Must we really have to keep explaining this? Are we really convinced that large fashion retailers like H&M are so out-of-touch with a segment of their customer base, that they continue to make PR blunders like this? Is it possible that companies are creating controversial images because even bad publicity is good publicity in some cases? These are just a few questions you have to ask when you see the most recent item on sale at H&M. In it, we see a little black boy sporting a green printed hoodie with the words, “COOLEST MONKEY IN THE JUNGLE”.
For black people across the internet, the mere positioning of a black person and the word ‘monkey’, whether it be in an ad, a meme, or on screen, takes us back 50 years or more. For many of us, it just stirs up something our spirit – something deeply disturbing. Now, there will be those that claim they see an innocent picture, and that perhaps, we are just being sensitive. But, based on a few people’s first responses after seeing the ad, there is a large majority of black people that believe this ad is simply inappropriate. Before this ad goes viral (because it’s sure to go viral), I decided to gather a few responses from folks just to make sure I wasn’t being sensitive. Here are some first reactions:
Of course by Monday morning, we will slowly see #BlackTwitter gather H&M by their necks as they slay them back to the internet depths of hell where they came from.
— Dexter Neptune ♛ (@dexterneptune23) January 8, 2018
This isn’t the first time a company has missed the mark. Just last year, #BlackTwitter had to check Dove Soap for a shortened clip of an ad where a black woman appears to use Dove Soap, and then turns into a white woman:
Oh and let’s not forget this company, who still continues to sell this book after they deleted most of the racist pictures from their social media pages. Read more about “From A B to Jay Z” Here.
It’s 2018, and consumers are still having to remind companies, with marketing departments, researchers, and publicists on the payroll, to remember that there is a segment of your customer base with a large amount of purchasing power, who deserve respect. Thanks to #BlackTwitter, brands are called out and put on blast quickly and easily; however, we are getting tired of doing this work for them. For years, companies have made it obvious that they don’t have people of color at the table when these decisions are being made; and if they do have people of color there, these people are not in touch with black culture.
With proof that blacks hold a trillion dollars in buying power, brands like H&M should have African Americans in the marketing department, in research and development, and as a part of their social media campaigns, because black women and men spend plenty of money at H&Ms across the country. They know this already because they chose a black kid for the ad, but they were clueless in implementing a successful ad that would appeal to their customers.
So now what? For now, H&M is cancelled. We will wait until morning for the public apology (if we’re lucky), and continue to spend our dollars carefully, at companies who appeal to our needs as consumers.