Yesterday H&M broke the internet when they displayed an advertisement for one of their new hoodies. On the hoodie read the slogan, “Coolest Monkie in the Jungle,” and wearing the sweater was none other than a young, Black boy. This of course outraged the Black community. H&M later came out with an apology, but that still didn’t stop a major celebrity to back out of his endorsement deal. 

“Woke up this morning shocked and embraced by this photo,” R&B start, The Weekend, stated via his Twitter account. “I’m deeply offended and will not be working with HM anymore.”

Cleveland Cavalier, Lebron James,  was also highly upset about the image. 

While many were offended with H&M’s recent post, a few others didn’t think much of it and believed that we as the Black community may be overreacting and taking things out of proportion. There was recently a Facebook series of discussion to get the debate going to see how the general population felt regarding the H&M controversy. Below is the statement that opened the floor up for discussion: 

“Food for thought: We have an African American culture creator and clothing designer by the name of Pharrell Williams who endorsed a clothing brand, Bathing Ape (BAPE) which featured a logo of an APE. It was supported and worn by millions of black boys worldwide. We have a prominent African American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. that uses an APE as part of their fraternal symbolism. As a matter of fact, they often times act like monkeys in their probates / yard shows by beating their chests and even eating bananas. Yet, they have millions of incredible African American men who are members worldwide (shoutout to my pops). We have H&M that uses a monkey in an advertising campaign and it gets very harsh criticism from the black community. Why don’t any of the afore mentioned get criticized for their attachment to a monkey in relation to black boys / black men when they have strong ties to the black community and produce what some may consider to be parallel symbolism? Sound off. (Be respectful to all opinions in my comments)…”

Here are some of the comments that were made:

“I think it’s similar to the n word situation. The historical context of it is what makes it bad. That is to say when they do it there’s a hidden hate but when we do it then its to take possession and leadership with it. I think HM was more or less pick up a hoodie that actual hey lets put this monkey on the boy though.”
-KG Smith

I love your point here, and also wanted to clarify that this wasn’t even an AD or campaign. It was a product shot on their website, among thousands. I think you bring up such a great point here. I believe brands, like Pepsi, have really messed up in the past and I am somewhat offended by this H&M photo.

However, since I have some insight as to how these HUGE brands shoot their products, and I am not entirely offended. These kids (and models in general) come into these photoshoots and they model in dozens and dozens of clothes in a given day. They shoot many different kids in many different ensembles.

I think people are naive to believe that H&M’s objective was to push a racial agenda. The issue here, I believe, is that they were just ignorant to what they were doing. Another thing to point out, these models take these photos months and months in advance and H&M decides when and where these images will go – if at all! I’m sure this same child could be found in many images across their website.

Have you been on H&M’s website? They have thousands and thousands of products and product images. There is no way that the head of H&M could just sit there and approve or disapprove everything on their site. ESPECIALLY H&M who cycles in-and-out sooo many products. This was not a campaign. This was not a commercial. I am still trying to internalize and decide where I stand with this issue. This will not stop me from shopping at H&M if a need to.

So basically, I agree with the sentiment of this post and your concerns. Looking forward to see people’s feedback. Thank you for feeding us this food for thought.

-Nia Imani Fields

Perspective from a white girl’s standpoint:

That H&M sweatshirt and the product shoot was created by white people who are likely the ones who placed a black child in it for the product shoot. In your earlier examples, those organizations specifically chose to use gorillas in their logos/symbols. They had the power behind those decisions. When you choose to adopt something into your culture, brand, etc, great. When it’s placed there for you by people who haven’t had those cultural experiences, especially when it’s something that has been used in a derogatory way, it feels inappropriate and offensive.

I may have it wrong, so I’m reading this thread to listen and learn.

-Amber Barker Eliason