H&M accused of racism

An advertisement showing a young black boy wearing a hoodie with the words "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle" has stirred up a storm of criticism against the fashion chain H&M. Critics wonder whether the company was really unaware that the word monkey has long been used as a disparaging term for black people. Europe's press also asks: was the ad a blunder, a poorly judged decision, or both?

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The Independent (GB) /

Lacking sensitivity

This faux pas by H&M has a lot to do with the company's structure, columnist Edward Adoo writes in The Independent:

“A glance at their all-white board of directors tells you everything you need to know. When your executives don't come from diverse racial backgrounds, it makes it supremely difficult for them - and the people who work under them - to understand the hurt and distress caused by words like 'monkey' in the black community. It's imperative to have people who can connect directly with their audience or customer base. This failure should be a wake-up call.”

Echo of Moscow (RU) /

Pure provocation

H&M knew exactly what it was doing, TV presenter Tina Kandelaki writes in her blog with Echo of Moscow:

“Statements like 'Those who get upset at the photo and see similarities between the boy and a monkey have fallen for the provocation and are themselves racist' are circulating online. This logic is shared by the women who supported the MeToo flash mob [at the Golden Globes Awards] by wearing black dresses with plunging necklines and barely covered breasts in protest at sexual harassment. Those who looked at their figures were meant to be castigated as foul sexists. Let's be honest: the actresses who exposed themselves in black were not genuinely opposing harassment. And the advertisers who dressed the young black boy in this hoodie knew full well that they were being provocative.”