By Gary Hardie
Is this what you think of black boys?
If you were to look in my closet, you’d find that more than half of my clothes come from one store, H&M. In fact, I wore my favorite H&M shirt to church on Sunday. If I had seen this offensive ad on the company’s website, I definitely would have decided to change my shirt.
There is no way anyone can convince me that someone, anyone, involved in this photoshoot or approval of this ad did not know that having a young black boy wear a hoodie that says, “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle,” is wrong. Black people have been compared to apes and monkeys as a way to demean and dehumanize us; to do this to a young black boy is assault. There might be people who think anyone who thinks this ad is offensive is being too sensitive, but there are images, words, and phrases that are offensive and insensitive to every race of people. This picture is immediately offensive so how someone could miss its negative context is beyond me.
To those who feel like people of color make a big deal out of nothing, when we point out how many boards of directors lack people of color, this ad is the perfect example of why diversity is essential to ensuring accountability because representation matters. It matters to our efforts to ensure business practice and institutions are culturally competent and working to dismantle institutionalized and systemic racism in all forms. It matters to the context of conversations like these when we must call companies to task for policies and practices that are ignorant, insensitive and promote racist tactics and ideals. Too often, our concerns are not considered because our voices are not heard. Since we don’t have a seat at their table where our voices will be heard, H&M must hear our outrage.
I hope others join me in refusing to spend another dime at H&M until this ad is taken down, an apology is issued, and steps are taken to add diversity to their board of directors. To support H&M before we see these outcomes is complicity.