Reactions have been fast and furious on Twitter towards H&M for having a Black boy in a ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ hoodie.
H&M was forced to apologize Monday for using a black child to model a sweatshirt with a “coolest monkey in the jungle” slogan.
In what appears to be the same ad campaign, a young white boy is referred to as a ‘survival expert’, not a ‘monkey.’
The company removed the offending ad from its website after hundreds of social media users accused it of being racist. It continues to sell the hooded top online.
“This image has now been removed from all H&M channels and we apologize to anyone this may have offended,” said H&M spokeswoman Anna Eriksson.
The image of the child in the hoodie appeared on the British version of the Swedish retailer’s online store.
Charles Blow, a columnist for The New York Times and CNN contributor, tweeted at H&M: “have you lost your damned minds?!?!?!”
As a part of the fallout, The Weeknd has announced that he will no longer work with H&M, following the sale of a racially insensitive hoodie modeled on a black child.
The artist, who collaborated with the brand last year on his very own line, took to Twitter to call out the company and announce his plans to cut ties.
“Woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. I’m deeply offended and will not be working with H&M anymore,” he wrote.
This is not the first time H&M; has been accused of racism. In 2015, the company responded to a request for diversity in their campaigns by saying they chose models because they want to “convey a positive image” in their advertising.
Atlanta-based brand strategist and marketing executive Nick F. Nelson weighed in on the controversy as an issue much larger than this singular instance.
“Ultimately, this ad had to be approved before it was released,” he said. “Traditionally several layers of approval are required. Thus, what this tells me is that there was no one with any decision making authority that understands cultural sensitivity in the room.
“Seeing the image over the weekend reinforced what I know to already be a problem, and that is the lack of diversity and sensitivity amongst major global brands,” he continued. “H&M Is based in Sweden, as such, there is an entirely different mindset, and its disconnection with cultural sensitivities at a worldwide level came on the full display using this innocent black child to promote its printed hoodie with the phrase, ‘Coolest Monkey In The Jungle’ on it.”
Nelson, who is African-American, said that ad also made him cringe at the thought that a parent would allow their child to be portrayed in such a classless manner.
“As a parent, I thought to myself what Parent in their right mind would sign off to have their child portrayed (like) this,” Nelson said. “There is no amount of money in this world that you could pay me to allow my child to be used in this matter.”
Unfortunately, H&M isn’t the only brand that has suffered lately for its errors in judgment. Other international brands, like Pepsi, McDonald’s and even the niche brand Shea Moisture have all come under fire in the last year for ad campaigns that lacked cultural sensitivity.
“The way brands can solve for making these poor judgments regarding race is to have a diverse team of individuals especially those that have decision-making power,” Nelson said, noting that brands like Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, Nike and Walmart have been apt at getting their messaging right. “Diversity and inclusion is the key and leveraging your moral compass when it comes to portraying images of others.”
“Brands need to understand that they have a responsibility and that if they do not act accordingly, the impact will be to the bottom line. There is no longer tolerance by consumers for this degree of insensitivity,” he said.