Co.Design

Racist Design: An Afro-headed Toilet Brush

But is then again, is this racist? Or merely clueless?

This is so egregious that it's hard to believe it's real: Recently, in L.A., a Thai design firm--appropriately enough called Gumption--exhibited a set of toilet brushes shaped like black people, with the bristles standing in for an Afro. Let me say that again: Toilet brushes shaped like black people. For scraping feces from a toilet bowl. As if it wasn't enough for the design to been hideous and tacky.

As Design Boom chirps, "Brings some humor to cleaning the bathroom!" Also brings racism!

Gumption Design is, apparently, a Thai company, and was featured in Design Boom's Asia Now exhibition at Dwell on Design in LA. So given that, you could argue that the toilet brushes aren't racist so much as they are clueless--Thailand having never shared our ugly history of African slavery and minstrel shows. (The same might be said of China or Japan, where blackface is a regularly occurrence on prime-time TV. Then again, in those countries gross stereotypes are so common that you can only laugh.)

But check out what looks like a chain on the feet of the toilet brush. Your jaw just drops:

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16 Comments

  • Aquasparky

    Um, has anyone forgot how many white people wore 'afro' hair back in the 70's? I think these scrubbers could represent white hipsters of that era just as easily as black. We really are wayyyy too PC here. I would encourage all to remember that free speech includes the right to be offended and ignore said speech.

  • druid g

    actually rethinking this i think the author is racist for implying that black people have toilet scrubber hairdos.

  • patrick

    OMG you americans are so overly PC its not funny. You can take a fun item which is well designed and turn it into a racist gesture. The thai company who launched this item had nothing to do with slavery in the US nor were they thinking that they were cleaning feces with a black person. Please get over yourselves and see a fun design for what it is ........just FUN

  • Mary Mnne Erniquez

    thank you for being such a voice of reason Cliff. Designboom was thoroughly OFF...in promoting such an item. Clearly not educated in American history, or even the 1000 plus years of African Slavery history.

    to wear one's hair "natural" or to perm it has always been a contentious argument within the African American community for the past 100 years. the afro is a symbol of freedom, civil rights, and self confidence amongst a race whose has continually struggled for self identity.

    What is next? Hitler soap dishes?

  • Theodore Thomas

    I think I understand it now... The little, colored, Afro, Fu Manchu, Beer Bellied, Hippie critters are wearing Le Corbusier glasses. This is clearly a wildly degrading slur against......Architects!

  • Ravi Sawhney

    There's got to be a story here that deserves a deeper dive. I'm dying to learn what their thinking, if any (probably there isn't any), is. Its so outrageous, perhaps they are making a point. Maybe there is some genius there who is make a comment about racism is a somewhat ironic design statement, maybe?

  • Jonathan Morschl

    Seeing as how the figures are wild colors, I don't see how brushes are "shaped like black people". Have other races, including white never had afros and mustaches before? Indeed they have, so the only racism going on is by the author, or more to the point, stereotyping afros with African-Americans.

  • Theodore Thomas

    These people do not look black.... rather pink, red and cyan. Sometimes a toilet brush is just a toilet brush...in fact, pretty much always. Lighten up.

  • Sheena Medina

    Clearly you are not a person of color, literally or figuratively. Shall we continue the line of toilet brushes with.. let's say U.S. Presidents, using the wigs of the founding fathers as bristles? Oh wait... that would be so boring because they would all be white. Never mind.

  • T K

    yes! that's a fantastic idea! President Toilet Scrubbers! (i'm actually quite serious)

    I don't get your premise though... so making humor from something that is characteristically related to black people (afros) is insulting. but making humor about something that is characteristically related to white people (silly wigs) is... boring?

    President toilet scrubbers are funny. Afro toilet scrubbers are funny. why can't we let funny just be funny?

  • Sheena Medina

    Nope. Simply trying to demonstrate how wildly insulting it is to any race.

  • T K

    Look, nobody likes how Muslims get their panties in a wad when The Prophet is used in a cartoon. Nobody likes hanging out with people who get offended by Jesus jokes. Do you think these "wash your sins away towlettes" are offensive? (http://bit.ly/zDRfw) Should we decry this as religious intolerance and mocking of American Christian culture and protest it's sale? No. It's just FUNNY.

    Now, why don't we all just get together and celebrate our common adoration of funky hair instead of worrying about offending each other with the clever use of toilet scrubbers?