Happy new …. oh gawd here we are not even a month in the Year and (dun dun dun) PEOPLE ARE OUTRAGED by a company who has never been for us or by us. H&M Hennes & Mauritz is a Swedish based corporation specializing in mass produced clothing-retail. Who, ICYMI is getting backlash for a racially insensitive ad released with a young black boy wearing a “Coolest monkey in the Jungle” sweater.
Before I expand, we must understand, we are currently living in an attention economy driven by click-bait articles. So, if sex sells then race baits. Trolling on fleek right now fam and we’re being taken for a ride!
2017 we had Dove’s controversial ad. 2016, Åhlens (Sweden’s Macys) received a public hate storm after a Lucia ad which was pulled because of public outrage/death threats. In 2008 several years before that there was an ad featuring Lebron James holding Gisele Bundchen which clearly resembled 1933s King Kong poster.
I rarely wax poetic about race on this blog but since I’ve experienced this particularly myself as a youngin, felt obligated to.
*Ahem* This was a grossly deliberate, insensistive decision PERIOD! Whether H&M was cognizant of the racial implications is irrelevant. The image is out there and the damage is done – to us and that little black boy because at the end of day his family has to deal with this moving forward. The power of imagery is paramount. Over decades of black man character assassination, the black man’s image is in a constant crisis, thug, sexual buck, rapper, athlete, criminal, gay, trans, fighter, monkey, 3/5 human, skinny jeans, Billie Jean. Will H&M go bankrupt, doubt it. Will black people continue to shop there, bet money yes! Can’t beat 10 dollar shirts right? Instead of boycotting (we should boycott) but let’s go deeper.
What we should be asking is, were there any POC involved in this ad, do we have executive decision making roles in these companies? More importantly who was the parent of this child who thought this was ok?
Why couldn’t the sweater say King of the world? You know why because IMAGERY IS POWERFUL. Black boys whereing King of the world hoodies is like Obama winning thrice! What’s more insidious is that it’s a beautiful black boy. Growing up Nigerian in N.Y.C. in Wash. Heights a predominately Dominican neighborhood, slurs were shouted at me during recess nonstop. “African booty scratcher, cripsy cakes, darkie, negro sucio”. The kicker, sometimes I was teased from Dominicans darker than me. Don’t Believe the hype…
Check this out Amara La Negra Fights Back Against Racism.
There are endless stories where Euro-centric ideologies of beauty are pushed as pure and African culture depicted as savage or uncouth. Yet we live in a post racism, #metoo, transgender fighting for pronouns society. Black hip-hop culture is a global phenomenon. Black culture is popular but being black isn’t.
Don’t get me wrong there is a definite wave of positive portrails of POC in media like Get Out, Atlanta, Blackish, White famous, Chapelles new specials, Insecure but ads like this pick at the wound of racisim we all trying to heal from.
I think monkeys are dope AF, if you grew up as an anime head you’d understand. They’re powerful, cute and eat bananas with their tails. Unfortunately, I cannot associate myself with said monkeys because I’m constantly reminded at shows, at the office where I work, walking in the street, I’m a “big black dude” and the social-racial implications it implys.
Until there is no target on my back, until whomever I want to marry isn’t an issue, until the word “n###a” doesn’t sting when heard/said, until reparations in the equivalence of 40 acres and a mule are allocated to African diaspora descendants affected by the trans-Atlantic slave trade, maybe then I won’t be offended because can you honestly be upset when you have wealth and power? I mean really, if somone calls you a bad name from outside your manor gates would you really care? Possibly. Sh#t, you can call me all sorts of stuff when I have wealth. As I sit on my porch like…
Companies need to start hiring comedians because the golden rule is to always punch up which is defined as, “criticism or rhetoric to critique and dismantle power rather than belittle disenfranchised or the disempowered.”
Stay woke folk cause King kong ain’t got sh#t on me.