Clothing retailer H&M apologized on Monday for a racially insensitive ad that drew widespread criticism on social media — but many felt that the apology did not go far enough.
The fast fashion retailer used a black child as model for a sweatshirt that had “coolest monkey in the jungle” printed on the front, which drew plenty of attention due to a long history of racists making that comparison.
“This image has now been removed from all H&M channels and we apologize to anyone this may have offended,” said H&M spokesperson Anna Eriksson. Though the image of the child was removed, the sweatshirt remains for sale on the company website. The ad cams from the British version of the company’s webstore.
Among those who expressed outrage at the ad was New York Times columnist Charles Blow, who tweeted, “Have you lost your damned minds?!?!?!”
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) January 8, 2018
Also weighing in on the matter was the King Center, founded by Coretta Scott King as a living memorial to Martin Luther King, Kr.
“Every company should invest in training that encompasses cultural competency and sensitivity,” The King Center tweeted. “It is absolutely necessary.”
— The King Center (@TheKingCenter) January 8, 2018
One user noted that other sweatshirts in the same category — featuring animal designs and sayings — featured white children. The sweatshirts they modeled had slogans such as, “Survival Expert.”
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
“So the white kid is the “survival expert” and the black kid’s ‘the coolest monkey in the jungle’ yeah?!” Nigerian professional soccer player Leon Balogun said. “2018 and we still have to bear this kind of non-sense, injustice & disrespect?! @hm please get yourself a reasonable, intelligent marketing manager ASAP!! 🤦🏽♂️ #smh”
Others said they didn’t think the company intended to be racist, but did not properly think through the decision, or learn from other recent racial missteps by larger corporations.
The sentiment is cute (cutest monkey in the jungle, but given the racial history of blacks being referred to as monkeys), it's clear that @hm didn't fully think this one through.
I'd like to give H&M the benefit of a doubt & say this wasn't done intentionally.#DoBetter
— YediydeYah Allen (@yoallen78) January 8, 2018
So they didn’t learn from the recent Dove ad not to be racially insensitive? Personally think the Dove ad was taken out of context but companies need to be aware of optics. H&M should have known better this is inexcusable.
— Dionne (@Aye_Dionne) January 8, 2018
I feel like this was unintentional as many people refer to their children as monkeys. But the oversight is stupid.
— ruganzu howard (@kuroikaijin) January 8, 2018
Other users proposed alternative designs for the sweatshirt:
— Ambitious_Writer (@Nyikia_N) January 8, 2018
Fixed this H&M ad I saw earlier today pic.twitter.com/ItX0zzfhlw
— Mimicgawd (@Mimicgawd) January 8, 2018
— Magnus Juliano (@MagnusJuliano) January 8, 2018
In October, Dove was forced to apologize for an online ad for body wash — which began with the words “Ready for a Dove Shower?” — showed a black woman removing a t-shirt to become a white woman. Many on social media said the company “missed the mark” in how it represented black women in the ad.
“This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened,” Dove then said in a statement. “We apologize deeply and sincerely for the offense that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience.”