Darlie: Colgate is reviewing a brand of toothpaste after other U.S. companies acknowledge racist roots

The popular brand, which is sold in China, the Philippines, Thailand and other Asian countries, has long been criticized for using racist images. The brand is sold in Chinese as a “black person for teeth” and was sold using the racial epithet Darkie until its name was changed in 1989.

Darlie is the leading brand by market share in China, according to Colgate-Palmolive (CL), The brand – whose logo is still a man in a top hat and tuxedo, although it should be racially ambiguous – is in the review.

“We have been working together for more than 35 years to develop the brand, including significant name, logo and packaging changes. We are currently working with our partner to review and further develop all aspects of the brand, including the brand name,” the company told Reuters.

The company did not respond to a request for comment outside of regular business hours. It related a Reuters report from an official Twitter account.

Protests erupted around the world after a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota killed Floyd, an unarmed Negro. The campaign against racial injustice has also sparked a strike in the corporate world, with some companies choosing to acknowledge the racist roots of their business.

Quaker Oats announced earlier this week that it would change the logo of its Aunt Jemim, who has been widely criticized for decades as a racist caricature of a Black Maid who comes from slavery. The owner of Mars and Conagra Brand Uncle Ben, made up of Mrs. Butterworth, quickly followed suit. B&G Foods has also launched a packaging review for Wheat cream, which features a picture of a black chef.

Darlie is manufactured by Hawley & Hazel, a company founded in Shanghai and now headquartered in Hong Kong. Toothpaste became part of Colgate’s product line when Colgate acquired a 50% stake in Hawley & Hazel in 1985.

The original name and logo of the toothpaste was conceived in the 1920s, when the CEO of Hawley & Hazel visited the United States and saw Al Jolson, a white actor who performed in a black surface in the movie “Jazz Singer,” according to the book “America Brushes Up.”

“The CEO thought Jolson’s wide smile and bright teeth would make a great toothpaste logo,” author Kerry Segrave wrote in the book.

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After Colgate entered into its joint venture with Hawley & Hazel, U.S. church groups encouraged the company to discontinue the Darkie brand, according to Segrave. Colgate relented in 1989, renamed Darkie to Darlie and redesigned the logo.

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