By Zlati Meyer, USA TODAY
Woman walking past H & M logo
International retail giant H&M has apologized for an ad featuring a Black child model wearing a hoodie emblazoned with the phrase “coolest monkey in the jungle.”
Social media blew up over the photo of a young boy wearing the green hooded sweatshirt, which had racist undertones. The online advertisement for the top was for sale in the U.K.
“We sincerely apologize for offending people with this image of a printed hooded top,” H&M said in a statement. “The image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in the United States.We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.”
Everyone from celebrities to social-justice experts to comedians chimed in. Tweets ranged form GIFs of head-shaking to adding the letters S, A and E to the retailer’s name to spell “Shame”.
“It was a horribly insensitive combination of memes,” said Bruce Turkel, executive creative director of Miami-based firm Turkel Brands. “People will forget. Trouble will happen if they don’t fix their approval process and something like this happens again, because each time it does, this issue will be brought up again.”
This isn’t the first time the Sweden-based retail chain’s has been criticized for racial and ethnic insensitivity. In 2015, it drew fire after its South Africa division featured no black models. When questioned about the lack of diversity, H&M’s tweeted response suggested that white models conveyed more positivity. And in 2013, H&M pulled feathered headdresses from its stores after Canadian customers complained it made fun of First Nation tribal customs.
Nor is H&M the only company to blunder. In October, Kellogg’s pledged to replace a racially insensitive drawing on its Corn Pops box after an uproar on Twitter. The sole brown Corn Pop in the artwork was depicted as a janitor. That month, Dove, a Unilever brand, apologized for a Facebook ad it ran for Dove Body Wash, which showed a black woman taking off a brown T-shirt, revealing a while woman. It prompted calls to boycott the company.
And one week in April saw Pepsi pulling a Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial that some people viewed as belittling the Black Lives movement, while skincare company Nivea pulled an ad for Invisible For Black & White deodorant, which included the tag line “White is purity.”
Founded in Sweden in 1947, the company now known H&M has more than 4,100 stores worldwide. The initials stand for Hennes & Mauritz.