceptable marketing or is it insensitive to the black community who, for the most part, don’t live in Thailand? Should we continue to mark up Thailand’s history of racist marketing when we, ourselves, are guilty of fighting over a Cheerio’s ad? Are we correct to say that we need to reform the education in Thailand and remind them of the atrocities of the Holocaust when our elementary school children barely have the slightest idea of what Christopher Columbus did to Native Americans? What they see is completely different from what we believe.
It’s not Blackface, America. So stop trying to paint Thailand red, white, and blue.