Remember last year when there was suddenly a rash of fashion companies doing racist-as-hell things? And a few years before that, it was magazines (most European) doing racist and neo-colonialist editorials? Well, I hope this is not the 2020 trend: nonsensically racist car ads. Volkswagen released a short commercial this week and it is sort of horrifying:
In der neuen #VW-Werbung wird rein zufällig ein schwarzer Mann von einer weißen Hand hin und her geschubst und anschließend in ein Haus mit der Überschrift „petit colon“ geschnipst. Die ersten eingegeben Buchstaben ergeben das N-Wort. Ich könnte kotzen. pic.twitter.com/XnqSM41IIQ
— Felix Edeha (@FelixEd93) May 19, 2020
A big white hand pushing around a black man, then “flicking” him into a cafe called Petit Colon, translated to mean the Little Colonist. And the way the letters for “Der Neue Golf” (The New Golf) appear on screen, they first spell out the German n-word. Volswagen has apologized & pulled the ad. But how the hell did it get made in the first place?
Volkswagen has apologized for airing a racist ad on its social media channels, saying the public outcry was justified, as the company is “horrified” by the commercial. The Buenos Aires-set ad — which has since been pulled — began with a black man in a suit being pushed around by a larger-than-life white hand while cartoon-like sound effects played in the background.
Another large hand then entered the screen and moved the man around like a marionette before flicking him into a café called “Petit Colon,” which translates from French and German to little settler or little colonist in English. The clip was meant to promote the VW Golf 8, and was broadcast on the German automaker’s Instagram and Facebook as part of a larger series meant to depict a “love story” between a black man and a white woman, the BBC reported. The ad quickly drew criticism from social media users who criticized it as “racist garbage,” and others who declared that they would no longer buy Volkswagen vehicles.
“Hatred, racism and discrimination have no place at Volkswagen,” VW’s head of sales and marketing Jürgen Stackmann wrote on Twitter. “In this case, I will personally ensure full transparency and consequences.”
In an additional statement with the company’s head of diversity Elke Heitmüller, Stackmann acknowledged that the ad was racist, and said it “offends every decent person.”
“We understand the public horror about it. Because we are horrified ourselves,” the statement read. “We are ashamed of it and cannot explain [how it came about]… We will make the results and consequences of the investigation public.”
The statement acknowledged how the company was founded in the late 1930s under the Nazi regime, and said that’s exactly why Volkswagen is “resolutely opposing all forms of hatred, agitation and discrimination.”
“We apologize on behalf of Volkswagen AG to the entire public for this film,” it said. “And we especially apologize to those who feel personally hurt by the racist content through their own history.”
According to the BBC, the apology came after the company initially responded to criticism on social media by saying that the origin of the characters was irrelevant, and that it was “surprised and shocked” that the ad was “so misunderstood.”
… It was set in Buenos Aires? Argentina was one of the South American countries sending visas and offering citizenship to Nazis at the end of the war. That’s how South America – mainly Argentina and Brazil – became known as havens for Nazi war criminals. South America also has a largely colonialist history. So… yeah. I feel like Volkswagen knew what they were doing and they were trying to be racist. Let me correct that – some people (perhaps not ALL, but definitely SOME) knew what they were doing and they were actively trying to be racist garbage.
Photos courtesy of Getty.