Healthcare group Clicks has apologised for posting images on its website that appeared to portray African hair negatively compared to caucasian hair.
Twitter user @pelomasebe shared the images on Thursday, sparking controversy. The two sets of images showed black women and white women respectively, with an emphasis on their hair.
‘Dry and damaged’
In one set, the black woman’s hair was labelled “dry and damaged,” while the white woman’s hair was referred to as “fine and flat.” In the other set, African hair was labelled “frizzy and dull” while white hair was called “normal.”
Clicks posted an apology on Friday morning on its Twitter page. “We would like to issue an unequivocal apology. We have removed the images which go against everything we believe in. We do not condone racism and we are strong advocates of natural hair. We are deeply sorry and will put in place stricter measures on our website.”
As the backlash grew, the group posted another tweet in the afternoon and said, “We have made a mistake and sincerely apologise for letting you down. We recognise we have a role to play in creating a more diverse and inclusive South Africa, starting with our website content. We know we need to do better, and commit to ensuring our content better reflects this value.”
However, the controversy appeared to be gaining momentum, with ordinary South Africans, politicians and celebrities joining the condemnation.
Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi, who is known for promoting natural African hair and skin, said the comparison was “disrespectful to black lives.”
“It is also evidence of an absence of representation and diversity within the organisation. And we are talking about a South Africa with a population of about 80 percent black people (stand to be corrected). No ways,” she added.
SABC News anchor Flo Letoaba also tweeted, “For someone who can spend way above R1,000 a month @Clicks_SA it seriously upsets me to know I’m giving my money to a company that doesn’t at least make effort to understand me as a Black female customer who has ‘natural hair’ (don’t even know why it’s called that tbh).”
One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane simply wrote, “African hair is beautiful.” However, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leaders Floyd Shivambu and Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi were more critical of Clicks.
“This Clicks ad is a violation of human rights and dignity of black people. It is the reason white supremacy persists to this day. It is the basis of the racial humiliation black people experience at the hands/eyes of whites,” Ndlozi wrote.
Shivambu said, “The last time some multinational retail store undermined black people like this there were major consequences. Clicks is applying for consequences. This is unacceptable.”
He was referring to incidents in 2018 when EFF members and supporters stormed fashion retailer H&M’s stores in South Africa to protest against another racially insensitive advert.