MADRID — A new campaign by Spain’s postal service that was intended to condemn racism has backfired and ended up offending many people with a series of stamps in skin tones — the lighter the shade, the more valuable the stamp.
The “Equality Stamps” were issued this week to coincide with the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, the Black man whose killing by a police officer in Minneapolis fueled outrage on American streets and led to broad calls for fighting racism in the United States and beyond. The release of the stamps also coincided with European Diversity Month.
Moha Gerehou, the author of a new book about racism in Spain, said on Twitter that he understood that the postal service meant well — but said that it had misfired badly.
It is “an enormous contradiction,” he wrote — “a campaign that launches stamps with a different value depending on the color in order to show the equal value of our lives. The message is an absolute disaster.”
The cost of the stamps starts at €0.70 (85 cents) for the darkest color, and as the shade grows progressively lighter, the value steadily goes up to €1.60 for the palest.
The postal service said on Twitter that the pricing had aimed to reflect “an unfair and painful reality that should not exist,” and that it had hoped the campaign would “give voice to a generation devoted to equal rights and diversity.”
But some critics said that this message was easily lost and that the campaign played into the hands of Vox, the far-right party that became the third-largest group in Spain’s Parliament after elections in late 2019.
Mr. Gerehou, the author and a Spanish native of Gambian descent, said the postal service was joining a corporate antiracism push that had spread to Spain from the United States. But he said that such efforts needed to be “accompanied by profound changes.”
The campaign was designed with the help of SOS Racismo, an antiracism organization, and promoted in a video by El Chojín, a rap artist.
SOS Racismo defended the stamps as “a very visual way to denounce the racism that thousands of people suffer in the Spanish state.”
The group said the campaign also highlighted broader problems like the rise of xenophobia in Europe and the plight of migrants seeking to make the perilous journey from northern Africa and the Middle East into Spain via the Mediterranean.