Just when you think you know a brand, they disappoint you. Yes, I’m talking about H&M’s recent controversy that shook the black community to its core, causing rage and confusion.
H&M has been heavily scrutinised for creating a jumper with the phrase “coolest monkey in the jungle”. But it wasn’t just the hoodie that was the problem. It was the fact that it was modelled by a black child.
For years the term ‘monkey’ was, and unfortunately, still, is used as a racist slander to dehumanise black people, which dates back centuries. As a result, many of us do see the term as an insult
This thoughtless move has resulted in the brand losing Musicians The Weeknd and G-Eazy, who have both cancelled their partnerships with H&M.
Last year, rapper G-Eazy collaborated with H&M on a new clothing line that was set to debut in March this year. After the hoodie was released, he took to Instagram, writing:
“Over the past months, I was genuinely excited about launching my upcoming line and collaboration with @HM… Unfortunately, after seeing the disturbing image yesterday, my excitement over our global campaign quickly evaporated, and I’ve decided at this time our partnership needs to end. Whether an oblivious oversight or not, it’s truly sad and disturbing that in 2018, something so racially and culturally insensitive could pass by the eyes of so many (stylist, photographer, creative and marketing teams) and be deemed acceptable.”
The clothing brand has now removed the advert from its UK website and scrapped the product from its line after it was widely criticised.
They swiftly released an apology letter, as an H&M representative said:
“We understand that many people are upset about the image. We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print”. Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally.”
Despite the negativity around the situation, artists have created alternative artwork to remove the derogatory phrase from the jumper and use it to raise black people up, creating solidarity in within the black community.
New York-based artist and musician, Chris Classic, took the disparaging image of a black boy wearing the hoodie and turned it into an image celebrating the boy’s status as a king.
In a caption on his image, he wrote:
“I made this because I don’t wanna see this young king’s face anymore with the shirt he was hired to wear by H&M. I’m almost certain the Persson Family and their $31 Billion won’t care in Sweden but… this little guy will see his pics and the mockery one day because the internet doesn’t erase… so I just hope he gets to see this one or any like it that celebrate him. #mysavoirfaire”
Would it have been an issue if the hoodie was advertised on a child of a different race? Probably not, but H&M was thoughtless and insensitive, and not to expect a backlash towards this jumper was simply naive. When will major brands stop bringing beautiful minority groups down for profit? As a brand heavily in the spotlight, they have the power to undo titles used to hate on minorities, not feed the labels. We are all human beings on this planet, and we are all equal.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out Hate; only love can do that”
– Dr. Martain Luther King Jr
Text: Afua Aidoo
Images: Getty, Instagram/Chris Classic, Instagram/G-easy, H&M