Cliff Faulder is CEO and Training Director of AboutFace and ‘The EmbRACE Awards’. Here he discusses the backlash to this years Sainsbury’s Christmas advert
“At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade….”
OK Mr Geldof you’re losing me with the second line. Considering this song was originally penned to highlight the plight of the starving people in Africa at a time when good will to all men (and surely women ) was in order, it feels like it’s loaded with subliminal intent.
Where is this festive nostalgic scrutiny coming from Cliff, I hear you say?
It comes from the almighty backlash that Sainsbury’s have faced for having a black family in one of their three new Christmas advertisements.
When my wife informed me that the unrest over the imagery of a black family enjoying Christmas was really a thing, I immediately took to YouTube to watch the advertisement again to check if I had missed anything.
I mentally compiled a list in my head.
- Warm festive home video footage. CHECK!
- Cute children, tinsel, seasoned food. CHECK!
- Positive Christmas vibes. CHECK!
- Sense of family. CHECK!
- Fun, laughter, love. CHECK-CHECK-CHECK!
So what is the problem? Surely, surely it could not be simply because the family being depicted are black.
In a fashion reminiscent of BAT-MAN turning to his trusted sidekick Robin, with the urgency of comic book hero I exclaimed.
“To the comments section!”
Alas there were no comments on YouTube.
I grew suspicious. Had YouTube removed the ability for the public to comment on this wonderfully crafted showcase of a black family at Christmas, because they knew what would follow?
I headed to another source.
One Google search was all it took to find the backlash. A tsunami of racial hatred, all related to the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert.
The Independent led with:
SAINSBURY’S DEFENDS CHRISTMAS ADVERT FEATURING BLACK FAMILY AFTER TROLLS CRITICISE THEM FOR BEING ‘WOKE’
The Independent found a few people that celebrated the advert and challenged the views of those railing against the ad online.
As I sat back in my chair and thought about what I was playing out in this very public outpouring of emotion, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
Shocked? No. Never shocked, but certainly disappointed.
This year I have joined my neighbours, as many of you have, to stand on our doorsteps and applaud the valour and dedication of the men and women who make up our beloved NHS.
All over the country we have stood and put our hands together to show that in these desperate times we can come together as the Great British public and stand against the most challenging of foes. Britain was famous for this in war time. When it asked men and women of colour to come to its aid and fight for the mother country.
I can imagine those black and ethnic minority soldiers who fought for this country, genuinely thinking they were amongst brothers. But after the conflict was over, they were met with a society with a unerring passion for the rhetoric of Enoch Powell.
Fast forward to 2020, could it be that when many of the British public whooped and hollered on the nations’ front lawns, they were only cheering for the white doctors, nurses, hospital staff and carers.
Fifty years on, we are still giving out the message that the black family is not welcome in Brittan.
Enoch Powell warned that his speech would fizz like a rocket and true to his prediction it has shaped the minds of post war Britain ever since.
It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid.
Yes there is, but it depends on your level of privilege and social standing.
You see as the nights draw in and the autumnal chill fills the air we look around us and, and much like John Snow from Game of Thrones we utter in dimly lit corners that “winter is coming”.
As the season of glad tidings approaches many of us gather to celebrate the birth of a child of colour. A child born to a family with skin as dark as his own, in a country who still to this day, have a high population of people with dark skin trying to find a place to be welcomed.
So, as you tuck into your umpteenth mince pie and partake in the odd libation, please take a moment to consider this.
Somewhere not too far from you there is a black family who are clearing the table after a fine breakfast of akee and saltfish, green banana and fried plantain, hard dough bread, and bucks fizz. Later they will be playing charades and opening gifts, wetting their whistle with Guinness punch and sitting down for a most splendid Christmas meal.
Do they know it’s Christmas time…..?
Sure they do.
And it’s ok for Sainsbury’s to know it too.
Cliff celebrating Christmas with his family last year