A new Coca-Cola ad intended to be run during Super Bowl XLVII on February 3 is causing controversy among Arab-American organizations for what they say is the propagation of harmful stereotypes about Arabs.
The ad depicts a thirsty Arab wandering through the desert leading a row of camels, before sighting a giant Coke in the distance. He begins herding his camels towards the Coke, only to be overtaken by a gaggle of Western contenders including a group of horse-riding cowboys, a bus full of Las Vegas showgirls, and a gang of Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic raiders.
Compounding the issue is an online poll which Coke posted on their web site which asks viewers to select who should win the race. The Arab is not a choice in the poll.
“The Coke commercial for the Super Bowl is racist, portraying Arabs as backward and foolish Camel Jockeys, and they have no chance to win in the world,” Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies, told Reuters.
"Why is it that Arabs are always shown as either oil-rich sheiks, terrorists, or belly dancers?" added American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) president Warren David.
One group said it would challenge the Coca-Cola Company to change the advertisement before CBS airs the game on Sunday to an estimated 100 million sports fans.
Abed Ayoub, the ADC’s director of legal and policy affairs, asked “What message is Coke sending with this? By not including the Arab in the race, it is clear that the Arab is held to a different standard when compared to the other characters in the commercial.”
Ayoub said that he would contact CBS and Coca-Cola on Thursday to hopefully begin a dialogue. “I want to know why this happened and how we can fix this if possible before Sunday,” he commented.
Is the ad racist?
While the depiction of the Arab as conforming to a Western cultural stereotype is offensive, it seems to fall slightly short of being actively racist.
Unfortunately the exclusion of the possibility of the Arab one-upping his Western transgressors is much more bothersome, and clearly shows a lack of respect for the current tensions plaguing Arab-American relations as well as active condescension towards the hapless, stereotyped camel-herder.
Watch the ad below: do you think it is offensive?