H&M Scandal: A Racist Children’s Hoodie

Raven Haynes, Staff Writer

For centuries black people haven’t been seen a people, they’ve been seen as property, tools or animals. Sadly, this is still happening today. When the Swedish fashion retailer H&M had a 5-year-old black Swedish boy named Liam Mango modelling a hoodie with “coolest monkey in the jungle” on the front there were mixed opinions. Some people did not see this as an act of racism, for example Liam’s mother, Terry Mango, told BBC that people need to stop “crying wolf” and stated, “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,” to BBC Outside Source.

Others such as The Weeknd, LeBron James and G-Eazy saw the photo as a display of racism from H&M. The Weeknd cut ties with the retailer and tweeted “woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. I’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore…” LeBron James took to Instagram posting an edited version of the photo by Chris Classic that said “KING OF THE WORLD” across the top and a crown on the boy’s head and one across where the “coolest monkey in the jungle” print was. G-Eazy ended his partnership with H&M and stated on Instagram that this picture was “truly sad and disturbing” and he hopes that the response to this photo will serve as a “…wake up call that H&M and other companies need to get on track and become racially and culturally aware, as well as more diverse at every level.” Protests even erupted as a response to the photo; South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters vandalized a H&M. Even with the apology, withdrawal of the product and picture the EFF according to AfricaNews stated, “This is not enough.”

I wasn’t angry or shocked when the photo came out, the feeling that came from it was more irritated. I felt irritated because no one thought that the photo should be stopped from coming out. This photo had to go through different levels of approval and yet no one felt that it was wrong to put out to the public.

Since the mother allowed her son to take the picture in the first place those at H&M most likely assumed that everything was fine. They didn’t take into account the feelings of black communities around the world and what the word “monkey” could encompass when a black person is involved. Which as a global company they need to be aware of and it seems they are attempting to take steps in the right direction. After their apology stating, “Our position is simple and unequivocal – we have got this wrong and are deeply sorry.” The retailer appointed a diversity leader, Annie Wu, and according to the Huffington Post it’s still unclear what her responsibilities are.

Hopefully this makes more companies wake up and realize the public’s tolerance for any sort of racism is low and aren’t afraid to voice their opinions about it.