Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Let Us Cling Together

This is a thing they sell at Target:


I’m not sure how to feel about it, other than a little bad. Is the term “African black soap” racist, redundant or both? Am I even allowed to ask that? Does the fact that I find the name of this product strange a funny indicate that I myself am a little racist? Or just a little immature? Is ethical for a company to market a thing as being “African” and “black” if its creators and beneficiaries aren’t black people of African descent?

This, among other reasons, is why I take a long time at Target.

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that African black soap — that is, soap that is the color black and that is also traditionally made in Africa — is an actual thing outside of the Target universe. (And what a wonderful universe it is.) I’m the first to admit: I don’t know my soaps. However, I feel a good many other potential Target shoppers don’t either and, consequently, I am probably not the first person to regard this product suspiciously — as in, nervously looking around as I place this in my shopping card, asking myself “This is okay, right? Right?” I suppose in posting this I revealed more about my ignorance than about the motives of those marketing this soap, though I can think of few other more racially loaded product names. In the end, I suppose I have to respect the fact that the Target version of this product didn’t have it name changed to “Onyx Soap” or “Non-Threatening Midnight Soap” in an effort to make it more appealing to the average cart-pusher.


  1. In my feeds I had not seen the update, but yes, I thought it meant Black for the color of the soap and African from where it comes from. At least in Spanish the construction makes more sense grammatically

  2. Anonymous6:05 PM

    I remember ordering a brand of African black soap years ago when I worked at a health food store, although I don't think it's too common for most health food stores to carry it anymore (I call on them for my job, and only occasionally see it at co-ops). Soap that is black in color is starting to become more common, though, with companies like Collective Wellbeing and Giovanni making charcoal soap. Not the same thing at all, but it looks cool!

  3. I think in your original post you referred to it as "Black African soap" which was clearly just a mis-reading on your part. As it is, "African black soap" could just as easily be "Nigerian black soap" or "French black soap" or "Milwaukee black soap".
    An American friend of mine found it difficult to call black British people anything but "African American" no matter how many times I corrected him. You are not alone in your sensitivity to the word.

  4. This post is mighty white of you, Drew.