From the skin bleaching epidemic in Jamaica to the media attention surrounding the new documentary Dark Girls, it’s clear that complexion politics are still prevalent in our community. Naomi Campbell seems to think so. The supermodel is threatening to sue Cadbury, owned by Kraft, for an ad which she believes is racist.
Promoting Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Bliss bars, the advertisement reads “Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town” and features their chocolate bar on top of diamonds. Naomi was not amused. She released the following statement:
I’m shocked. It’s upsetting to be described as chocolate, not just for me, but for all black women. It is insulting and hurtful.
Reactions to Naomi’s frustration with the ad are very one-sided. Most feel that being called “chocolate” is not insulting—let alone, racist—and that she’s overreacting.
While a lawsuit does seem a bit drastic, there may be some validity to her claim.
“Chocolate” is one of the few positive terms I’ve heard used to refer to dark skin. It joins a long list of food adjectives like caramel, cinnamon, honey, etc. employed to describe skin tone. Furthermore, chocolate is a delicacy: luxurious, rich, smooth, dark and desired.
At the same time, women have told me they’ve felt objectified (afterall, it is comparing a person’s skin to a “thing”) and exoticized by the phrase especially when it’s used by different races. That they take offense to it in those contexts is valid—even if it doesn’t make “chocolate” racist or even derogatory.
What do you think? Is Naomi Campbell’s lawsuit completely out of line? Does she have a right to feel offended by the term “chocolate”? Is she being too sensitive?
-Jessica C. Andrews