I’m surprised Aboyeji wrote the last post in response to Sugabelly’s post, because I don’t think the Indian guy and the Obongomail ad are related at all. Elected office and advertising are two very different spheres with two very different purposes.
Granted, both present representations of Nigerians, but in very different ways and both have different relationships with Nigeria and Nigerians. The Public Relations Officer is not just the face of a group, he’s also a leader who can connect with people, and relate with a lot of different people. I think it’s great that an Indo-Nigerian can be elected as an officer for a mainly black organization – clearly he identifies as Nigerian and is dedicated to supporting Nigerians on his campus, and that can only be a good thing. The advert in Sugabelly’s post, however, is meant to make people to want to use a service. The woman in the picture is not talking to people, or working with a group. She’s on a computer, by herself. She’s just an image. And as an image of a lone white woman, she is completely disconnected from the average Nigerian experience. A person working in an office in Nigeria is not typically a skinny white brunette – she’s a black woman or he’s a black man, whatever. I haven’t been home for some months, but I doubt that since I’ve been gone, white people have become the ONLY people in Nigeria who use computers and would want to use Obongomail. The average person using Obongomail will be black as opposed to white, yes? So why is a white woman the face of a company targeting black people?
It’s clear that using this picture was a thought-out decision (though obviously not thought out well enough). It’s not like there weren’t pictures of black people the dude could use. He could have easily told his friend, “I need a picture for my company – please help me snap photo.” Heck, he could have taken a bloody picture of himself with a computer – that’s what the 10 second timer on digital cameras is FOR. Dang. So he didn’t just happen upon this picture and decide to use it – that NEVER happens in advertising – rather, he selected it specifically for the purpose of promoting his product. And that choice is problematic, because he chose an image of a white person over one of a black person, to market a product to black people. Here, the white woman is the black Nigerian person’s replacement.
The use of that photo is in the same vein as a larger problem in Nigeria, that we’ve talked about before on this blog – a LOT of Nigerians very strongly believe that the West (i.e. white people) and everything associated with it [them] are better than Nigeria and Nigerians. Companies and advertisers choose white people because, in their opinion everyone wants to use something if it’s marketed to them as an “oyinbo” thing. Their opinion is clearly false: look at all the huge companies with great advertising campaigns using black people – EVERY GSM network, Peak Milk, Bournvita, etc. etc. It’s not like black faces do not sell products. This is not America where everyone thinks the default person is white. It is extremely obvious that the average Nigerian is BLACK, so why the hell is a white person being used for an advertisement for to black people? It doesn’t make any sense except within the context of this larger problem. The white woman in the picture is hardly showcasing the diversity of Nigerians, as you argue that the Indian-Nigerian PRO is. Why didn’t they get a bunch of people of all different shades of brown to showcase diversity? Why weren’t the Lebanese, Chinese, (Black) Brazilians or Indians chosen? Why is this lone white woman the person to be the face of this company, rather than a Nigerian? There’s no good reason for it.
It’s also very important to remember that Whites and Nigerians and Indians and Nigerians have very different relationships historically and even today. Indian people didn’t violently suppress our culture so that they could prove theirs was better – they came for the economic opportunities and change of lifestyle. Indians are generally chill, while most white people in Nigeria (from my experience) still think that they’re better than all of us, and it’s not very hard to expose their bigotry. If brown people want to be down with Naija, then it’s cool. But this random white woman in the picture doesn’t want to be Nigerian. Heck, she probably doesn’t even know her photo is being used. She doesn’t give a shit. She’s not contributing in any way to a diverse Nigeria – rather, her image is being used to perpetuate the idea that Nigerians are lesser than white people.
I’m sure the Nigerian man who put her image on the website doesn’t hate Nigeria or Nigerians. He probably truly believes that no one will patronize his business if he doesn’t put attach an image of a white person or a European name to his company. But he’s buying into the lie that Nigerians aren’t good enough, and is helping to spread the lie around. So he needs to stop for a second and think about why he’s putting a white woman on his website and how that could be detrimental not only to himself, but to the Nigerian psyche in general. He can claim that he alone cannot change a country. But every person who visits that website and is greeted with that image, while they may not realize it, will very likely come away with a greater opinion of white people, and as a result a lesser opinion of themselves. Why? Because they’ve been replaced by a white person, and apparently white people are the only people worth looking at. The Glo billboard in the picture above would not give anyone that opinion, and they are a wildly successful company. So AGAIN, I ask – WHY is there a white woman on this website for Nigerians? If you give me a good answer, then racism no longer exist. If not, Sugabelly and everyone else is right in calling the Obongomail dude out.
Rant over. Obongomail – get your shit together.