Insensitivity | The H&M Controversy

Written by Eric Christopher Jackson

 


Dear Readers,

As many of you are aware of, the Clothing Company known as “H&M” decided to remove what became a controversial sweatshirt from its Children’s Clothing Line. At first glance, it is not difficult to see why…


 

"Insensitivity | The H&M Controversy" by Eric Christopher Jackson

Photography by H&M

 


In the Context of American History, the term “monkey” was used as a slight against African-Americans. In short, Black people were seen as uneducated, less than human, even more animalistic compared to other Races alluding to Evolution.

Along with other choice words, terms like this were used to keep the mentality of African-Americans in place. Lacking confidence, dignity, and a real sense of humanity, Black people would never pursue the common American Dream with this mindset.

Over the years, much progress has been made to improve the mentality of African-Americans. We are not confined to the achievements of a Slave or seen as inferior on any Level. However, issues brought up during the recent Presidential Election have ignited the Conversation. How different are we…?


 

"Insensitivity | The H&M Controversy" by Eric Christopher Jackson

Photography by H&M

 


In all honesty, these two little boys share more similarities than differences. Let us look at the features: two eyes, two ears, nose, mouth, hair, able to wear a sweatshirt, and pose for this advertisement. In terms of Race, the only difference is the skin tone…and that was enough to cause division in the History of America.

I have read numerous comments suggesting that too many people are over-reacting. Why would our brain associate the black child with the word, “monkey”? As I stated earlier, this association was made in the past by those prejudice towards Black people. This Past was not so long ago that people have forgotten about it.

Of course, I believe that the Creators of this ‘Message’ at H&M were well-aware of how African-Americans and others supportive of Racial Equality would perceive this Message. Unless you live in a cave and missed American History class, everyone is aware of the negative association.

I find their ‘apology’ meaningless and shameful. How can you purposefully do wrong, then, apologize for doing it? Still, those sympathetic to H&M’s position of simply making a sweatshirt concern me the most.

Insensitivity breeds Insensitivity.

Yes, the time will come when they will want others to be sensitive towards their feelings. When Insensitivity is given, I hope they understand how their remarks from this Controversy could have been better. Everyone is Sensitive about something.

Let us continue to learn how to treat others the way we want to be treated.

Sincerely,
Eric Christopher Jackson

3 comments

  1. henacynflin says:

    An interesting view but I fear I have to disagree. I think it is very unlikely that H&M intended, or purposely wanted, to make disparaging or disrespectful comments which would be seen as racist. Had they known that this was a possible view they would have known it was poisonous to their brand and sales – and when it comes down to it whatever hurts the bottom line is what they wish to avoid.

    • First, I have to say ‘thank you’ for politely disagreeing. I feel like too often there’s a high level of disrespect when it comes to responding to opinions people do not agree with.

      Yes, I do believe that, in general, people who work for H&M know about the negative association because specific people are hired to do such research in the Fashion Industry. It’s a part of their job description and when you work for a global company, how can you miss this issue in America?

      History has shown that Fashion companies tend to push the boundaries, especially when they are well-established. Other companies have had to pull apparel before for going too far or out of bounds.

      Of course, H&M lost money by pulling this sweatshirt, but, not only did they get people talking about the Brand…this financial lost is not going to bankrupt them. They can afford the risk, if anyone can.

      If the sweatshirt about the monkey had ended up on a kid of another ethnicity, then, I could consider this being a mistake. The other kids used in the campaign did not pose in this sweatshirt.

      Finally, this issue made me think of something interesting: Mascots. Every sports team throughout the world has a Mascot. From Soccer and Hockey to Football and Basketball, all the teams have Mascots. I cannot think of a single team whose Mascot is a Monkey from any Sport.

      You can find Tigers, like Detroit, Auburn, and Clemson. You can find Pelicans like in New Orleans. You can even find Ducks like in Oregon. The University of Alabama’s football team is associated elephants. Weird, but no one has a problem. If any of these teams decided to change their Mascot to a Monkey…there would be a problem.

      And not everyone is pleased with using Native Americans as Mascots including the ‘Indians’ and the ‘Redskins,’ which is another negative term. It’s just wrong. We need to get rid of them all. Yet, it’s difficult because to people in charge of making such changes are in powerful positions and don’t like to be told what to do, even when they know they’re wrong.

      • henacynflin says:

        I guess it is quite possible that this issue is more charged in America than over here in Europe. Though I am sorry to say that the negative use of the monkey as an racial epithet was also prevalent here. You raise an interesting point wbout the sports teams and are right that the monkey doesn’t figure as a mascot. Given the animals’ known intelligence and agility it would be an obvious choice as a mascot so you are probably right that it is being deliberately avoided so as not to cause offence. Again this is probably better appreciated in the USA than here as I did find that Hartlepool football team in England had a monkey mascot (and it even won the Mayoral election in 2004!!), though it is an unusual choice.

        You are right that people in power, who make the decisions, don’t like being told what to do and increasingly our world is being run by people who refuse to learn from their mistakes. Perhaps then there is a glimmer of hope in the apology from H&M, maybe they will be more careful not to be abusive in the future. But your thought that they might “push the boundary” just to get people talking about the brand is very worrisome, that would be playing with fire and I hope that there is so much public dislike of racism that it would not be possible for them to use that tactic.

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