After intense backlash on social media and threats of a boycott H&M apologized for an advertisement on its website featuring a Black boy wearing a green hoodie with the phrase, “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.”
The family-controlled Swedish retailer has an all-white board of directors. H&M’s Chief Executive Karl-Johan Persson’s grandfather founded the brand and his father, Stefan, is chairman.
According to the Financial Times, its sales in the fourth quarter of 2017 fell by 4 percent, the first such decline in decades. And, its share price is half the level of its 2015 peak. Zara brand took over H&M six years ago as the world’s largest fashion retailer.
As the second largest clothing seller on the planet, you’d think its marketing team would understand the importance of representation and diversity in its products. But, that message comes from the top down. And diversity is not represented in its leadership.
“This image has now been removed from all H&M channels and we apologize to anyone this may have offended,” said the fashion retailer’s spokeswoman Anna Eriksson in a terse statement on Monday, according to the New York Daily News.
H&M said in an email sent to CBS MoneyWatch that the product will not be for sale in the United States. Adding, “We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do, and will be reviewing our internal routines.”
The hoodie is still available to buy on the U.K. website without featuring the model’s image.
#CoolestMonkeyintheJungle trended on Twitter Monday morning with posts slamming the company for the racist ad.
BOYCOTT @hm! Whose with me? @hmusa What universe do you live in that makes it okay to flaunt your racist ways in such an epic portion. I demand you remove this ad! This child is precious and should be treated as such! #boycottH&M #racists #coolestmonkeyinthejungle #notonmywatch pic.twitter.com/eY4f7nKxvi
— Alexandra Foucard (@AFoucard) January 8, 2018
— Rochelle (@steppingdoll) January 8, 2018
Charles Blow, a New York Times columnist and CNN contributor, didn’t mince words when he brought attention to the ad on the retailer’s U.K. websites:
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) January 8, 2018
Social media users pointed out that racists have historically referred to Black people as monkeys or apes.
Here’s why your ad has caused outrage: There is painful history of dehumanizing black people by comparing us to monkeys and apes. Your ad features a black child in a sweatshirt that says “coolest monkey in the jungle”. 1+1=2 You should have known better #boycottHandM
— Divinely Ty (@DivinelyTy) January 8, 2018
In the U.S., both former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were subjected to such insults. In 2016, in a barrage of racist tweets on Twitter, encouraged by Milo Yiannopoulos, “Saturday Night Live” comedian Leslie Jones was compared to Harambe, the gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo, as well as subjected to other derogatory comments.
The blatant disrespect for President Barack Obama continues.
White children modeled two other tops from the same H&M line, one that said “survival expert” and one with images of animals, social media users also said.
Urm?? H&M. So you put the black boy in a “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoody but the white boy as the “survival expert”. Since when was one human and the other an animal. Can’t tell me you didn’t think this through!! I know they’re kids and all but?? ….I dunno yall pic.twitter.com/e4cLMWxP5z
— Aisha (@AishaBenmeriem) January 8, 2018
H&M isn’t the only company to recently receive backlash for its advertisements. In October, Unilever was under fire for a Dove ad that showed a Black woman wearing a brown t-shirt ready to use Dove soap. She takes off the brown top, after using the soap, to reveal a smiling white woman wearing a white shirt who also removes her shirt, unveiling a different white woman.