Colgate to rename its controversial ‘Black People Toothpaste’ brand in 2022

Hong Kong Toothpaste

After keeping a controversial name for decades, a popular toothpaste brand in Asia will have its name changed.

Racism accusations: Hawley & Hazel, a Hong Kong-based manufacturer of oral care products, announced on Tuesday that it will change the Chinese name of its famous Darlie toothpaste from “Black People Toothpaste” (黑人牙膏) to “Haolai” (好來) by March of next year, according to the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP)

  • In the 1930s, the toothpaste brand was launched in Shanghai with the Chinese name “Black People Toothpaste” and the English name “Darkie.”
  • Its packaging featured an image of a man modeled after American singer and blackface comedian Al Jolson.
  • The toothpaste brand is now owned by Hawley & Hazel and its joint venture partner, Colgate-Palmolive, which faced heavy backlash in 1985 after acquiring 50% of Hawley & Hazel and including the Darkie brand in its portfolio, according to The New York Times.
  • In 1989, Colgate-Palmolive’s then CEO Ruben Mark issued an apology, replaced the English name of the toothpaste with “Darlie” and updated its packaging to feature a racially ambiguous face; however, the Chinese brand name stayed as “Black People Toothpaste.”

Long overdue: The recent announcement to “align Darlie’s Chinese name with Hawley & Hazel’s Chinese name” comes over a year after Colgate-Palmolive committed to implementing change in June 2020, as NextShark previously reported. 

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  • The company made the pledge amid the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement’s growing calls for racial equality in the U.S. 
  • “For more than 35 years, we have been working together to evolve the brand, including substantial changes to the name, logo and packaging,” a Colgate-Palmolive representative told HKFP. “We are currently working with our partner to review and further evolve all aspects of the brand, including the brand name.”
  • In November, Innocent Mutanga, co-founder of Africa Center Hong Kong, called out Colgate-Palmolive for the long delay in following through with the promised rebranding. 
  • “We demand a clear timeline on when they plan to make the changes so that we can hold them accountable,” he was quoted as saying. 
  • In a recent press release, Hawley & Hazel Managing Director Eddie Niem relayed the news that the company is pushing through with the changes as it wants to “inspire more people to express themselves and spread positivity through a confident and genuine smile.”

Featured Image via Hong Kong TV Time Machine

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