‘Racist Waitrose chocolate duckling reinforces an insidious message’
It seems like hardly a week goes by without some firm getting things hopelessly wrong and offending loads of people.
The latest culprit is Waitrose, which was forced to apologise for selling a trio of Easter ducklings and labelling the dark one “Ugly”.
The white chocolate one was called Fluffy, while the milk chocolate one was called Crispy.
The supermarket did the right thing by temporarily withdrawing the item from shelves, repackaging it and removing the name.
Next came the backlash against the backlash. It was political correctness gone mad, they said, and anyone who objected to the ugly ducklings should just get over it, after all IT’S JUST A CHOCOLATE DUCK.
Except it isn’t.
I don’t think Waitrose was being deliberately racist but there’s no doubt the packaging was offensive and in poor taste.
All my life I’ve had to live with the insidious message that anything black or dark is ugly and inferior, and messages like this just reinforce that. People who haven’t walked in my shoes will have no idea what that feels like.
A few years ago on a summer beach holiday, my now teenage son moaned that he didn’t want to be out in the sun because it was making him “too dark”.
He said it wouldn’t look nice and he would actually prefer to be a bit lighter like his younger brother. I was taken aback and upset to know he felt that way.
I’d never said anything negative about his skin tone, so he can only have got a complex about being dark subliminally from the world around him.
In my late teens I was told by someone that he would never date dark-skinned women because he wouldn’t be able to see them at night. You have no idea how damaging that was to my self-esteem.
And this is why this row isn’t harmless. It’s why the Dove advert where a black woman turns into a white woman after using a body lotion isn’t harmless, or H&M calling a little black boy a monkey isn’t harmless.
Words shape the world we live in and we should call out mistakes when they occur.
But this is what happens when there continues to be a lack of diversity in the decision making process. There’s simply no one in the room who offers a different point of view.
And until things change, don’t expect Waitrose to be the last company to screw up.
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