Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

‘We meant no disrespect’: Pepsi issues personal apology to Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice

kjbk.jpg

What a difference a day can make. When Pepsi launched its protest-themed advertising campaign starring Kendall Jenner on Tuesday morning, the soft drinks giant presumably knew that they would – to paraphrase one of the placards in said advert – be starting a “conversation”. Somewhat incredibly, however, the company seems not to have predicted the international backlash that their ad would unleash.

The short film has been widely condemned as a “tone-deaf”, “offensive” attempt to cash in on the international protest movement – particularly the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Singled out for particular scorn was a scene in which Jenner breaks away from a protesting crowd to offer a Pepsi to a police officer, echoing the famous moment when BLM protester Iesha Evans serenely faced down riot police in Baton Rouge last summer.

Many activists had something to say about Pepsi’s ad, but one of the most powerful responses came from Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter. Bernice King, a minister and CEO of The King Centre, posted a photo of her late father being manhandled by police at a civil rights protest. (In what may have been a coincidence, the Pepsi ad was released exactly 49 years to the day since King’s assassination.)

In response, Pepsi offered a personal apology to King.


Read more: Pepsi responds to backlash over controversial Kendall Jenner campaign


“We at Pepsi believe in the legacy of Dr King & meant absolutely no disrespect to him & others who fight for justice,” the corporation wrote on Twitter.

They added that they had been “trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologise.”

In an essay for the Huffington Post, King wrote that she saw Pepsi’s ad as “[contributing] to the notion that there is a fairy-tale, light way to ease conflicts that have existed in this nation for hundreds of years.”


Read more: “Why it’s time to abandon political correctness and talk openly about race”


Before his murder in 1968, King’s father popularised the notion of the “Beloved Community” – a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow beings. King said that this ideal could not be realised unless people started to think about the issues raised by Pepsi’s campaign.

king

Bernice King (third from left) aged five, walking in her father's funeral procession in 1968.

“Some may say ‘It’s just a commercial’. I say that the ad and the responses to it reflect deep issues around race, privilege and how we build the Beloved Community post slavery and Jim Crow. We cannot ignore that we are currently grappling with gross injustice and inhumanity.”

Commending Pepsi for pulling the ad, King called on the world to “channel our energy into positive discourse and actions to address the emotions the ad evoked and the issues that were central in the ad”. She also suggested that Pepsi and other major corporations start thinking carefully about “social symbolism, race and responsibility, and presentations of privilege” in their advertising campaigns.

“The moment is ripe for personal, organisational and community transformation,” she wrote. “Let’s not miss this moment. Together, we can.”

Images: Rex Features

Related

615x330-maya.jpg

Watch black teenagers pay tribute to Maya Angelou on her birthday

Harlem ballet 2.PNG

Watch this moving video about representation in the arts

17353153_1206767986088727_3332832916638935693_n.jpg

Teacher supports bullied schoolgirl by styling her hair the same way

Comments

More

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Gal Gadot's daughter to David Beckham's sweet tribute

by Nicola Colyer
27 Jun 2017

Amy Poehler is here to fight for your right to be an idiot

Because why should women always have to be the sensible ones?

by Moya Crockett
27 Jun 2017

OITNB’s Julie Lake on how she transforms into the delightful Angie

This is what the cast go through to inhabit their characters

by Amy Swales
27 Jun 2017

Serena Williams hits back at claim she couldn’t beat top male players

John McEnroe said Williams would be “like 700” in the men’s rankings.

by Moya Crockett
27 Jun 2017

Juror in Bill Cosby case blames victim Andrea Constand's outfit

It's 2017 and we're still blaming sexual violence on how women dress

by Elle Griffiths
27 Jun 2017

Britney Spears on how ‘overwhelming’ anxiety caused 2007 breakdown

“There are moments where I look back and think: ‘What the hell was I thinking?’”

by Kayleigh Dray
27 Jun 2017

Sex and the City’s Kristin Davis gets honest about losing her hair

The actor began losing her hair after she finished filming SATC

by Kayleigh Dray
27 Jun 2017

“Why I won’t stop campaigning against the DUP”

As the DUP and the Conservatives reach a deal, one woman explains why we can't afford to get complacent

by Moya Crockett
26 Jun 2017

Jo Cox memorial plaque unveiled by her children in Parliament

“More in common”

by Amy Swales
26 Jun 2017

Chrissy Teigen isn’t about to let anyone shame her for using IVF

She knows exactly how to deal with bullying Twitter trolls

by Kayleigh Dray
26 Jun 2017