H&M’s hoodie is not racist

I’m a bit left wing, I support gay marriage, I don’t believe I am racist (apart from the natural racism that most of us white Western folk exhibit without realising it) and I would never judge anyone on the basis of a religious belief.

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I do not believe, however, that H&M posted a racist photo on its website and was disappointed to see such an explosion of ‘offended’ from the usual social media snowflakes who like to be offended.

I hate the term snowflake because it is something that very right-wing people often throw at the rest of society to backup their extreme views, but in this case it sort of applies.

We do seem to be in a period where almost anything can be construed as offensive if it is not 100% down the centre line. The people who get offended like to believe that they embrace difference yet they often fail to understand that we are all different and that there will be things posted publicly that could ‘very slightly’ be offensive.

In this case H&M posted a photo of a black child wearing a hoodie with the words ‘Coolest monkey in the jungle’ written on it. If those who purport to be offended are above racism why can they not see it for what it is? The word ‘monkey’ in the context of the hoodie is obviously not meant to signify a derogatory slang description of a black person. ‘Monkey’ has been used to describe children for some time and if I am honest, had I seen the image without the sensationalism next to it I would likely have thought nothing of it.

Sure, it could be argued that someone in H&M should have thought about the possible connotations, but the backlash is ridiculous and surely most reasonable people would not see it is racist or deliberate.

Look at the image above and the tweet from The Weeknd. The tweet may as well have read ‘I hear that many people are upset so I will jump on the bandwagon and publicise myself as a great person’.

Am I seeing this too lightly or have we gone past a point where almost anything could be classed as offensive?

UPDATE:

I don’t think middle aged white dudes get to safely declare something “not racist” even more than I doubt the virtue-signaling snowflake brigade get to declare something as “clearly racist” Kirk

4 thoughts on “H&M’s hoodie is not racist

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYITxGniww4 speaks to this.
    I think there are some guidelines in the USA – where 150 odd years ago you could own a person, and a whole lot of jim crow more recently than that – that might be stricter than in the UK. And specifically, a group of humans who were treated as animals, and a legacy of using that phraseology even to this day.

    With racism, I think there’s racism intent in the speaker (which well might not apply here), racism interpreted by members of a targeted group (which may or may not apply here) and racism as identified by possible “snowflakes” who are basically well-meaning and want people to err on the side of caution and human dignity. yes, there might be some clickbait-grabbing and “virtual signaling”/mere posturing in that, but it’s also a mistake to think we can only look to intent. It’s really not that hard to avoid racially sensitive landmines.

    1. And – again, probably by coincidence – hoodies are especially contentious, seeing the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.

      I don’t think middle aged white dudes get to safely declare something “not racist” even more than I doubt the virtue-signaling (sorry for the earlier typo) snowflake brigade get to declare something as “clearly racist”

  2. Shaun, you may well be right. Let’s give H&M the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t intentionally racist. After all, that would be stupid. However, one of most important rules of advertising is, or should be, who might this offend. And for an interconnected world, you have to know that anything published is going world wide. So while not stupid, perhaps not intelligent enough?

    I remember many years ago sitting in a room with some marketing folks reviewing an ad for a product I managed. I asked about something on the draft because I didn’t see why it was there, but it stood out enough to notice. They said that I just didn’t understand. Maybe so, but if I didn’t understand, neither would the target audience because they were like me.

    This is likely a case as Shaun suggests where there was no racist intent but there was not enough oversight either. Obviously most people just didn’t understand. Unfortunately for H&M, that was their target market.

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