An image can be spun in different ways by different interests.
I can imagine this image being used in the 1960's as part of the Black is Beautiful campaign. But in this case, it is part of a poster used in Thailand to sell donuts.
I've seen a number of articles posted about it on Twitter this week. All the ones I saw were written by the Western media. The CEO of the Thai company that produced the advertising campaign in the first place seemed mystified that there had been any objection to it. It was the parent company in the West that killed the campaign.
The media said, "The advert caused consternation on Friday morning, after Human Rights Watch said it would cause 'howls of outrage' if it ran in the US." Well, perhaps. But it didn't! It ran in Thailand. Get over it. In the eleven weeks I've spent in Thailand, I observed the Thai people to be very open to diversity of all kinds, much more than in my own country. They seemed open to people of all kinds and not because they had been taught to act that way from "diversity training." I don't think that would have been needed, they just like all people.
My guess is the Thai people who developed the campaign saw an image of a striking, attractive woman who might help them sell chocolate donuts. I can't imagine that they had racism in their hearts or at the back of their minds with the campaign. It's the color they wanted to position against their donut. In the West, blackface became associated with stereotyped caricatures of black people. Was it the case in Asia? Not that I know of.
Would it have been better to cover her face with whitening cream, products that are heavily promoted in Thailand? Would that be more acceptable? Would it sell more donuts? No, but that wouldn't be acceptable to the Western media either.
Thailand has its own unique culture, going back further than the one in America. They are rightfully proud of their culture and its traditions. I hope that can continue in the face of the Westernization of thought that the Internet could bring its way, along with commerce from the West. I cringe every time I see a KFC or McDonald's store in a mall there. Do we really need to bring this into their country?? Ummm, not to mention donuts!
Rick Moran at PJ Tatler published an article today arguing, as I did, that this advertising campaign had no racist intent at all. He also makes the interesting point that the image was intended to look like a charcoal drawing (not blackface) to position it against their product, a charcoal donut. I'm pleased to find someone else who didn't just accept the misguided complaint from Human Rights Watch, which he says was just an attempt on their part to garner some free publicity. And I really like his position that the intent in communications actually does matter!