*Washington, D.C. & Los Angeles – In response to the recent media brouhaha over Volkswagen of America’s 2013 Super Bowl Commercial and allegations of the commercial’s being racist, Dr. Claire Nelson, architect of the campaign for June as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month hereby provides the official position of the Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) and the Caribbean Heritage Organization (CHO.)
The Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Caribbean Heritage Organization commend Volkswagen and its ad agency for its recognition of the global impact of Jamaican culture, through its use of a Jamaican accent in its Get In. Get Happy Campaign!
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As members of the Caribbean diaspora, and being a Jamaican, we find the commercial, amusing and indeed a fascinating example of subtlety in subliminal messaging. In one fell swoop, the ad directors have superimposed Jamaicans’ reputation for being hardworking (the three jobs archetype) as well as our reputation for having a laid-back, positive, don’t-worry-about-a-thing disposition on the character of the Volkswagen. And yes, the accent in the commercial is not perfect, but it certainly is recognizable.
What we find problematic and bordering on offensive are the mostly non-Jamaican critics, who contend that the commercial is racist, with some going as far as saying that it’s like putting a Black face on a White and Asian. We hasten to assure the viewing public, that being Jamaican just like being American is a nationality and not a race. Any one of the actors featured in the commercial could be a native Jamaican. Yes, most Jamaicans are of African Ancestry (that is to say Black), but Jamaica also is home to a significant mixed-race and diverse racial population. Jamaicans are East Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and European (that is to say White) in keeping with the Jamaican National Motto,’ Out of Many One People’.
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As the Chair of the National Caribbean-American Heritage Month commemorative celebrations in June, ICS congratulates Deutsch LA and Volkswagen on recognizing the Caribbean impact on American culture and making this a teachable moment to educate America and the rest of the world on the history and culture of Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.
We invite everyone to Get In and Get Happy. No Problem, Man!
About Institute of Caribbean Studies
The Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) is a non-partisan, non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. Established in 1993, ICS is dedicated to education, advocacy and action on issues that impact on Caribbean Americans.The Institute provides a forum for the public and private sector, the non-government organization community, scholars and others interested in promoting a dialogue and to assist in the execution of actions that result from that dialogue.
About Caribbean Heritage Organization
The Caribbean Heritage Organization is a 501 (c) (3) organization with a goal to chronicle the experiences of the expatriated Caribbean people, showcase and educate in the different aspects of Caribbean arts and culture in and outside the region, conserve and celebrate the rich and diverse contributions of the Caribbean and its people to the international society and support and nurture existing and emerging creative talent in the Caribbean through academic scholarships, mentorship and promotion of Caribbean films and filmmakers, theater and dance.
Marva Griffiths Herman