By Albert Lin
Imagine the surprise of Howard University students when the circular for the local branch of Giant grocery store welcomed them back to school following the winter break with an image of a white woman.
One of the nation’s best known Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)—U.S. News ranks it the No. 3 HBCU in the country—Howard has a student body is overwhelmingly Black. Of the 1,089 graduating seniors who responded to the school’s undergraduate exit survey in 2013, 84.6 percent identified themselves as African-American and another 6.1 percent identified as African. The number of white students in the class Four—not 4 percent, just four (0.37 percent). (Although the number of white students is increasing at HBCUs across the country.)
The circular was for the chain’s City Market at O location near the Howard campus, which is the city’s largest supermarket. A spokesperson for the chain told Washington Business Journal, “Unfortunately an incorrect stock photo was used in the ad and we apologize for this oversight. We wish all Howard University students a successful semester.”
Reaction on Twitter appeared more bemused than angry, with users pointing out the error but not leveling charges of racism.
— Sabrina Stevens (@TeacherSabrina) January 11, 2014
— Mikey Franklin (@mikeyfranklin) January 11, 2014
— Thomas Houston (@Thomas4Change) January 13, 2014
— Shawna Renee (@shawnareneelive) January 13, 2014
Confusing matters is that the subsidiary that owns the D.C. Giant (Giant Food) is not on Twitter, and the complaints instead were going to a Pennsylvania unit (Giant Food Stores) that had nothing to do with the ad.