Home South African Put some respect on our hair, young activist tells advertising sector

Put some respect on our hair, young activist tells advertising sector

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SA advertising industry grilled at Human Rights Commission hearings.

Anti-racism activist Zulaikha Patel. Screenshot: YouTube-SAHRC

ANTI-RACISM activist and former Pretoria High Girls pupil Zulaikha Patel has told the Human Rights Commission that those responsible for the controversial Clicks hair advert two years ago should be held accountable.

Her comments come as the commission kicked off its first sitting of an inquiry into racial discrimination in South Africa’s advertising sector.

In 2020, Clicks flighted a TREsemme advert on its website that depicted the hair of white women as “normal”, while the hair of black women was depicted as “dry and damaged” with the Cabinet later describing it as “profoundly offensive and racist”.

Patel, who in 2016 became the face of the movement called #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh after she protested against the school’s discriminatory hair policies, told the commission the advert published by the retail store was just one of the racial examples of hair that has always been used to discriminate against black people.

She also highlighted that her wish was to see a board being established that would hold advertising agencies accountable for the content and material released on TV, radio, print and other media space.

Patel also explained during the hearings that advertising agencies cannot issue apologies without consequences adding that racist adverts have been a thorny issue that has long existed.

“The drive to such adverts is that we were told that having Afro-hair and dreadlocks is inferior and that is pushed into the advertising space,” she said.

According to Patel, society and the entire advertising industry needs to reach a point where it respects African hair, and where black people’s hair is seen in a dignified light.

Meanwhile, the inquiry stems from a plethora of racial-fuelled incidents over the past couple of years in the sector.

This includes comments and adverts that have are often deemed to be sexist, tribalist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic or ablest and have negatively affected black people.

The commission indicated that all the information gathered during the national investigation will be used to craft interventions that will protect a culture of human rights within the advertising sector.

The hearings continue.

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