Darlie toothpaste – infamous for its racist branding and history – remains on the shelves in Hong Kong, with no timetable for a relaunch, despite an earlier pledge by US consumer brand Colgate-Palmolive to review the brand.

Darkie and Darlie toothpaste. Photo: Wikicommons.

The US firm – which owns 50 per cent of Darlie’s local manufacturer – told HKFP in June that it would be rebranding the controversial product. At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equality in the US, a spokesperson told HKFP that it will “evolve the brand, including substantial changes to the name, logo and packaging.”

The toothpaste was known as “Darkie” until 1989 when the owners apologised and replaced the name with “Darlie” in English. But local advertising assured customers that it would still be called “Black People Toothpaste” in Chinese, as it was for decades.

As of late November, new promotions for the product were appearing on its social media channels.

A spokesperson told HKFP over the weekend that Colgate-Palmolive was still working with local partner Hawley & Hazel on the relaunch. “We continue to work with our partner to review the brand, and we will share our plans when the approach is finalised,” a spokesperson said.

“Darkie” remains a discriminatory slur in many western countries and the image on the packaging is still reminiscent of racist Black and White Minstrel Shows in the US. 

‘Clear timeline’

Innocent Mutanga, CEO of the Africa Center Hong Kong, urged Colgate to give a timetable for the brand’s withdrawal. “We are disappointed that [they] have not yet followed through on their promise to rebrand the toothpaste,” he told HKFP. “We demand a clear timeline on when they plan to make the changes so that we can hold them accountable.”

A promotion from last month. Photo: Darlie Facbeook.

Earlier this year, Quaker announced that it would drop its “Aunt Jemima” food brand, admitting its racial undertones. Meanwhile, Mars said that it was reevaluating its use of “Uncle Ben’s” branding for its rice products.

In June, neither Hawley & Hazel nor the multinational responded when asked by HKFP if they supported or opposed the Black Lives Matter movement.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.