There has been recent criticisms of a preview ad being aired by Volkswagen of America for the 2013 Super Bowl. In response to the recent media brouhaha over the VW ad and allegations that the commercial is racist, the following is a statement from Dr. Claire Nelson, architect of the campaign to designate June as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.
This is the official position of ICS and the Caribbean Heritage Organization (CHO).
ICS and CHO 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!
“As members of the Caribbean diaspora, and 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 through the character of the Volkswagen. And yes, the accent in the commercial is not perfect, but it certainly is recognizable.
What we DO 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 or Asian person. 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). A true reflection of the Jamaican National Motto, ‘Out of Many One People.’
As 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!”