Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
In the infamous Pepsi commercial that aired last week, a jaw-droppingly beautiful Kendall Jenner struts out onto the pavement — Pepsi can in hand — ready to defy the police who have lined up against a massive crowd of protesters. Epic music halts. Jenner approaches police officer. Jenner hands can of Pepsi to officer. Officer smiles. It appears as if Jenner and her fellow protesters have won. All thanks to Pepsi.
Of course, the commercial received a flood of backlash on social media and even major newspapers. And while the easiest thing to do is bash Jenner, her family and even Pepsi as a company for portraying social justice issues in an inappropriate way, it's crucial to recognize the reasons why the advertisement was so downright disastrous.
It's not misguided for large multi-billion dollar companies to advocate for social justice issues (take Always' Like a Girl and Dove's Real Beauty campaigns for example) because they are using well-known platforms to bring to light pertinent problems in society. However, when these businesses use social justice issues as mere monetary strategy, that is where the line should be drawn. With our Pepsi commercial, entire scores of modern day movements — Black Lives Matter, women's marches and advocacy for Muslim tolerance — were immensely trivialized in the matter of two minutes.
For one, the idea that Pepsi can cure our society of its present inequalities was completely misdirected. And using a white supermodel among a backdrop of minorities only emphasizes the idea of the white man's burden. Pepsi's marketing team can insert the most motivating, empowering song and add in a woman photographer wearing a hijab all it wants, but this commercial only reinforced that 1) white people can solve everything 2) minorities will always be in the background 3) our world is driven by an unquenchable (no pun intended) drive for money.
Issues involving race and gender equality are extremely multi-faceted. There is so much intersectionality involved with each social justice issue that big businesses cannot use extraordinarily simple solutions to pitch to our communities.
I applaud big corporations for taking a stand with these issues. It's a step in the right direction. But Pepsi's commercial trivialized critical social justice issues. And that's when we need to put our foot down.
Maris Medina is a freshman journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.