This is one of the best essays on cultural stereotyping I’ve read, and it comes from Busisiwe Deyi of South Africa, on the Africa Is A Country blog. She writes about the Spur restaurant chain that uses Native American imagery to market their product.
“It’s disgusting. An entire people with multiple histories of struggle, multiple ethnic groups with unique lifestyles, languages, cultural symbols and social systems are used to sell chicken-schnitzels.
The erasure of black and other minorities through the removal of cultural meaning and rendering of cultural symbols into one dimensional products or dumbification through commercialization is a staple of the corporate world. However, this racist cultural appropriation by corporations in their advertising is something we rarely explore in South Africa. By erasure I don’t mean absence, I mean symbolic annihilation. Symbolic annihilation is the process of erasure under or misrepresentation of some group of people in the media, this is usually based on race, socio-economic status or religion. A particularly egregious form is erasure through the portrayal of harmful stereotypes and/or invisibilisation through the reduction of history and culture into products or commodities that are then used for profit. This form of erasure is astoundingly offensive as it minimizes entire histories and cultures rich with meaning and legacy, rendering them one-dimensional caricatures.”