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Chemical firm Kao cancels #BeWhite project after employees point out racial connotations

Kyodo

Kao Corp., a major maker of toiletry and chemical products, suspended a promotional project Thursday the day after its launch after some of its employees pointed out the title could imply racial discrimination.

Kao’s #BeWhite project was aimed at encouraging households to split chores equally within families while also promoting the re-evaluation of workplace practices based on the results of in-house surveys about work and household tasks. The title was later criticized for implying an endorsement of light colored skin.

According to the company, the use of “white” was meant to emphasize the effectiveness of the company’s laundry detergent Attack, which appears at the end of a video featuring company employees.

It was also meant to be a nod to “white companies” — or firms that treat their employees well compared with exploitative “black companies,” which are infamous for the poor treatment of workers.

The project’s website was set up Wednesday by Kao’s fabric and home care division but was shut down after the connotations were pointed out the next day.