(There was a video here, but Pepsi has removed the source.)
By now you've probably seen that really, really bad Pepsi commercial. If you haven't, or if you don't want to (I super can't blame you for this), here's a run-down of what happens: there's a large march through some city streets with lots of people carrying vague signs telling us to 'join the conversation,' and 'peace.' The march comes to a police blockade, and there seems to be frustration. Luckily for the activists, Kendall Jenner emerges from the mob and hands a police officer a can of Pepsi. He takes it, drinks it, smiles, and the crowd erupts in celebration.
This commercial is problematic. Not only is it an explicit celebration of white privilege, but it also trivializes and appropriates the struggle of marginalized peoples.
What better way to shine a light on white privilege than to send uber-wealthy white woman Kendall Jenner up to a line of police officers and offering them a gift? Perhaps the only good thing about this ad is the realism of this particular situation: in the real world, if a person of color had done the same thing, they would have immediately been knocked down and arrested, if not worse.
Iesha Evans comes to mind, the black woman who was peacefully protesting in Baton Rouge last year, only to be surrounded by police in riot gear and detained for 24 hours.
What's worse is that this ad appropriates the imagery of movements that attempt to bring equality and justice to marginalized people. You should see protest signs and rallying crowds at a demonstration, not in an advertisement for far-below-subpar soda. With this advertisement, Pepsi is directly taking the images and tones associated with movements for equality and justice and using them to sell a product and thus profit.
But that's not all. This ad also trivializes the difficult struggle that marginalized people face everyday. To imply that all injustices can be overcome by simply handing a cop a can of soda minimizes the magnitude of the systematic problems that keep marginalized people subordinate.
In short, this ad reinforces white privilege while attempting to profit off of the aesthetics of genuine movements for justice and equality.
We should never expect much from a corporation, but with this ad, Pepsi sinks down to a whole new level.