offensive toothpaste

Anyone who has been in Taiwan (and several other Asian countries) for any length of time has seen “Darlie” toothpaste, which is still named “black man” in Chinese (hēi rén, 黑人).

It used to be named “Darkie” in English, but when Colgate acquired the company in the mid-80’s, after protests from civil-rights activists, they changed the English name to “Darlie” and the face of the man on the front changed as well, but the Chinese name remains “black man.”

Darkie Toothpaste Over the Years by sinosplice on flickrDarkie Toothpaste Over the Years by sinosplice on flickr

This is a very common and well-liked toothpaste brand in Taiwan.

So, when Lawrance and I were out looking for a souvenir for me to take home to our sweet nephews I didn’t think twice when I first saw the pencil case below.  There where all kinds of knock-offs of different bottles and tubes–toothpaste, ketchup, chocolate, and so on–that had been converted into pencil bags with pencil sharpeners hidden in the caps.  So creative!

darkie toothpaste knock off

But, when I looked again at the Darlie knock-off I actually gasped.  Do you see it? The character has been replaced with a photo of Obama and Darlie was changed to “Change.”  Lawrance tried to get a photo while I talked to the store owner and actually took a video, so the photo is captured from a cell phone’s video, so it is a bit unclear.  But, on the actual pencil bag the the image is clearly Obama.

I was shocked and speechless.

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