This story blew up today, and when I was first told about it, I didn’t realise the ducks had been labelled, I just thought the three different coloured chocolate ducks were being described as racist – clearly, that’s nonsense.
It’s when I realised the labels attached, the question begged, as someone who is concerned about the use of colour and association, what is going on here?
And the answer is, I doubt there was much diversity in the decision-making process around how and why they would label the ducks and what the perception would be when they had.
Clearly, there are many opinions stating this is “political correctness gone mad”. Let’s look at the term “political correctness”.
Political correctness is about how we use language. Given that how we think is through language, how we use our language is important. Trying to modify it to reduce offence and create inclusion is a worthwhile endeavour.
So, if Waitrose chooses to remove the possibility of causing offence, is this political correctness? Yes, it is. Is it political correctness gone mad? Well, that depends on your view about wanting to challenge our use of language and associations to bring about inclusion.
That brings me onto implicit association and unconscious bias. It’s a bizarre marketing decision to name the ducks anyway, in my opinion, (and I didn’t get the context at all until it was pointed out to me, about the fairytale) but given Waitrose chose to, it’s a well-known prejudicial association that things black and dark are ugly and bad. It’s part of the testing that Harvard’s Implicit Association for race looks at. So, why would Waitrose knowingly reinforce this prejudicial association, unless those involved in creating this product held the unconscious bias themselves and were not aware of the perception?
And, that is why it had to be pulled from the shelves. Of course, the chocolate ducks are not racist, but they perpetuate, through imaging and association, an already deeply held prejudice, and sadly, no commentary I have heard on this subject so far, has made this clear.
Twitter is no place for this kind of debate, but I would have thought the newspaper articles might have considered some thoughtful reflection.
It’s quick and easy to say, that’s ridiculous! Political Correctness gone mad! It’s just chocolate! But these things matter. And, just like it was so eloquently said in this radio documentary, racism is about actions and consequences of actions.
It matters not that the chocolate ducks’ names have been removed, but it mattered that it was there in the first place suggesting the dark one was “Ugly”, so what’s the better outcome for our society?