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June 1, 2011, 5:55 am
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Does My Nougat Center Offend You?
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By Keisha Allisse


Naomi Campbell has been called many things, but she draws the line at 'chocolate'.


The supermodel's first name was recently used in a Cadbury's ad promoting their Dairy Milk Bliss. The ad actually reads, 'Move over Naomi! There's a new diva in town!' Ms. Campbell took great offense, claiming that the ad was 'insulting and hurtful' and that 'it's upsetting to be described as chocolate, not just for me, but for all black women and black people.'


Well, Ms. Naomi has certainly cast a wide net with that last comment. To claim offense personally is one thing, but to claim it on behalf of a race of people is inexplicable. I will not diminish Ms. Campbell's feelings. While I admit to not understanding how the use of the word 'chocolate' to describe a brown-skinned person is offensive, I recognize that everyone hurts differently. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, let me say that I really, really dislike the word racism being bandied about like a ball on the court. Racism is an act of aggression against a whole ethnic group; it is not a word to be used lightly or flounced about when our thin skin is scratched.


I remember a little over a year ago, Lindsay Lohan sued E*Trade for $100 million due to an ad aired during the Super Bowl in which a baby named Lindsay was described as a milkaholic. I remembered the ridicule when word about the lawsuit made it to the press. Many argued that her name was not singular enough, like Madonna's or Oprah's, to claim that the ad was about her. Others said that even if the ad was about her, it was protected under the First Amendment as parody. Most assumed the case would be dismissed (it was eventually settled out of court).


The main difference between these two scenarios is color. Lindsay Lohan makes a similar claim with slightly better reasoning (milkaholic while humorous, was not used endearingly in the commercial), but nobody took it seriously. Naomi Campbell takes offense not at the 'diva' comment (see ad at right), but the 'chocolate' comparison? Confusing to say the least.


Should makeup companies change the name of some of their foundations from Caramel, Mocha, Espresso and Honey for fear of impending criticisms? I said I wouldn't be dismissive of Campbell's feelings, but I'm having a hard time comparing being called 'chocolate' to being called 'nigger'; comparing being 'depicted' as a chocolate bar covered in diamonds to being forced to sit in the back of the bus or being denied an education or medical care because of my skin color.


My biggest concern is that such claims of offense is almost like crying wolf; people will become so overexposed, so desensitized to it that upon its hearing, they won't do much more than bat an eyelash. Granted, in her statement, Campbell did not use the word 'racism,' but the connection for me is quite clear.

Author: Keisha Allisse
Keisha is a freelance writer currently living in New York City. She formerly worked in the nonprofit sector for a walking/biking advocacy group and then later for a small theater company. She worked in the finance department of a NYC-midtown based theater organization before leaving to pursue writing full-time.
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