H&M Uses Black Child in Racist ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’ Ad, Apologizes

"H&M: have you lost your damned minds?” New York Times columnist Charles Blow tweeted.

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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.

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:

Social media users pointed out that racists have historically referred to Black people as monkeys or apes.

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.

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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.

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.

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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19 comments

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  • Lauri Sue Robertson

    I’m surprised that H&M were able to get this child and his parents/guardians to go along with putting this shirt on a black little boy. Unbelievably tone-deaf!!

    Reply
    • I was just thinking the same thing. But this is what happens when there is no diversity at the top. Since this is a Swedish company, maybe they should check out the Ikea catalogs. That is a Swedish company that puts diversity in its ads.

      Reply
    • Generally speaking, most of those models are photographed in basic white t-shirts. Then the shirt and logo are added using photo shop. This child and his parents probably never realized his photo might be chosen for this. There are lots of stock models that end up regretting their decisions.

      Anyone can design a shirt and then sell it on teespring and they will drop any image onto shirts in the colors you specify. When a person places an order, they print and ship the shirts for you. And they images you see are stock photos of people with green screens. The same models are featured in different ads.

      Reply
  • Greg Thrasher

    How is this even possible? Apparently this company has zero Black Decision makers to consult .

    BLM

    Reply
  • I find it hard to believe no one said, “maybe this is not a good idea”.
    The little boy looks like a Djimon Hansou “mini me”. Very Cute.

    Reply
  • Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey

    How blithely white/bourgie/upscale/pseudohip must the rooms have been where this ad was greenlighted? Even this 64-year-old is tempted to write, “I can’t even….”

    Reply
  • These are alarm bells speaking about H&M’s culture but the boycott won’t work. Most Black people I know as well as others who’s friends are Black don’t even shop at H&M. So you could boycott but will have little effect on their profits.

    Reply
    • There are plenty of non-Black people — myself included — who are also offended by this message and are willing to boycott too.

      Reply
  • carmen becker

    Really?????Using children to bolster your making money off of children. Who are you????? Putting money before thinking of humanity and how this will affect thinking human beings??? Saying you are sorry does not cut it and I am tired of hearing it from supposedly grown adults. I would suggest you have people on your board who are diverse, study various cultures, or better yet have speakers who speak to truth and how what you do affects people——- children especially—-for they are our future SHAME ON YOU..Do some honest inner introspection and think about what made you do this in the first place!!!!!

    Reply
  • You see, First Again Call us by our names we are Hebrew people yes the real Jews Mostly from the tribe of Judah! Next, We should start sue these racist ass white people who seem to think they are the only people on the planet news flash you come from us! So yet you find it funny to keep trying us I am now looking into law suits for racist White people and corporations who feel they can get this off then think everything is cool if you just apologize! Oh, No! Buddy we done playing with you degenerates! Even if it is on the smallest scale we are going to cost you some money hit them pockets your going to learn to keep that mouth shut and to respect us! We tired of you! The only reason we don’t crack your head is because The Most High want’s Judgement to be his! So these racist should be mad humble but no, not white folks they think they are kings over the world they think they run something we done toying with you……. They do the same thing when cops kill us for no reason they get off the case or even when they loose they don’t go to prison no white cop goes to prison even when they guilty all they get is fired!!!!! That is some bull all you get is a job loss not even probation!! We done with that it is time to be accountable! I saw one guy with white skin go to jail the cop that raped all the black woman he 200 something years in prison but he was not white he was Chinese!! Sad!!!

    Reply
  • FYI- just found out that the mother, who is not American, was present at the shoot and had no problem with the logo on the hoodie. She said that her son has modeled extensively and she sees nothing derogatory with the shirt. She says that people need to mind their own business!

    Reply
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