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Taiwan's racist toothpaste to change name in 2022

Darlie toothpaste to change Chinese name from 'Black People' to 'Haolai'

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Packages showing new Chinese name for Darlie toothpaste "Haolai." (darlie.com.tw image)

Packages showing new Chinese name for Darlie toothpaste "Haolai." (darlie.com.tw image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The makers of the controversial toothpaste brand Darlie, which is widely sold across Taiwan and many other Asian countries, announced on Tuesday (Dec. 14) that it will be changing its Chinese name, which many over the years have accused of being racist.

On Tuesday, Hawley & Hazel, which has had operations in Taiwan since 1949, announced that it will be changing the Chinese name of its flagship toothpaste brand Darlie from "Black People Toothpaste" (黑人牙膏) to "Haolai" (好來), the company's Chinese name in March 2022. The company stated it was aligning the toothpaste name with its corporate name to "reflect the company's purpose and values" and to echo the company's slogan that "Good Things Come with a Smile."

The company stated that it has created a five-year plan to reach its goal of 100% recyclable packaging for all of its products. It also pledged that it will build on its long-term support for oral health education programs in local communities.

The toothpaste brand was first launched in Shanghai in the 1930s when it first used the Chinese name "Black People Toothpaste" and the English brand name "Darkie." It also used a grinning mascot in a top hat and tuxedo modeled after the American minstrel performer, Al Jolson, infamous for his blackface portrayals.

Taiwan's racist toothpaste to change name in 2022
Original branding on left made in Taiwan and labeled "Darkie," transitional packaging, and contemporary version. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

After Colgate-Palmolive acquired a 50% stake in Hawley & Hazel, controversy began to arise in the U.S. over the use of the name"Darkie" as it is a racist epithet used in Western countries to discriminate against black people. In response to the public outcry, the company issued an apology and changed the English name from "Darkie" to "Darlie" in 1989, and the skin tone of the mascot was changed from black to white, but the Chinese name has remained to the present day.

Amid the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd, the firm's joint venture partner Colgate-Palmolive announced that it would work with its partner to "review and further evolve all aspects of the brand, including the brand name," reported HKFP. Major U.S. brands that had been criticized for having racial undertones, such as Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat, and Uncle Ben's, were phased out or modified that year, while the NFL team, the Washington Redskins, temporarily changed its name to the Washington Football Team pending a new, permanent name.

Taiwan's racist toothpaste to change name in 2022
Packaging as it currently appears in Taiwan. (Taiwan News photo)

There has thus far been no similar announcement of the changing of the name Whitemen toothpaste (白人牙膏) by its Taiwanese maker.