Uproar Over Volkswagen Superbowl Ad Using White Actors with Jamaican Accents Overblown

Volkswagen accused of racism over Jamaican accents
Uproar Over Volkswagen Superbowl Ad Using White Actors with Jamaican Accents Overblown (Photo credit: YouTube)

A Volkswagen Superbowl advertisement has sparked controversy because a white actor is using a Jamaican accent.  New York Times columnist Charles Blow is offended by the advert, saying it’s ‘blackface with voices.’  Must some black Americans always interject race in every dogfight? Um, newsflash to all those people complaining — there are European Jamaicans, Jewish Jamaicans, Asian Jamaicans and Arab Jamaicans. Can you think Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley, Michael Manley, Butch Stewart (who owns Sandals) and Eddie Seaga? Jamaica isn’t just made up of blacks. By the way, Jamaican icon and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musician Jimmy Cliff is being featured in the advert, performing a cover of The Partridge Family’s ‘C’mon, Get Happy.’

‘It’s just saying, ”Black people are happy,”’ complained Barbara Lippert, editor-at-large of Mediapost.com, on the Today show. ‘Didn’t anyone look at this? This is so racist,’ she added.

During a segment Monday on CNN’s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, New York Times columnist Charles Blow blasted the ad. ‘I don’t like it all,’ he said during the roundtable discussion.  ‘It’s like blackface with voices. I don’t like that.


Christopher John Farley, a Jamaican-born journalist, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the accents reminded him of the controversial character Jar Jar Binks from the Star Wars movies, who used a Caribbean accent and broken English for comedic effect.

‘It’s off-putting to see the Island spirit used as a punchline,’ he wrote.  ‘The Jamaican aesthetic–shaped by such Jamaican-born notables as Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey and the revolutionary Nanny of the Maroons–is founded on positive vibration, not mindless happiness.’ Source

Excuse me while I puke over this faux-outrage. Funny Christopher John Farley should bring up Bob Marley, since he’s biracial — white father, black mother, which is representative of the diversity in Jamaica. He also conveniently omitted Alexander Bustamante, Norman & Michael Manley, as well as Eddie Seaga, from his spiel. I could go on and on, but why bother. Race-baiters will always be race-baiters.

Here’s what a Sandals Resorts executive had to say about the advertisement:

“It’s just fantastic,” said Stephen Hector — global PR director for Sandals Resort International/ATL Group, which distributes Volkswagen in Jamaica through its ATL Automotive dealership.

“It is a great opportunity for Jamaica, Jimmy Cliff, and the Volkswagen brand,” he continued.

The global PR director said given Super Bowl’s wide television appeal, over 90 million people could see the commercial.

“The magnitude of using a Jamaican artiste is absolutely unbelievable as what it does for brand Jamaica is huge. It also evokes national pride as well,” he told Jamaica Observer. Source

Like Christopher Farley, I am also a Jamaican-born journalist and I don’t take offense to the advertisement. In fact, I love it, as do many Jamaicans. Maybe Charles Blow and Barbara Lippert should take a trip to Jamaica to get a firsthand look at how diverse the island is. It truly lives up to its motto, “Out of Many, One People.” These three people aren’t representative of the black experience in this country and certainly not the Caribbean. To all the black Americans who are trying to start some mess, take note, Jamaicans don’t have a problem with the ad. In fact, they love the publicity it brings, so back off and worry about the inner city crime here in the U.S.

Here are some ‘white’ Jamaicans:

IMAGELIBRARY/576 Persistent URL: archives.lse....
Former Jamaican PM Michael Manley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Alexander Bustamante
‘White’ Jamaican Alexander Bustamante, Volkswagen racism accusation (JIS)
Butch Stewart
Sandals Founder Butch Stewart (Grenadian Connection)

  • Barbara and Charles,
    Stop being thin skinned racists. So the guys in the commercial don’t fit your dark skinned, rastafarian, dreadlocked, preconceived notion of what Jamaicans look like? Get off your box for a moment, will you?

    • Ron — Ain’t that the truth. The reality is that Charles Blow and Barbara Lippert should hop on a plane and visit Jamaica. Diversity is nothing new for the island.

  • 100% on point. ‘Nuff said.

    • T-Steel — Yup! Just a lot of noise about nothing.