Amid the coronavirus pandemic stories of racism have also been on the rise. A recent incident was a promotional act initiated by Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco, which is facing flak for dressing up an immigrant employee in the garb of a humanoid hand-sanitizer deployer.
The company was accused of racism and exploitation after images of a non-Saudi man wearing a bodysuit to look like a walking-talking bottle of hand-sanitizer went viral. The man was seen wearing a mask and the bottle of hand sanitiser on his body and walking outside one of Aramco’s offices, dispensing the liquid to passersby. Social media users geotagged the location to the company’s Dhahran office.
The image evoked instant outrage with many calling the stunt racist. Many slammed Aramco for the “humiliating” job given to the worker and called the incident “dehumanizing” and akin to “modern-day slavery”. A Saudi user termed the incident “Gulf classism. A gift from Aramco”.
The humiliation & rendering of some lives as disposable apparently has no bounds. Aramco’s apology should be noted but the fact that someone in leadership thought this was appropriate to begin with speaks volumes about the public perception of migrant workers in the gulf. https://t.co/HOD21jjsxI
— Laya Behbahani (@LayaBehbahani) March 11, 2020
— Girish Bharadwaj (@Girishvhp) March 11, 2020
After criticism, on Tuesday, the state-owned oil baron apologised for the “abusive” incident and explained that their only intention was to raise awareness about coronavirus.
إشارة إلى الصور المتداولة في وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي لأحد الزملاء مرتدياً ما يشبه عبوة للتعقيم في أحد مرافقها، تود #أرامكو السعودية أن تعرب عن استيائها الشديد من هذا التصرف المسيء الذي أريد به التأكيد على أهمية التعقيم، دون أخذ موافقة من الجهة المعنية بالشركة.
— أرامكو (@Saudi_Aramco) March 10, 2020
The company immediately stopped this act and took drastic measures to prevent it from happening again,” Aramco wrote on Twitter. “The company emphasizes its firm against compromising its values based on respect and adherence to ethics and conduct”.