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            Thursday, January 11, 2018

            So, About That H&M Monkey Ad...

            So, while this blog was on an 18 month-ish hiatus, a lotta shit's happened. We have a new President. Rappers now are judged solely by how many bright colors they have in their hairstyle. 7 footers in the NBA routinely pull and pop 3 pointers. It snowed in Charleston, SC. For Christmas.[1]

            One thing that hasn't changed is racism. America's Original Sin[2] still persists, and it shows up in some of the most unlikely places. Plenty of people were rightfully enraged earlier this week when an a photo on the H&M website went viral, showing a little black boy wearing a hoodie with the words "The Coolest Monkey In The Jungle". People questioned why a multinational apparel company would do something so utterly dumb in 2018. Where the black folks in the room were, assuming there were any when this decision made, and why they didn't say anything. But one question was most pervasive... "Where in the hell were this boy's parents?"

            Turns out, , and thinks everyone outraged is "crying wolf".
            The mother of a black child featured in a photo shoot slammed as racist has said that those outraged by the image of her son are “crying wolf,” according to reports.

            Swedish clothing giant H&M was forced to issue repeated apologies after the page for a hoodie available in Europe featured an image of the boy with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle” on his chest. Social media users took note that a white child in a similar hoodie was a “survival expert” and decried the company as insensitive to the history of “monkey” being used as a slur against black people.

            “Stop crying wolf all the time, unnecessary issue here ......... get over it,” a woman who said she was the mother of the boy claimed in Facebook messages published on social media.

            She said that she was at the shoot and that everyone is entitled to have an opinion about it, but that outrage was “not my way of thinking.”

            The comments were reported by multiple news outlets, though the woman connected to the account, who lives in Sweden, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily News.

            After originally sending the News a terse apology saying that they were sorry if people took offense to the image, H&M has stopped selling the hoodie and said it will do “everything we possibly can to prevent this from happening again in the future.”
            This entire story has me conflicted in a million different ways.

            First and foremost, I love H&M. It's trendy, good quality clothing at great prices. A solid percentage of my wardrobe is from there. I'm wearing a damn H&M hoodie right now as I type this. So when black folks were calling for widespread boycotts of a clothing store most have never even visited, I was like "nah breh, I'm good."

            On the flipside, there's no doubt that the imagery was bad, especially given the long history of the use of the word "monkey" in derogatory manner here in the US. I wouldn't put my kids in that hoodie, regardless of how awesome a sale price it would be offered at.

            That said, this mother doesn't live in the US. She's Swedish (yes, for those who don't know, there ARE black people in Sweden. I've been there, I've seen them firsthand. They aren't in large numbers, but they exist). Perhaps the phrase "monkey" doesn't carry the same connotation there, or maybe it does and this mom doesn't feel offended by it. The way that people jumped on this story and talked about the child model in paternalistic phrases like "Young King" as if this child was somehow an orphan who stumbled into a photo shoot and was exploited by Evil Yakubians rubbed me the wrong way. As a parent with kids who have done such work, I know that's seldom the case. There's always a parent or guardian present, and those parents do have a say so in how their children's images are being used. This mom had to issue, and in the grand scheme of things, her opinion should matter more than anyone else's.

            Should H&M have been a bit smarter? Sure. Would black people in the room (or God forbid a focus group) have maybe given them some valuable insight? Probably. But ultimately, there's one person (two if his Dad, who wasn't mentioned, is around) who's responsible here.

            Question: Was this mother wrong? Do you get her rationale? Are you happy the blog is back?

            [1] Maybe it was slightly before/after, but still, IT SNOWED ON THE BATTERY!

            [2] Is the Original Sin slavery, or racism? I forget. It's been a minute.