A series of road safety video ads depicting a reckless black driver and a responsible, lighter-skinned family led to accusations of racism after they were posted online.
The videos show a black-faced character with textured hair named Mr. Careless driving recklessly and a fair-skinned family named the Safe family trying to make good decisions on the road.
It is part of the “Street Smart” campaign of the foundation for social progress of the Mapfre insurance company, Fundacion Mapfre, which was launched in November and supported by the Ministry of Education and public transport in Malta.
But the announcement was heavily criticized by anti-racism groups.
“Evil is black”
Black Lives Matter Malta said that the fact that the character of Mr. Careless is visibly different from the other family plays into the ‘bad is black’ effect, a term given to the phenomenon that people are more likely to perceive than another commits a crime if their skin color is darker.
“BLM Malta denounces this campaign as well as the broader and pervasive anti-darkness found at various levels of Maltese society,” he said.
“BLM Malta also believes it is necessary to stress the importance of recruiting people of diverse origins and backgrounds to positions where decisions are made so that such unacceptable productions are challenged and prevented from being broadcast.”
He noted that “it is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done before Malta achieves the objectives put forward by the [anti-racism] strategy”.
Meanwhile, in a similar reaction, the African Media Association Malta said the series was “shameful” and “portrayed the most horrific form of racism”.
“White people are the good guys, who drive well and safely on the road, while black people are bad!” Whites drive well, and blacks are a danger on the road, the ad says. to add fun to the lousy story. How is it possible ?
“What a strong message to the children! “
A Mapfre spokesperson defended the campaign, calling it “totally innocent” and calling the reaction “disproportionate”.
“The aim of this campaign is to make young children aware of road safety measures,” she said.
“The videos were produced in a cartoonish fashion to appeal to a young audience and the fact that the faces were painted yellow and gray was just to make it attractive. There was no intention to portray black people as the bad guys.
“Unfortunately, the comments were taken out of context and sparked outrage from Black Life Matter (sic). We had no intention of offending any race, religion or association.”
She said the video, produced by Danusan, was commissioned by Malta Public Transport, which coordinated the campaign.
A spokesperson for Maltese public transport also defended the video.
“It is clear that the characters in this educational video series are crash test dummies, and the actors’ faces are painted yellow and gray,” a spokesperson said.
“There is no reference to a race in this production, which was created solely for the purpose of promoting road safety.”
Applying dark makeup or “blackface” is widely considered offensive and involves racist stereotypes of people with dark skin. The practice has its origins in the performances of 19th-century minstrels who mocked blacks and reinforced ideas of white superiority.
When the campaign was launched, it was endorsed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Francis Fabri.
“Children and students are our real agents of change and are definitely in favor of a just and better world,” he said at the launch.
“Through this awareness campaign, children will engage in informed and interactive activities while enjoying and enriching their learning experience.”
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