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How this year’s Sainsbury’s Christmas ad uncovered a roasting pot of ugly racism

Christmas adverts are an annual highlight across the nation, with many eagerly counting down the days in anticipation for the latest clips of Christmas cheer. After the trials of 2020, there is seemingly no better time for messages of unity, family, and celebration. However, this year’s Sainsbury’s advert has sadly had the exact opposite impact; instead sparking a torrent of racist abuse. 

The 30 second clip features a heart-warming phone call between father and daughter joking about her dad’s famous gravy, while scenes of the family’s Christmases together play – the pinnacle of festive nostalgia. The abominable comments in response could not seem more out of place, crying that Sainsburys has ‘managed to completely alienate [their] few remaining white customers’, “where are the British people” and that they “might as well rename yourself Blackbury’s” – simply because it featured a Black family. 

Given the trivial nature of Christmas adverts, cast your minds back to last year’s Aldi advert featuring a carrot family, it seems absolutely ludicrous that the public are complaining of misrepresentation. This is made even more inexcusable considering the fact that the advert is part of a series of adverts, showing three different families Christmases across the UK. The second in the series was released on the 16th of November and features a White family. Clearly, the issue is not in any vane misrepresentation, but rather another example of extreme, blinding racial intolerance and prejudice. 

This unfeeling response is reminiscent of the 24,500 complaints issued earlier this winter at Diversity’s moving performance in tribute to Back Lives Matter at Britain’s Got Talent. This was the highest recorded amount of complaints Ofcom have ever received, with people bemoaning  its ‘relevance’ and ‘suitability’ to family television’. These claims were of course dismissed, with ITV responding to these claims that the performance opened up “important topics of conversation” and “was compliant for a family audience”. The fact that similar scorn has been generated by an advert for gravy demonstrates that these complaints are by no means an isolated incident. Instead, it seems that this tide of animosity is representative of a resistance against the strides of success that have been made after a year of fervent protest for BLM. 

Was it really only 6 months ago our Instagram feeds were flooded with black squares and earnest professions of support of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor? 

Evidently, these repeated outbursts highlight the fickle nature of social media. While it has been a pivotal tool for the movement during the pandemic, it also has unearthed a host of ugly truths and caused considerable friction. This goes to show that no matter how many statues are taken down, buildings and street names changed, and celebrity endorsements given, ultimately no real progress can be made while so many biases and prejudices are left unconfronted. 

After such a painful and tumultuous year, this idea is frightening. What will it take to spark a genuine and significant change in the minds of people?  One thing is for certain: what we engage with on social media is only a miniscule part of the solution – there is much more to do.

However, as it stands we must recognise the progress that has been made. Such a conscious effort in inclusivity is indeed heartening, and we must not ignore that the advert has also been met with much appraisal. Christmas this year may look a little different for all of us, but what is certain is that the feelings of unity and hopefulness remain – no matter what the twitter trolls say. 

Image: Geograph