Interview with Kaewmala: On doughnuts, blackface and Thai racism

Just gave an interview on Asian Correspondent on the controversial Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement. I shared my personal perspective on the issue and observations on how the ad has been perceived in Thailand and racism that exists in Thai society.

—Excerpt—

Doughnut chain Dunkin’ Donuts came under fire last week in Thailand for an ad campaign showing an Asian woman painted in blackface to promote a new chocolate flavored product. Word spread quickly on social media, which was quickly followed by outrage and accusations of racism against the campaign. While the CEO of the Thai franchise quickly dismissed the allegations, the official US website reportedly issued an apology.

Saksith Saiyasombut spoke with Siam Voices contributor Kaewmala about the brouhaha surrounding the ad campaign, the subsequent outrage and the subject of racism in Thailand.

A Dunkin' Donuts advertisement showing a smiling woman with bright pink lips in blackface makeup is seen on a SkyTrain in Bangkok. Pic: AP.

A Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement showing a smiling woman with bright pink lips in blackface makeup is seen on a SkyTrain in Bangkok. Pic: AP.

Saksith Saiyasombut: So, here we go again – another Thai advertisement showing people painted in blackface, followed by a backlash, and the ad is pulled. Do you find this ad offensive?

Kaewmala: At first sight I was taken aback, though I can’t say I was offended. The poster did remind me of the clownish blackface stereotype of black Americans. I thought it was stupid as it would likely offend some people, though not many in Thailand. It’s certainly provocative.

S: It seems that the outrage and subsequent coverage this time around was mostly from media abroad (e.g. BuzzfeedTIME magazine) while the head of the Thai Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Thailand (a Lebanese expat) dismissed this as “absolutely ridiculous” and “paranoid American thinking”. Does he have a point?

… >>Read more of this interview on Asian Correspondent

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