‘It’s Like Blackface With Voices’: Volkswagen Under Fire For ‘Racist’ Super Bowl Commercial

January 30, 2013  |  



Volkswagen unveiled the 60-second commercial, which they’ll be dishing out $8 million to air during the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the company, they didn’t receive the response that they were expecting. According to the Daily Mail, many are outraged over the German car company’s commercial, which depicts non-Black actors speaking with Jamaican accents. In the commercial, one man is so excited to be driving a Volkswagen that he gleefully walks around his office seeking to spread the cheer among his co-workers.

People have found the ad to be an offense to Caribbean people for multiple reasons. One reason being that they feel that it implies the untrue notion that all people from the Caribbean are super relaxed and never experience stress. New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently appeared on “Starting Point With Soledad O’Brien”, where he expressed his disdain for the 60-second ad.

“I don’t like it all… It’s like blackface with voices. I don’t like that,” Blow expressed

Jamaican-born journalist for the Wall Street Journal, Christopher John Farley expressed that the accents were reminiscent of Jar Jar Binks, the widely contended Star Wars character who spoke in a Caribbean dialect.

“It’s off-putting to see the Island spirit used as a punchline… The Jamaican aesthetic–shaped by such Jamaican-born notables as Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey and the revolutionary Nanny of the Maroons–is founded on positive vibration, not mindless happiness,” penned Farley.

Tim Mahoney, executive V.P. and CMO of Volkswagen America expressed to CNN that his company had done extensive research and consulted with 100 people from Jamaica and even utilized the services of a dialect coach to ensure that the accents were non-offensive.

“We obviously did our homework to make sure that we weren’t offensive,” said Mahoney.

As with anything, there are opponents to the ad, as well as people who are for it and don’t seem to find it offensive. For example, the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, who expressed that he actually enjoyed the ad.

“I thought, If you buy this car, it puts you in a happy place… And what’s happier than the memories we all have of being on beautiful islands on island time? That’s the way I took it.”

Check out the commercial on the next page. Do you find this ad to be offensive?

Photo courtesy of YouTube

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  • UmmYeahOk

    I didn’t find not one thing about that commercial racist! It’s time to stop being so frickin sensitive. Calling everything racist diminishes ACTUAL racism; it’s crying wolf. UGH!

  • Afro-Latina

    I do not find this neither offensive nor racist. As a person from the Caribbean myself, I am here to assure you that on the island of Jamaica there’s white’s, blacks, Asians, and Indian Jamaicans who speak with native dialect just like that. It’s the norm there. So i don’t see what the big deal is. It’s like getting mad at an African American or Asian American for “sounding white”—like there is such a thing. Smh…Those who find this racist in any way need to travel more.

  • La Shante’ McCray

    I enjoyed the commercial. And find it racist that people think only Black, or dark skinned people are Jamaican. That’s RIDICULOUS! I have lived in New York and have met Jamaicans of different colors. Asians, White, ect. Born in Jamaica, does’nt that make them JAMAICAN? IJS

  • pickneychile

    Oh jeez, its not that serious! I thought the commercial was kinda cute. Some people need fi gwan hol a medz and stop complaining. Lol

  • FromUR2UB

    I wouldn’t call this racist. A Jamaican may be justified in feeling insulted by the bad accent, but I don’t see that as an issue of racism. If every situation is labeled racist,. then it becomes a cry of “Wolf!”. It’s like assigning ‘Top Priority’ to every task: after a while, nothing can be a priority.

  • So being relaxed and never stressed is a bad stereotype? Really??

  • chanela

    you’ve got to be kidding me! btw there are white and asian jamaicans. just go to youtube and see the videos about their experiences and how people think they’re faking it when they are outside of jamaica. smh

  • IllyPhilly

    I’m sure there are more important things to be outraged about.

  • mrose2010

    In Jamaica we have class issues not race issues so the drama about race and this ad seems stupid. And it is stupid the ad is trying to convey a feeling and whether you want to believe it or not , Jamaica is a complex country its not one thing. We have good , we have bad , we have mansions and there are huts on the beach its not that deep. As the ad is saying chill out, there are real race problems going on in America deal with that and don’t make this an issue. They call racism on everything and in Jamaica we call this free advertising. Love It !!!

    • There are no race issues in Jamaica?

  • MonaLisa

    I am a Jamaican and I was not offended. It was nice to see a white and asian speaking with a Jamaican accent because that is what I grew up seeing and hearing. No worries over here. Relax!

  • Ceebee

    people need to get a life. it’s a funny commercial and when people think of the islands they do think of rest and relaxation. there are also non-black island people. i dont get it.

  • Just Me

    This comment came from a commenter on Youtube. I couldn’t agree more. “Relax people!!! Not all white people are out to get us! It’s actually “refreshing” to see these white guys speaking in Jamaican accents. For all none Jamaicans: in Jamaica we have White people, Chinese, and Indians. You lack education if you assumed that Volkswagon is making fun of black (Jamaicans). Heal thyself, and laugh. We need more JOY in the world; that is the intension of the commercial, hence the car. Spoken by a very happy Jamaican, Canadian (with a proud accent)! Yah Man!! lol”

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    RME The commercial was cute. When will black people stop being so sensitive about the slightest little thing?

  • KamJos

    Jamaica has spent millions of dollars in advertising to portray itself as a happy relaxing island to tourists…

  • hiswomanandlovingit

    It is more racist to think that there are no White or Asian people in Jamaica that speak dialect. Yes, I am a proud Jamaican. Don’t get me wrong, it took me a few seconds to try to get why the guy had to even be Caribbean but then i realized they were saying that driving this car is so relaxing that it is like taking a mini vacation to the isle of my birth.

  • KJ23

    I have to be honest, I liked the ad. However, if it does offend people, then I respect that they would want it removed, but as a black woman, I didn’t find it offensive when I saw it. But then again, I’m not Jamaican, so…

  • Yay!

    Le sigh… When will non-minorities learn! Whites mocking anyone’s culture will NEVER EVER be funny or go unchecked. There is a double standard – most minorities make fun of each other’s culture without a peep from critiques. Oh well, that’s where history has brought us. Again, it’s clear no blacks were in the room.

  • Yay!

    Le sigh… When will non-minorities learn! Whites mocking anyone’s culture will NEVER EVER be funny or go unchecked. There is a double standard – most minorities make fun of each other’s culture without a peep from critiques. Oh well, that’s where history has brought us. Again, it’s clear no blacks were in the room.

    • Jamie J.

      Whites refuse to learn the lesson. I am sorry to sound racist, it is so amazing to me how these whites can do and say whatever they want to say to demonized and insult blacks. If the shoe was on the other foot, they would not want anybody to do that to them. They always do or say something stupid and ignorant when at the same time they knew what they were doing. When they apologize claiming the didn’t realize what they were saying when they good and well they know what they were doing. They can apologize all they want but I am sorry I am not buying any of their apologies for saying things that are stupid and demonized blacks. The best way to put a stop to this is hit their pockets and not support any of these people who degrades blacks. Invest your money with black companies that provides good customer service.

      • shelshel

        I concur!

      • So who are they offending? The blacks, whites, chinese or indians who were born and raised there and that speak in that specific dialect? Would it have been less offensive if they used a white or asian person born and raised in jamaica?

      • get real

        The reason they do it is because there will always be black people there to defend their racism. “I didn’t see anything wrong with what they said” etc. Especially black folks who were raised around white people. They are quick to defend their white friends/ white people for racism.

      • wibandit

        let me know when you find a place you speak of!