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Dentists apologize for 'free whitening' ad that poses white dentists in cultural garb

A Raleigh dentist's office is facing backlash on social media for a local magazine ad with racial undertones.
A Raleigh dentist's office is facing backlash on social media for a local magazine ad with racial undertones. Midtown Magazine

A Raleigh dental office has apologized after facing backlash on social media for a local magazine ad with racial undertones.

Renaissance Dental Center, located in Raleigh, placed an advertisement in Midtown Magazine’s May issue featuring three Caucasian doctors, Anita Wells, Jill Sonner and Anna Abernethy, each wearing a dress of a different culture.

The headline reads, "Everyone smiles in the same language!" Underneath the photo of the three doctors, the text reads "Free whitening system."

And below that, the ad says “No matter your accent or origin, everyone can appreciate a beautiful smile…”

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The full-page ad features three caucasian doctors, Dr. Anita Wells, Dr. Jill Sonner and Dr. Anna Abernethy, each wearing a dress of a different culture. Screenshot Midtown Magazine

Renaissance Dental Center apologized for the "ignorant and offensive" advertisement on Twitter Thursday morning.

"In one of our recent advertisements, we attempted to focus upon something that unites us…the warmth and joy behind a smile. We now realize it was ignorant and offensive, and we are truly sorry. We have learned a valuable lesson in this situation. Again, our sincere apologies."

Ilina Ewen, the chief of staff for North Carolina’s First Lady, Kristin Cooper, posted a picture of the ad on Facebook Wednesday, which garnered strong disapproval from other Facebook users, who objected to the word choice and unintentional irony, with comments like:

“Free whitening system indeed.”

"No excuse to be clueless anymore. This is shameful."

“This is like if SNL did a parody on clueless white people.”

“Do not dress up in Native American or Japanese garb if you are white, like it’s some kind of whimsical joke. How hard is this? (It’s not.)”

Wells, Sonner and Abernethy are all North Carolina natives, according to the dentistry's website.

The doctors seem to use costumes often to promote their practice, based on the business' social media accounts.

In a statement emailed to The News & Observer, Connie Gentry, publisher of Midtown Magazine, apologized for the advertisement.

"The most important thing I have to say is how very sorry I am that an offensive ad was published," Gentry said. "In hindsight, it's obvious that this ad was in poor taste and should not have been allowed. I'm truly sorry this mistake was made; it simply never occurred to the team at Renaissance Dental or our team at Midtown that the ad would be perceived as anything other than how it was intended."

"We have partnered with Renaissance Dental Center for several years and will continue our partnership, including working together to make amends for this ad. We know there was no ill-intent behind the ad, and we sincerely apologize to our readers and the community. "

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