The multinational clothing and retail chain H&M has issued an apology for an ad that featured a black boy wearing a hoodie that read: COOLEST MONKEY IN THE JUNGLE.
The picture, which appeared on the company’s UK website, caused an uproar across social media. Many people were outraged and found the image racially offensive. Celebrity, Instagram and Twitter responses ranged from questioning H&M’s audacity to calling the company flat-out irresponsible.
USA TODAY reported that NBA star LeBron James denounced the company in an Instagram post. Some people questioned the integrity of the boy’s parents. A woman claiming to be his mom had some choice words and her own take on the ad and took to social media to express herself, The Grio and several other news outlets reported:
”Am the mum and this is one of hundreds of outfits my son has modeled….. Stop crying wolf all the time, unnecessary issue here… Get over it.”
Others were more sympathetic, saying no harm was done but expressing concerns about diversity. Some people were oblivious to why the picture was even an issue.
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I’m sure the apologies are a coming. And the ads will be pulled. I’m certain there will Be media fixers and whatnot and maybe a grand gesture like a donation to some charity (donations under these circumstances are the corporate version #SomeOfMyBestFriendsAre move if there ever was one) all this tells me about @HM is that the seats in the boardroom lack something…wanna take a guess?
Comparing black people with monkeys or apes has long been a tactic used to subjugate, stereotype and dehumanize people of African descent.
Many saw the photo as an extension of that history. But some artists reimagined the picture in a positive light. Music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs and others shared a version on Twitter.
In light of the marketing debacle, music artists The Weeknd and G-Eazy have severed their business deals with H&M.
H&M has yet to explain how the photo came to be used, but it removed the image from its website.
H&M issues unequivocal apology for poorly judged product and image
To all customers, staff, media, stakeholders, partners, suppliers, friends and critics.
We would like to put on record our position in relation to the image and promotion of a children’s sweater, and the ensuing response and criticism.
Our position is simple and unequivocal – we have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry.
H&M is fully committed to playing its part in addressing society’s issues and problems, whether it’s diversity, working conditions or environmental protection – and many others. Our standards are high and we feel that we have made real progress over the years in playing our part in promoting diversity and inclusion. But we clearly haven’t come far enough.
We agree with all the criticism that this has generated – we have got this wrong and we agree that, even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists. We appreciate the support of those who have seen that our product and promotion were not intended to cause offence but, as a global brand, we have a responsibility to be aware of and attuned to all racial and cultural sensitivities – and we have not lived up to this responsibility this time.
This incident is accidental in nature, but this doesn’t mean we don’t take it extremely seriously or understand the upset and discomfort it has caused.
We have taken down the image and we have removed the garment in question from sale. It will be recycled.
We will now be doing everything we possibly can to prevent this from happening again in future.
Racism and bias in any shape or form, conscious or unconscious, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable and need to be eradicated from society. In this instance we have not been sensitive enough to this agenda.
Please accept our humble apologies.