Was the H&M controversy a ploy devised by the company for attention?

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by Elaijah Gibbs-Jones

The image of an African American child modeling an H&M sweatshirt that stated, “Coolest monkey in the jungle,” has caused major controversy across the nation. Following the release of the photo on the retailer’s website, H&M immediately received backlash for the ad. Celebrities from Lebron James to Snoop Dogg began voicing their opinions on the product and the lack of racial sensitivity from H&M.

According to CBS Moneywatch, the photo was posted on H&M’s website in U.K. stores allowing their customers to boycott the company altogether. Additionally, celebrities such as The Weeknd, who joined advertising campaigns for H&M in September of 2017, displayed his displeasure with the sweatshirt on Twitter and decided to terminate his advertising campaign with the company.

Outrage sparked throughout the Twitter community and a variety of people had opinions on the H&M controversy. One Twitter user alluded to the comparison between the black child’s hoodie and the hoodie a white child modeled for another H&M product.

In contrast to the “Coolest monkey” hoodie, the white model’s hoodie had the words “survival expert” plastered across it.

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For the time being, the social media backlash against H&M has significantly affected the company’s branding. Music Producer, Alex Medina tweeted, “In the year 2018 there’s no way brands/art directors can be this negligent and lack awareness.”

After CNN confirmed that H&M apologized and removed the photo of the child off their site, Medina also made a few training suggestions for their company. “I hope they [H&M] work to invest in cultural competency and sensitivity training for their staff and hire directors that would catch this sort of thing,” Medina added in another tweet.

According to Entertainment Weekly, other social media users displayed their disgust by uplifting the young model. @mrchrisclassic posted the H&M photo, but added “King of the World”, changed the H&M logo to SHAME, and placed a crown to cover the hoodie’s original slogan.

The instagram user added “I made this because I don’t wanna see this young Kings face anymore with the shirt he was hired to wear by H&M. I’m almost certain the Persson Family and their $31 Billion won’t care in Sweden but… this lil guy will see his pics and the mockery one day because the internet doesn’t erase… so I just hope he gets to see this one or any like it that celebrate him,” as the caption to the post.

Although the company removed and apologized for the photograph of the young black model on Monday, January 8th, 2018, the shirt still remains on their website for sale. Resulting in more backlash from celebrities and consumers.

Of course, young adults are always subject to making light of situations like this one. With memes, social media comedians, and gifs, every problem can be utilized for humor. For example, posts that have sayings such as, “Boycotting H&M isn’t the answer. The answer is stealing their clothes” have arised.

One Twitter user even posted a photo of a chimpanzee dressed in a suit and added the caption, “If @hm offers me 5 million dollars.” Displaying that the young child most likely did not care about the sweatshirt. He cared about the money.

However, other young adults are choosing to take this situation more seriously, and feel strongly about it. Some even believe H&M was aware of the uproar their campaign ad would cause.

“I feel that H&M made a trifling move to uproar the black community, and they had a motive behind their campaign. There’s no way that they couldn’t have thought this would be seen as wrong,” said North Carolina A&T Freshman, Teyah Glenn.

Questions about the sweatshirt are still lingering and the backlash is continuing to flow. Many are looking to boycott the retailer and H&M could potentially lose a substantial amount of money in the upcoming future.

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