Happy New Year!
Ah boy, imagine the first post of the year has to do with something racial. Imagine that.
Well on Sunday, January 7th 2018 I woke up to my inbox flooded with this picture.
Now, I was very shocked to see that this type of ad would be able to make it to the public, from a large company such as H&M. People have been saying to me that this is so racist. But you know me, I would like to analyze some things first before I jump and say it is in fact racist.
This advertisement is for H&M in the UK. Well, I assume it is for the UK because of the English Pound Currency Sign. I am not sure if H&M in North America is run by the same Marketing, Legal, PR teams as H&M. I am not sure how these types of advertisements are approved, distributed etc.
I am also not aware of how the “Black people came from apes/monkey’s” narrative is in the UK and in Europe. I know that it is very prevalent in North America being a Black Woman I have been called this numerous times most times behind my back or on Social Media but never to my face. Most of the times that I have been called a monkey it was by an American person. Very rarely a Canadian person. But how is this “Black people coming from monkeys” narrative in the UK?
My honest take on this is that H&M dropped the ball big time on this. Is this racist? Well, I can’t definitively say yes it is. But someone dropped the ball big time. I don’t know if the photographer knows about the sensitivity or the history of black people being compared to monkeys. I don’t know if the person holding the light, the make up team, the assistants, you name it, would be aware of the implications behind an advertisement like this. I do however believe that if H&M operates like any large organization I am familiar with that there would have been a good few senior people who would have had some type of sensitivity training that would have seen this and the fact that they did not catch something like this is what surprises me.
I don’t expect every single person on the planet to automatically know every single racial slur or derogatory phrases that have racial undertones. As a Bajan-Canadian I have been in situations where I had to calm down people on my own Facebook blog page. There was an epidemic a while back with bed bugs in hotels. In Barbados a bed bug is called a “chink”. I don’t think that the average Bajan is aware that a chink is a derogatory term meant to insult Chinese people. But when the term was being used repeatedly on that particular thread on Facebook, people were offended. But it was something that I was able to clear up. Not saying that this is comparable but it just goes to show that not every single person is aware that certain phrases and terms have racial undertones or are meant to be derogatory from a racial standpoint.
H&M has gone on to apologize about the incident but people still seem very upset. Should Black people boycott H&M? That is a tough one to answer. To me I think that it is a personal choice. Again should H&M in the USA be penalized for something that happened with H&M in the UK and they may not even be governed by the same entity? I don’t know. But I will say that when I saw this post I was highly offended. I wasn’t sure how or why an ad like this would even end up on H&M’s website. But I do know that these types of ads pass through enough hands that SOMEONE should have caught this. Is this racist? Maybe, maybe not. But SOMEONE needs to answer to this. I am sure someone lost their job over this as well.