This week, Pepsi released a protest inspired advertisement that starred Kendall Jenner of the infamous Kardashian family. The advertisement showed Jenner ditching conventionality by tossing a blonde wig and goth lipstick to join protestors on the street. Upon joining these protesters, Jenner offers a stoic police officer a can of Pepsi and the world lives happily ever after. Pepsi proved quite germane in casting Jenner of the culture appropriating Kardashian Klan to star in a video where the protest culture is appropriated to not only sell a beverage, but to sell the white female body as a unifying force.
I personally always thought Pepsi looked too much like a cop car with the red, white and blue colors seen in the flag that waved in the same wind that blew over the lacerations on the backs of enslaved Africans, and the cop cars that have stalked our communities for decades. Yet, the corporation’s resemblance to these principles is commonly veiled in what many perceive as support for the disenfranchised. In the past, where Coca Cola perpetuated stereotypes of blacks, Pepsi featured advertisements of Howard students to illustrate black promise and ability. To many, this seemed a noble gesture on Pepsi’s behalf. However the 1950s and1960s were turbulent decades for the black body, and these depictions, while pretty, oversimplified the ugliness and devastation that plagued quotidian black life.
Similarly, where Coca Cola displayed a cartoon version of Mammy in their advertisements, Pepsi used a racially ambiguous lead to sell their beverage. Decades later, blacks would watch as Beyonce advertised for the product as a means for the company to appear inclusive. This attempt of inclusivity functioned solely in the interest of a company that did not so much desire black people as they desired black money. It is ignorance and a deeply embedded insecurity that prompts blacks to embrace a black face advertising white products. These corporations exploit this insecurity as a means to foment their own capitalistic agenda, a pattern to which the black collective is far too often the victim.
Moreover, this most recent Pepsi ad is a page out of an old textbook. The advertisement depicts what they think we as a polarized nation want to see. This of course conveniently overlooks that our current polarized climate is as American as apple pie. Unity means having a white central figure act as the savior of all humanity. This gesture works to negate the contentious interpretation of the Adam and Eve story where the female body is blamed for the downfall of humanity. Thus, the commercial does not speak on Black issues as much as it functions to assert a feminist agenda. The assertion of the feminist agenda had become a central and aggressive component of contemporary culture implemented to suggest that the white female body is the mother of humanity and thereby the sole source able to unify the masses. However, asserting the feminine agenda does not work to unite the masses. Instead this works to issue obscurity to all other social issues, namely issues pertaining to the black collective.
Based on what viewers see in this Pepsi ad, the thousands of black bodies that face humiliation, objectification, prejudice and death should seek aid from Kendall Jenner or other white woman. This claim is blasphemous, as any conscious member of the black community can bear witness to the outspoken members of the feminist party who magically become mimes when issues pertaining to the systemic disenfranchisement cast onto black bodies surface. Seeking aid from white women will only result in black bodies being denied entry from a house they aid in building and thus should be avoided as all cost.
Unity sounds nice and looks even better. Unity is also incompatible with a country founded on division, and false supremacy. Thus, while Pepsi may have pulled the commercial, it is doubtful that they conceptualize the true detriment of their deeds.
Illustrating Pepsi as an olive branch to societal conflict is a move the company has used for decades. While certainly self-congradualatory, this gesture also functions to oversimplify the complexities of our world as solved by a tangible object.
Pepsi is not capable of solving racism any more than it is capable of properly hydrating the human body. One cop can not cure a corrupt force as the force represents an unbalanced system that nurtures the same mind who conceived this commercial–an idea the creator surely felt was innovative. To believe that this commercial or any form of feminist media is anything other than complicit to the foundation of white supremacy is to operate in the oblivion necessary to maintain the stagnancy of the oppressed and the comfort of the oppressors seated firmly on our backs.