Racism and keeping sight of what’s really important

H&M is in a world of hurt. I’m sure by now you’ve seen the advert.

The company got blasted for being racist/culturally insensitive after posting an image of a black child model in a jumper with the words “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” on the front. The photo created a storm of internet anger as soon as it was posted – with Twitter users calling the ad “racist,” “disgusting,” and “degrading.”



LeBron James took to Instagram to share his thoughts. 

The Weeknd, 27, also spoke out, tweeting that he will no longer be working with the brand.

“Woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. i’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore… ” he wrote.

After receiving immense backlash, H&M finally removed the offending photo on Jan. 8. However, it continues to sell the hooded top online.

An apology was also issued, although most people didn’t think it was nearly enough. 

“This image has now been removed from all H&M channels and we apologize to anyone this may have offended,” H&M spokeswoman Anna Eriksson said. “In the year 2018 there’s no way brands/art directors can be this negligent and lack awareness…. We have to do better,” designer Alex Medina said via Twitter.

H&M may be in boiling hot water for their ad that featured a black boy wearing a sweatshirt saying, “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle,” but appears that the boy’s mother, Terry Mango, is cool with it. She took to social media to fully endorse the ad.

“That’s my son…av [sic] been to all photo shoots and this was not an exception, everyone is entitled to their opinion about this,” Mango said on Facebook. She also added, “This is one of hundreds of outfits my son has modeled… stop crying Wolf all the time, unnecessary issue.”

MY thoughts… 

I’m relatively certain that at some point in the executive brainstorming meetings, of which I would imagine there were many, the questions of racism (in my opinion) would have been raised.   At least one person sitting around the decision making table would have questioned whether this slogan printed on a garment with a black child wearing that garment would have been offensive and/or politically correct/incorrect.  I’m also certain that the parents of this gorgeous young model were probably excited beyond belief that their son had been chosen to model for H&M.

I am also convinced that very few of the top decision makers at H&M believed that the back lash would have been so severe.  Racial noise does just that, makes noise, however, H&M shops have been destroyed, key Sportsmen have spoken out, and one main endorsee has withdrawn his service from the brand and the chain.

What is more of a concern for me is the lack of diverse thinking they exhibited.  It truly just didn’t register that this could be offensive. Tone deaf, colour blind, non-issue = fail. They didn’t think about customers of colour… at ALL. Had they even utilised a FEW focus groups that were diverse, it would have been spotted. But they didn’t. And to ME? That is the issue. It also makes me think of how this is small potatoes compared to all the issues facing people of colour in our country. Yes… STILL.

About how Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry exposes ‘quiet’ racism.

Or how Black Malden charter students are punished for braided hair extensions.

Or teenage knife crime?

Or how it’s okay for a copper to inform people that Black people commit more crime? Yes an actual investigation ruled that his statement wasn’t racist. Right.

Or how Princess Michael can wear an outrageous blackamoor pin, yes still happening in this day and age, to a luncheon with Meghan Markle who is bi-racial and it’s not considered racist.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.

I could tell you that it’s easy for people like LeBron James to tell us to support only black retailers, but in the UK there’s really no option. And I could talk at length about my experiences of people being a little shocked when they meet me at certain events, but I’m not going to do that either. What I will say is that it makes me sad.  It makes me sad that in 2018 I am undergoing some of the issues my parents experienced in the 1960’s when they first came to this country.

When will this end??

What do YOU think? Was the H&M ad offensive or no big deal? Do you think we’re focusing on the wrong things due to the cult of celebrity? I’d love to have an open conversation with you about this… hit me up on Facebook  Twitter and Instagram.

Let’s talk about it!