The last couple of days has seen an image of a jumper from H&M go viral. I thought I’d ask people’s opinions on Twitter to see what everyone was thinking, and one thing has become increasingly apparent.
Everybody has an opinion, but a lot of people forget that until you’ve been in a situation, or you’re the one offended, we don’t have the right to state whether or not something is offensive. As a white female who has rarely had a racist remark made about me, I don’t know anything about the word used, or how it would make somebody feel. But I can imagine that if you had previously been called that word in a negative or abusive way, seeing it on a child in a jumper would be nothing short of sickening.
Working in marketing, I’m amazed that the image was allowed to slip through the net. I doubt it was done on purpose, as a multinational company such as H&M would surely be aware of the implications of doing something that awful, however it clearly has somehow happened. Hundreds of people would have seen the image, from the set directors, to the shoot’s wardrobe team, the parents of the kids, the photographer, the design team, editing team, managers and website team. It’s unbelievable that nobody stepped in and said it shouldn’t be used.
However, as somebody who is privileged enough to have been brought up not even seeing race as a thing, I can see how you could pop a seemingly harmless jumper on a child model without giving it a second thought. At first I thought it was crazy that a kid’s jumper was causing so much controversy, but then thinking about the the connotations and what it actually means to people, I can understand.
I said something on Twitter which seems to have been taken the wrong way by some. Working in early years’ childcare for six years, ‘cheeky monkey’ was a phrase which children used, parents used, and we also sometimes used. We even had a board game called Cheeky Monkeys and invented our own version in the garden. Obviously this was never in a racist context.
The problem here is the lack of thought which has gone into a photoshoot which most people could foresee causing offence. Unfortunately, there are still racist people in the world, and the damage caused by narrow-minded people being like this will not quickly be forgotten, nor will the pain it has caused.
Either way, the kid is very cute. And I’m sure H&M will be more cautious with their choice of clothing in photoshoots… as will other brands.