As most of us have probably seen, there was a lot of controversy recently surrounding the new Pepsi advertisement with Kendall Jenner. In the ad, she hands a police officer a Pepsi during a protest, which then seems to solve all of the tension between the police and the protestors. The scene in the advertisement is very reminiscent of the photo of Ieshia Evans standing bravely in front of police during a protest. In “Pepsi Pulls Ad Accused of Trivializing Black Lives Matter”, Daniel Victor from the New York Times writes about how the ad steals imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement, and how Pepsi did apologize and pull the ad, claiming they were only “trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding” (Victor 1). One of the problems with the message this ad sends, though, is that peace can be acquired through something like handing an officer a drink, and this undermines the reality of protests and how dangerous they can be. People accused Pepsi of “appropriating imagery from serious protests to sell its product” (Victor 1), and the ad unfortunately shows how some companies either do not realize what underlying messages their advertisements might be sending, or are more concerned with profiting from current social issues and movements.
The controversy surrounding the Pepsi ad reminded me a lot of our discussions in class. We have talked about cultural appropriation, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement and its message and significance. Generally, one of the themes we have discussed is white people profiting from black struggles. Slavery, of course, is the most obvious example, but even today the structural racism that exists in our society relies on the appropriation of black culture for white profit. Creating an advertisement, especially one with a white woman, that simplifies the struggles that black people have faced to protest police brutality, definitely sends the wrong message and is an example of how whites benefit from black culture and social movements. Companies should not use such imagery to sell their products because these protests are beyond that in significance.