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.


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.

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.

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