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UPDATE 05-15-13 — 2:30 PM EST:

After this Op-Ed was published, Uni-ball reached out to me and apologized. They have pulled the ad and claim to be “working to rectify” the situation.


With pen-maker Uni-ball’s release of an ad featuring what amounts to a  racist white fantasy on Black manhood in America, they have displayed the level of cultural insensitivity, sheer ignorance and blatant bigotry typically reserved for Ku Klux Klan meetings and Tea Party rallies.

The ad opens with a overly muscular Black man — presumably from prison yard weight sessions — sitting on a cot in his cell reading a letter from one of the “homies” typed in Edwardian Script and recited in an elite British accent, instead of written in his own “voice” with a Uni-ball pen:

What up, homie. It’s wack that 5-0 bust you shifting bricks of da funky buddha. And I ain’t just spitting, yo. Everyday we be respecting wit a 40 on da floor for our peeps in lockdown. But word up, me and my homie T-Bone, we got a hood snitch up in the pen. We gon’ cut you loose like a noose, my dukes. And you be chillin’ in the crib knocking boots with some hoodrats. Gotta bounce, dawg.


Big G

Video Credit:


Creative Ad Agency: TBWA

Client: Uniball Pens

Executive Creative Directors: Matthew Brink, Adam Livesey

Art Director: Jade Manning, Sacha Traest

Copywriter: Vincent Osmond

Production: Sandra Gomes

Account Manager: Morgan Wanckel, Niki Cinnamon, Claire Peters

Production Company: Frieze Films

Director: Rob Malpage

DOP: Rob Malpage

Sound: Sterling Sound, RobRoy Music.


Clearly, the Grand Wizards and Dragons over at Uni-ball labor under the misconception that Black people neither read, write nor have the gifts of sight and hearing, because this ad is not marketed to us. Its target must be the caliber of privileged neo-Nazi who finds laughing at systemic and systematic racism a jolly old good time.

Though the burly, Black actor who decided to literally sell-out should not be allowed to dodge accountability, there is something sinister about a corporation that would purposely capitalize on the degradation, marginalization and oppression tactics used to destabilize Black communities in America.

In a real life scenario, “the homie’s” father was killed by police, he started “shifting bricks of da funky buddha” after his Chicago public school was shut down and his mother, unable to afford insurance, became too ill to work. Because of the War on Drugs, which disproportionately affects Black men, “the homie” has spent the last 10 years behind bars on a first offense.

Those “hood-rats” are more likely to be raped by the age of 18 and less likely to report it because of societal stigmas and cultural pressure.

And those nooses?

Weapons of mass destruction used to decimate entire generations, while some in White America step over the graves and pretend that the wage, education and occupation gaps are the result of hard work and not outright generational theft.

Bottom line: The product doesn’t matter. There will always be certain corporations — whether peddling reality television, gangsta rap, soda or pens — that are dedicated to perpetuating the image of Black men as criminal, hyper-sexed, uneducated and sub-human. And if we remain silent, we are complicit in allowing a caricature of our culture to become a minstrel show — with no ticket needed for admission.

With this in mind, I’ve taken the liberty of writing my own letter:

Dear Uni-ball:

There is nothing clever, original or creative about this ad. In fact, it’s about as crude and obvious as a “Whites-Only” sign in Jim Crow Mississippi.

It is a desperate last-gasp attempt to pitch a product that is swiftly being rendered useless — and it shows.

Clearly, you wanted the attention. You took note of the media that Mountain Dew received for racism allegations and figured, “Why not? We’ll insult Black people, spark controversy, generate revenue, apologize profusely and pull the ad all before the next news cycle.”

You’re pathetic, but ambitious. I respect ambition, so I decided to offer a humble suggestion.

If you really want to be risque, while avoiding bottom-feeding, racially inflammatory tactics, I can help you with that. Next time, show a white, Wall Street banker in a Brooks Brothers suit who’s been caught lying to and stealing billions from trusting investors and faces a prison bid. It won’t be as long as “the homie’s,” but long enough; and you get to embed an authentic, cutting-edge criminal element. Seriously, anyone can do lazy, overdone stereotypical depictions of black men, but white-collar crime? Now that takes guts.

The banker should be writing a suicide note — bonus: you also get to keep your noose.

The camera should zoom in to the note written in bold script, which reads:

‘My last words had to be written with a Uni-ball.’

That scenario is a lot closer to the truth. Plus, you get to avoid being a racist corporation willing to exchange dignity for dollars. And it’s a sly nod to acknowledge that you’re fully aware that your mediocre product is on the verge of extinction.

Confident, cutting-edge, bold.

You’re welcome.

Written in my own voice,

Kirsten West Savali

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