The fashion industry has long played a major role in crafting the images of people of African descent to fit their image of beauty. It is a fact that people with melanin exist in every part of the world; and yet they are not celebrated the same as others. So, often the discrimination and racism that people with dark skin are subjected to is only lifted when it's politically fashionable (pun intended).
We've seen countless companies and celebrities bare the burden of relentless scrutiny from the public for offensive portrayals of African descendants. And African culture is conveniently and constantly poached of its riches, from resources to textile prints. While we live in a world that clearly knows the culture's value is priceless, they deceive the public into believing it is not.
Today is certainly different than times past however, because at the push of a button the internet can give a voice to those misrepresented by big business. And H&M discovered today that society will not tolerate their ignorance when it comes to racism.
In a recent new product post to their website, a black child wore a sweater that read: "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle." After the viral comments of outrage directed H&M, they released the typical apologetic response (see it below via Pitchfork) that did nothing to sooth the sentiments that have been inflamed by their careless actions.
"We understand that many people are upset about the image. We, who work at H&M, can only agree. We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print. Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally. It is obvious that our routines have not been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again."
After reading the statement they issued, the black community took hold to change the narrative, starting with artist Chris Classic. The artist, who is raising a young black son, drew on top of the nasty message to create a positive one that then inspired several others to do the same.
I made this because I dont wanna see this young Kings face anymore with the shirt he was hired to wear by H&M. I'm almost certain the Persson Family and their $31 Billion wont care in Sweden but... this lil guy will see his pics and the mockery one day because the internet doesnt erase... so I just hope he gets to see this one or any like it that celebrate him. #mysavoirfaire
Sorry, H&M, but "sorry" is no longer acceptable.
There have been far too many accounts of people globally using "monkey" as a racial slur. In soccer, an international sport, attendees have taunted black players with monkey sounds and throwing banana peels. Back in 2016, the NBA received much backlash for its "Year of the Monkey" jerseys (see below); although this was in celebration of the Lunar New Year in China, the sentiment was not appreciated.
And whenever the Kardashians, or any celebrity in their likeness, participates in something culturally insensitive (see: Kendall Jenner's Pepsi commercial or her placing her likeness over Tupac's face on a T-shirt), they are met with the same aggression. The list goes on, so now when another company hides behind the cloak of ignorance, the answer is no.
Setting an example, in a tweet today, The Weeknd pledged not to work with H&M anymore.
It is not acceptable for any company to value one customer over the other. If these companies did not want our dollars they would not create products at price-points that directly target these demographics. And they would not open stores in areas where these target consumers live.
It's time we hold companies, celebrities, and ourselves accountable for equality through our buying power.