DARKIE TOOTHPASTE (JAPAN)

Racism

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“Darkie Toothpaste” shows one of the more obvious caricatures of the grinning, wide-eyed African-American.  Toothpaste bottle and box are from Japan.

Darkie is a toothpaste brand of Hawley & Hazel Chemical Company. Established in Shanghai in 1933 and later based in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Hawley & Hazel was acquired in 1985 by the US corporation Colgate-Palmolive, although the product is not marketed by Colgate-Palmolive.

Darky, or darkie, is a term used primarily in the United Kingdom and United States to refer to black people, and is now generally considered a racial slur. The package featured an image of a wide-eyed, smiling dark-skinned black male wearing a top hat, monocle and bow-tie.

In 1990, after Colgate-Palmolive acquired Hawley & Hazel, the English name of the toothpaste was changed to “Darlie”, and the image on the packaging was altered to show a racially ambiguous face in a top hat. The Chinese name of the brand, “黑人牙膏” (in English, “Black Person Toothpaste”), remains the same, and a Chinese-language advertising campaign reassured customers that “Black Person Toothpaste is still Black Person Toothpaste”.

After the Colgate acquisition the toothpaste continued to be sold in some Asian countries, including China, Malaysia and Thailand where its brand and logo are not considered offensive. Colgate announced the product would not be sold outside of Asia.  According to a 1989 article, the toothpaste held 75 percent of the market in Taiwan, 50 percent in Singapore, 30 percent in Malaysia and Hong Kong and 20 percent in Thailand.

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