Let's Talk About "The Talk"

July 29, 2017 Flora Ekpe-Idang

Let's Talk About "The Talk"

In the recent P&G commercial titled “The Talk”, the short ad discusses first time conversations with children about racism and discrimination. The commercial shows various moms throughout U.S. history talking to their son or daughter about how to survive and respond to the inevitable biases they’ll face. The commercial is part of P&G’s ongoing My Black Is Beautiful campaign which now has had a 10-year run. Check out the commercial below: 

 

The first scene is powerful. The mother is brushing her daughter’s hair as the mom states, “that is not a compliment”. To some, they may be perplexed as to what the mom is referring to, but if you’re a Black female, very likely you do. It’s the age old statement of “you’re beautiful…for a black girl”. Whenever this would happen to my friends, we would always discuss that why can’t you just be beautiful and not have it confined only to your race; as if beautiful Black people only pop out when there’s a solar eclipse!

Also, as you know, we are a multicultural toy company, so I have to call this out. The daughter is shown brushing her white blonde doll’s hair. For one thing, it appears to be between the 1950s and 1960s, so Black dolls were limited (as they still are today), but it shows us once again about the lack of representation and seeing yourself reflected in society especially as you’re just starting to come into your own identity.

From there, you go on to see sons being talked to by their moms as the parent inferences the stigma of being called the N word and the discrimination on a baseball team. What I love about this ad is that it doesn’t blatantly say these words or even mentions racism, but it alludes to it perfectly because, for the Black experience, this, unfortunately, is part of our narrative.

The line that says “there are some people who think you don’t deserve the same privileges just because of what you look like, it’s not fair, it’s not”. These are words that any person of color can relate to. If you’re not emotional from watching this video, then this line may touch you to the core.

“You can do anything they can, the difference is you got to work twice as hard and be twice as smart”. I can remember the number of times that my mother said that line to me throughout my childhood. When I entered high school, it was the first time that I was truly exposed to any predominately white space, and as one of the few Black kids, my mom told me that now I had to work twice as hard to earn half the respect. That pushed me to not just work hard, but excel.

Probably, the most mesmerizing and chilling portion of the commercial was the different moms discussing with their kids about making it home safely when in interactions with police. First off, the mom at the dinner table already looks worried as she reminds her son to have his I.D. on him and come straight home from practice “in case they stop you”. If you don’t know who they are, it’s the police. In the following scene, you see a daughter preparing to drive while her mom tries to prepare her for not if, but when she get’s pulled over. Before she finishes that statement, the daughter tries to assure her that because she’s a good driver nothing will happen, but you know the mom knows that as a Black woman coming home alive doesn’t matter if you’re a good driver.

The daughter tries to remain hopeful that things will be alright, but the look that they both give when they look away from each other is one of nervousness, awareness of the reality of driving while Black, and uncertainty of what is to come. Both of these scenes speak to the number of Black women, Black males, and even Black trans women that have died unfairly without any justice and how to ultimately make it home alive.

The social commentary in this commercial on police brutality, systematic racism, bias, and survival are all elements of the Black experience, but what is the most important takeaway is how we rise, defy the odds, keep showing up, and ultimately exude excellence. “The Talk” is a poignant conversation in our American history and presence; how we choose to change the conversation is up to everyone.