The popular brand, which is sold in China, the Philippines, Thailand and other Asian countries, has long been criticized for using racist imagery. The brand is marketed in Chinese as “Black Person Toothpaste” and was sold using the racial epithet Darkie until its name was changed in 1989.
“For more than 35 years, we have been working together to evolve the brand, including substantial changes to the name, logo and packaging. We are currently working with our partner to review and further evolve all aspects of the brand, including the brand name,” the company said in a statement to Reuters.
Protests have erupted around the world following the killing of Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a White police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The campaign against racial injustice has also sparked a reckoning in the corporate world, with some firms choosing to acknowledge the racist roots of their business.
Darlie is manufactured by Hawley & Hazel, which was founded in Shanghai and is now based in Hong Kong. The toothpaste became a part of Colgate’s product line when Colgate acquired a 50% stake in Hawley & Hazel in 1985.
“The executive thought Jolson’s wide smile and bright teeth would make an excellent toothpaste logo,” author Kerry Segrave wrote in the book.
After Colgate entered its joint venture with Hawley & Hazel, US church groups pushed the company to abolish the Darkie brand, according to Segrave. Colgate relented in 1989, renaming Darkie to Darlie and redesigning the logo.