Darlie toothpaste – infamous for its racist branding and history – is remaining on the shelves in Asia despite a promised redesign.

At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equality in the US last June, Colgate-Palmolive – which owns half of Darlie’s local manufacturer – told HKFP that it will make “substantial changes to the name, logo and packaging.”

Darkie and Darlie toothpaste. Photo: Wikicommons.

However, when asked last week if the proposed rebranding was scrapped and why new Darlie product lines were appearing, owners Hawley & Hazel told HKFP: “We will evolve our brand in a way that better positions the Darlie brand for growth and to meet the oral health needs of consumers.”

But the name, logo and packaging remain unchanged and new promotions have been launched over the past year.

Colgate-Palmolive did not respond to HKFP’s enquiries last week.

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.

Over the past year, “Uncle Ben’s” rice rebranded to become “Ben’s Original,” whilst “Aunt Jemima” breakfast products became “Pearl Milling Company” last week. Both brands previously played on racist stereotypes.

Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima brands have been reformed.

“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. Last November, 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.”

Colgate anti-racism drive

Earlier this month, co-chair of the Colgate Black Leadership Network Derrick Whitmore said they wanted to educate staff about the U.S. history of slavery.

He was quoted in a Tweet as saying that the Colgate family should be “more knowledgeable about what Black people have been through and understand how we can advance the mission of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for everyone.”

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.