UPDATE (January 8, 2018): In response to H&M’S ad, The Weeknd has announced via Twitter that he will no longer be working with the fast fashion brand. He states that he’s been “shocked” and “embarrassed” by the whole ordeal. The singer has modeled for the brand and even collaborated with H&M with his XO clothing label.
We are amazed at how major brands still manage to miss the mark and put out tone-deaf ads or images, but apparently this is one problem that still hasn’t been resolved in 2018.
H&M’s website recently featured a young Black boy modeling a green sweatshirt with the phrase “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” printed on the front. Yes, a major fashion brand thought it was OK to have a young Black boy wear a hoodie with an offensive statement. If like us, you’re wondering how exactly this happen, you’re not alone.
London-based plus size blogger Stephanie Yeboah came across the image on H&M’s website and said, “Whose idea was it at @hm to have this little sweet black boy wear a jumper that says ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’? I mean. What.”
In a series of tweets, Yeboah continued, “What was the thought process behind this @hm? As somebody who has been called a monkey many times by white people (both to my face and online), this is absolutely unacceptable. I don’t care if people think I’m being ‘too sensitive’ on this. Fix your gums to call any child of mine a monkey and I will spin your jaw. Ignorance is not an excuse anymore, it’s 2018.”
H&M has since apologized for the misstep saying to The Independent: “We apologize to anyone this may have offended.” The company has also taken down the image of the boy in the sweatshirt but they’re still actually selling the design.
Unfortunately, comparing Black people to monkeys has an ugly dark past that essentially goes back centuries to dehumanizing Blacks to make them feel inferior. Any sort of connotation of the word monkey, even written on a hoodie, and associated with a Black person is completely insensitive and racially offensive.
Like Yeboah said, ignorance is certainly not an excuse in 2018. Although we aren’t sure of how this sweatshirt actually made it through production, why H&M thought it’d be a good idea to have a young Black boy wear it considering its offensive nature to the entire Black community this is a classic example of why diversity is important at every single company, in every single department and at every single level.
All that said, the Black community always knows how to uplift our people and we love this DIY correction of the image that has been circulating!