In the ad
, a white office worker tells his white and Asian coworkers in a Jamaican accent that 'every-ting will be alright.' They look at him weirdly at first, but by the end of the ad, they are all riding around in a VW, chatting with Jamaican accents. In the ad, Jamaican legend Jimmy Cliff can be heard singing his own rendition of the 70s song "Get Happy."
Some critics have called the ad racist. "I don't like it all. It's like blackface with voices. I don't like that," said New York Times columnist Charles Blow in an interview with CNN.
"It made me uncomfortable to see all of those white people in an office setting doing this," Mediapost editor Barbara Lippert said when speaking with USA Today
. "I found it offensive."
One thing these commentators don't realize is that Jamaica is a multicultural country. While the majority of its people are black, Jamaica also has citizens from all over Europe, China, India, and the middle east - just like many other countries. It is a land of immigrants. The only 'native' people in Jamaica are the Arawak Indians. The Jamaican motto, 'Out of many, one people,' celebrates its diversity. My own family - of Chinese descent - spent three generations in Jamaica before emigrating to Canada, and I have spent a considerable amount of time in that beautiful island.
So, anyone who says the Volkswagen ad is racist against black people or that it is 'blackface with voices' obviously doesn't know the island of Jamaica. They may have seen the tourist areas and made assumptions but they have not taken the time to get to know the country or its people, or even read a coffee table book about Jamaica. One cannot be 'racist' against a bunch of different ethnicities.
But just say Jamaica really was entirely black. Would the ad be racist then? No. The ad is cute and hilarious, and not in the least bit offensive. In fact, before releasing the ad, the company consulted with 100 Jamaicans to make sure they weren't disrespecting anyone and the accent was accurate.
Also, Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica's minister of tourism and entertainment, said in an interview with USA Today that "We view it as a compliment. People should get into their inner Jamaica and get happy."
Jamaican people are not offended, so why should anyone else be?
: Jamaicans have started a Facebook page entitled "Jamaicans for VW
" to support the new ad. The page is going viral on Facebook.