One week before the national celebration of the national holiday commemorating the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., global clothing company H&M has come under fire for a disgraceful racial advertising campaign targeting children.
H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB is a Swedish multinational clothing-retail company which has a reputation for its fast-fashion clothing for men, women, teenagers and children.
H&M and its associated companies operate in 62 countries with over 4,500 stores and as of 2015 employed around 132,000 people. It is the second-largest global clothing retailer, just behind Spain-based Inditex. The company has a significant on-line presence, with on-line shopping available in 33 countries.
However, its most recent campaign depicting two young boys, one Black and one white wearing hooded sweatshirts with the Black child’s describing him as “The Cooest Monkey in the Jungle” and the white child sporting one that says “Mangrove Jungle, Survival Expert” has incensed the Black community.
Cavs star LeBron James, frequently an outspoken social advocate, and music mogul Sean Combs ‘P Diddy’ were among the celebrities calling out H&M for the ad.
“@hm u got us all wrong! And we ain’t going for it! Straight up!” wrote James on Instagram Monday. “Enough about y’all and more of what I see when I look at this photo. I see a Young King!! The ruler of the world, an untouchable Force that can never be denied! We as African Americans will always have to break barriers, prove people wrong and work even harder to prove we belong but guess what, that’s what we love because the benefits at the end of the road are so beautiful!!”
James Instagram message was accompanied by an edited version of the photo showing the boy wearing a crown. A Crown graphic covers the original text of the hoodie, and the words “king of the world” appear above him.
Diddy posted a cartoon interpretation with the words “coolest king of the world” in lieu of the original message and a crown hovering above the boy’s head. “Put some respect on it!!” Diddy tweeted. “When you look at us make sure you see royalty and super natural God sent glory!! Anything else is disrespectful.”
The outrage began on Jan. 9th when the original ad caught the attention of The Weeknd (real name Abel Makkonen Tesfaye), who slammed H&M on Twitter. “woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo,” wrote the Grammy winner, who collaborated with the fast-fashion brand on a clothing line in September. “i’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore…”
H&M addressed the controversy and The Weeknd’s reaction. “We completely understand and agree with his reaction to the image,” a spokesperson for the company told EW on Monday. “We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print. We have removed the image from all our channels and the sweater is no longer for sale in our stores. We will also look into our internal routines to avoid such situations in the future. We will continue the discussion with The Weeknd and his team separately.”
This is yet another example of imbedded racism that permeates our society and is not addressed until it creates outrage, when the mere association with a black person to a monkey in the jungle should never have been a topic of conversation, especially any clothing manufacture targeted his product to our community.