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Volkswagen apologizes for 'racist advertising' of black man being pushed by white hands
German automaker Volkswagen apologized Wednesday for an advertisement that appeared to show a black man being mocked and literally flicked away by a pair of white hands.
Hey @volkswagen! Short question: why are you doing such a racist advertisement in which an oversized white hand treats a non-white man like a toy and to top it off even flicks the “Petit Colon” out of the picture? pic.twitter.com/0IJL0t3jhR- Zuher Jazmati 🧼🤝🧼 (@zuherjazmati) May 19, 2020
The ad, which had been posted to VW's German Instagram, showed a black man strolling down a Buenos Aires street when a pair of massive white hands appear from above to push him around - with a giggling woman and comedic sound effects in the background.
Then one of the hands, with a thumb and index finger, flick the helpless black character into a street-side cafe or bar called "Petit Colon," which can be translated to mean "Little Columbus," as in sailor and colonizer Christopher Columbus .
"We posted a racist advertising video on Volkswagen's Instagram channel," the automaker said in a statement posted in German on Wednesday. "We understand the public outrage at this. Because we're horrified, too."
The auto company went as far as citing its own troubling history, being founded in 1937 under Adolf Hitler, while apologizing.
"We at Volkswagen are aware of the historical origins and the guilt of our company during the Nazi Regime. That is precisely why we resolutely oppose all forms of hatred, slander / propaganda and discrimination," the statement continued.
"The Volkswagen Group of today is at home all over the world. And the whole world is at home with us. Every race, every religion, every gender identity. This is our most precious asset. This is who we are. And this video is the opposite of what we are. On behalf of Volkswagen AG, we apologize to the public at large for this film. "
The spot was meant to advertise the latest edition of VW's popular Golf line.
This spot was "unacceptable on many levels," according to a statement posted on social media by Volkswagen USA on Thursday.
"Despite our difference in language, our corporate commitment to diversity and inclusion here at Volkswagen of America is universal," according to the company statement.
"This advertisement by our colleagues was in poor taste and not an accurate reflection of our views or values. We sincerely apologize to anyone offended and everyone who viewed."
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
Shamar Walters is a reporter for NBC News' Social Newsgathering team based in New York City.
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