H&M in Hot Water after Hoodie Controversy

Clara Buck (12th), Editor-In-Chief

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H&M, the fast fashion retail giant based in Stockholm, Sweden, came under major public fire and scrutiny after an online advertisement of a black child modeling a hoodie with the phrase “Coolest monkey in the jungle” surfaced.

Not only did the controversial garment cause an uproar on social media (most notably Twitter), it has also garnered calls for boycotts and even vandalization of some H&M locations by protesters.

The scandal erupted on January 8th, after the popstar Abel Tesfaye, famously known as The Weeknd, expressed his dismay for the ad on Twitter, writing that he was “deeply offended” by the apparent sentiment behind the phrase and announced he was cutting any ties with the brand.

Tesfaye was not the only celebrity to deprecate H&M. NBA player LeBron James and rappers Diddy and G-Eazy joined in the disapproval of the clothing item.

H&M was prompt in removing the garment from the market and issuing an apology statement after the backlash erupted.

In a statement to The Washington Post, H&M said, “We understand that many people are upset about the image. We, who work at H&M, can only agree. We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print. Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally.”

The company further added, “It is obvious that our routines have not been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.”

Many have taken the position that the hoodie carried negative racial implications considering a black boy modeled it. Others, however, argue that the phrase was blown out of proportion and is trivializing actual instances of racism by mixing in scenarios such as this.

Even the young model’s mother, Terry Mango, feels that the outrage was “unnecessary,” writing on her Facebook, “Am the mum and this is one of hundreds of outfits my son has modelled. Stop crying wolf all the time, unnecessary issue here … get over it.”

In a statement to the BBC, she explained that despite the negative backlash, she does not believe H&M carries a racist agenda.

“I respect other people’s opinion on the issue. I know racism exists, but does the shirt to me speak racism? No it doesn’t,” she told BBC Outside Source.

Mango and her family additionally have chosen to leave their home in Stockholm following “security reasons.”

Despite worldwide reactions, young Liam Mango is unaware of the controversy.

“He has no idea what’s going on, he’s only five… Liam has not experienced [racism yet],” Mrs Mango told BBC. “I just want him to have innocence.”

 

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