Mapfre Foundation use of Blackface in an ad for road safety: "Unacceptable" for BLM Malta
Black Lives Matter Malta found the educational campaign by MAPFRE Malta called 'Street Smart' to be a "problematic association between blackness and bad or reprehensive behaviour.
The campaign, which aims to create awareness about road safety and road rules across Malta & Gozo, features a family (the Safe family) as well as a character named Mr. Careless. While the Safe family respects the rules, Mr. Careless constantly makes poor decisions and is reprehended by the Safe family for his behaviour. Mr. Careless differs visibly from the Safe family - he is not only dressed in black, but his face is darkened and his hair is textured (note: Mr. Careless was also the only person to have hair). There is an obvious contrast between the Safe family and their yellow but lighter colour and Mr. Careless and his darker colour and textured hair. We know from research as well as from repeated instances of such nature that the "bad is black" effect, as Prof. Adam Alter called it, does exist. Darker skin tones are more often associated with negative connotations or negative personality traits compared to lighter skin tones; negative articles are more likely to be published when a person is Black; Black people are more likely to be associated with crime - the list goes on. We also know that such associations between Black and 'something undesirable' are made in Malta, for example through the common use of the phrase "mela, jien iswed?!". And we know that for a section of the Maltese population, blackface and its negative history and connotations is not taken seriously - as seen when government-owned Manoel Theatre's director justified the use of blackface in one of its productions. It is also important to point out two things: first, that these videos were published just after the launch of Malta's anti-racism strategy - clearly there is still much work to do before Malta achieves the objectives put forward by the strategy; and second - that this campaign is aimed at young children and is thus passing down these implicit associations to the younger generation. Considering the aforementioned reasons (which is but a short overview of the issue) BLM Malta is calling out this campaign and also the wider and pervasive anti-blackness that is found in various levels of Maltese society. BLM Malta also finds it necessary to stress the importance of recruiting people with diverse origins and backgrounds in positions where decisions are taken so that such unacceptable productions are challenged and prevented from being released.