Everyone has to stop and wonder whether the progress alluded to since the civil rights movement is a fallacy when a major fashion retailer can release an ad featuring the reported comparison of a black boy to a monkey amid the “enlightenment” of the 21st century.
This weekend, an ad circulated the internet after Stockholm-based retailer H&M posted a photo of a black child wearing a “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie to their U.K. site. The ad was only removed after the company received backlash from multiple media outlets and social media users across the West.
To twist the knife, the dark advertisement was accompanied by a white child in a hoodie from the same line that read “mangrove jungle survival expert” and another white child in an animal-patterned hoodie with no print.
The event is a PR nightmare to say the very least.
Tell @hm they have 12 hours to take. This. DOWN! #boycotthANDm **UPDATE: I hear folks are questioning the authenticity of the post (you clearly don’t know me…it’s all good). Go ahead and copy and paste this into your browser: http://m2.hm.com/en_gb/productpage.0575530003.html (OR do an internet search “hm monkey jungle black boy”)
In the year 2018 there’s no way brands/art directors can be this negligent and lack awareness. If look at other sweaters in same category they have white kids. We have to do better. pic.twitter.com/Av4bS4t6yn
— alex medina (@mrmedina) January 8, 2018
H&M Spokeswoman Anna Eriksson eventually issued an apology to the Daily News after what may as well be coercion. “This image has now been removed from all H&M channels and we apologize to anyone this may have offended,” she said.
They managed a haphazard apology. But the company has yet to acknowledge the ineptitude of such a decision external to public response, begging the question of whether there is any internal representation.
We like to believe that everyone has a modicum of knowledge regarding simianization, a comparison that most are aware of but understand to be a past phenomenon, not to be perpetuated by a major retailer in the present. Many platforms chalked the error up to unawareness or lack of education on the subject but that excuse can no longer suffice. The mistake was careless.
Perhaps, the topic ought to be revisited in boardrooms as H&M is not the first and probably not the last company to go public with such negligence.
In April of last year, Nivea came under fire for a “White is Purity” advertisement, posted to their Middle East Facebook Page. And that was hardly their first offense. Later in the year, the repeat offender received backlash for advertising their body wash with the text, “For Visibly Fairer Skin” in countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, and Ghana.
In October, Dove removed and apologized for an ad after it was deemed racist. The company, emphasizing the cleanliness offered by its body wash, showed a black woman removing a layer and becoming a white woman.
New York Times columnist Charles Blow took to tweeting the company directly, writing “@hm Have you lost your damned minds?!?!?!” And he spoke for an entire set of people.
The picture has since been replaced with just the hoodie.