Is This Coke Super Bowl Commercial Racist?

Owen Poindexter
Coke is drawing the ire of Arab-Americans over a Super Bowl 2013 commercial that they say invokes Arab stereotypes. What do you think?

Coke is drawing the ire of Arab Americans over this Super Bowl commercial. Give it a look, then we'll talk.

"Why is it that Arabs are always shown as either oil-rich sheiks, terrorists, or belly dancers?" said Warren David, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

"The Coke commercial for the Super Ball is racist, portraying Arabs as backward and foolish Camel Jockeys, and they have no chance to win in the world," Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies, said in an email.

I thought this was an over-reaction, but there is one major faux-pas here. At the end of the Super Bowl ad, Coke asks its viewers to go to to vote for the winner of the race for the coke: The Cowboys, The Showgirls, The Badlanders or...that's it. The Arab who the commercial opens with cannot be voted for. Coke, wtf?

Just from the ad itself, I would say that the problem might actually be that the Arab isn't enough of a caricature. Here's what I mean: everyone else is an outsized character: we have the bus full of bad-ass showgirls, the Mad Max marauders and the Hollywood-style cowboys. And an Arab pulling a camel. His Arabness alone makes him a character.

So, Coke, you still have time to fix this before the Super Bowl: Let people vote for the Arab. And don't call him "the Arab." Give him a name, a backstory, a reason for travelling 50 miles for Coke. Everyone else we can vote for does, which makes it all the more ridiculous that the Arab is not mentioned.

As for the ad itself, I think the Arab's main distinguishing feature being Arabness is unfortunate, but redeemable in the follow-up commercial during the actual Super Bowl. In fact, maybe the Arab was going to win this all along. Either way, Coke can act like that was the plan once it happens during Super Bowl 2013. Right, Coke?

I would love to hear our readers' thoughts on this. Sound off in the comments and on twitter.