Interracial ad draws controversy

Courtesy DA Youth

Many of us in the U.S. wouldn’t get riled up when we see advertisements such as this. However, in South Africa, some folks are outraged at the ad, according to the Washington Post. The poster, created by South African’s  Democratic Alliance Youth, was for the organization’s 2012 membership campaign.

The poster has dominated conversation among politicians and the media in South Africa, the Globe and Mail reports. While many have been supportive of its message, some have taken issue with the poster’s supposed promotion of sex.

Others have traded racist remarks on the Democratic Alliance Youth’s Facebook page, with one commenter posting a photo of an all-white, blonde family with the remark “Now that’s how it should be!” People who do not support the poster have also made parody versions of the image that some might consider to be more offensive.

Some black South Africans have objected to the fact that the man is white and the woman is black, because it implies a certain dominance among traditional cultures. “Who is the head of a house? Yes, a man, and the man makes the choices and the women listens,” wrote one commenter on the Facebook page. “So to some it has been offensive that the man is white and the woman is black, because it places the black nation under the head of the house, so to speak.”

On its Facebook page, DA Youth Federal Chairperson Mbali Ntuli defended the group’s poster:

If there is anything that this poster has brought to the attention of us all it is that we need to decide as young people; do we want our generation to continue to be unable to shake race as our defining narrative? I think that this is one of those questions which our generation was going to have to answer one way or another eventually.

No matter how uncomfortable this conversation may be for some we must fight to have it as young South Africans, we fight because we appreciate that young South Africans before us had no voice and we fight because we represent so many young South Africans that STILL have no voice.

This poster was intended to start that conversation. The conversation is about race, but more than that this poster speaks to the principle of tolerance. This image could be replaced, as you may have all already seen from the parodies, by numerous others that all speak to the same principle. I have seen two young men or women, I have seen one of a Muslim and a Jewish person embracing, one of a Tamil and Hindi person and numerous others. The point is that we live in a country full of people that have forgotten how to tolerate people that seemingly don’t see the world as they do. On the other spectrum, and this is evident from the parodies and people’s responses, we are living in a country full of people that already do tolerate others views. This is the voice we should be encouraging to speak, that we should be giving a platform, that we should be reassuring that it is ok to not want to confine yourself to a socially constructed box, that it is ok because there are many of us who don’t fit neatly in those boxes either, many of us right here in the DA. That is who we need to be getting to believe in OUR vision for SA.

Part of addressing the issue of intolerance is about bringing people’s prejudices to the fore. This is done not with the intention of being belligerent and attacking people but about maturely acknowledging that people have them and getting them to talk about it. We need to ask them why exactly it causes them so much discomfort? We must facilitate, and more importantly, lead this discussion.

Part of me wants to stick up for the organization and defend its use of an interracial couple in the ad campaign. As someone who is in an interracial relationship with a white man, I can’t comprehend the reasoning of those who oppose the poster, particularly those who believe replacing the black woman with a white woman would somehow make it more appealing. However, part of me understands that apartheid ended only 20 years go and there are still great inequalities among whites and blacks in South Africa, thus maximizing the racial tensions already present. It would also be unfair for me to use my American influence and give an opinion on why South Africans should embrace the poster.

What do you think of the poster and the controversy surrounding it?