Ancestry’s Slave Narrative was a Huge Miss

I always thought that Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner commercial would be the most egregious, socially unaware commercial of my lifetime, but while scrolling on Twitter one day, Ancestry.com decided to take home the crown.  

The “LMAOOO” of an unknown tweeter caught my eye as the commercial automatically played without sound on my timeline. The video starts with a closeup of a seemingly frightened black woman dressed in colonial clothing mouthing words to a similarly dressed white man.

Without hearing the lines, I could tell that the two characters were in love and quite frankly, I am tired of mainstream media trying to romanticize slavery and master-slave relationships. Luckily, I was not alone and backlash from other Twitter users forced the company to remove the ad from their YouTube page.

Check out the video here: https://twitter.com/mannyfidel/status/1118941635679805440

Hours after the video was posted online, Ancestry also tweeted out a statement to clarify its intentions with the ad.

“Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history. This ad was intended to represent one of those stories,” the company said in a series of tweeted responses. “We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused. We are in the process of pulling the ad.”

For those who don’t understand the backlash, power dynamics do not allow slaves to consent to sex with masters. There is no situation where a black woman could tell a white man “no” during the height of slavery.

Ancestry’s mistake, like Pepsi’s, could have easily been avoided if the company was more diverse, inclusive and socially aware. Black southerners often have white ancestors because of the rape of slave women, not the love story Ancestry tried to depict with its ad. It is a subject that is not often talked about; however, it permeates through southern black families.

Slavery is not an easy topic to talk about, but there is no reason to water it down. If you’re going to talk about it, tell the truth about it.