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STOCKHOLM – Top prize for managing to miss the point in spectacular fashion goes to all those who went to great lengths to express their offence at the recent H&M advert showing a black child in a green hoodie bearing the words ‘Coolest monkey in the jungle’.

The advert caused a huge backlash on that well known bastion of cool headed, rational debate, Twitter, so much so that the model in the green hoodie has now been removed from the H&M website, although at the time of writing two similar designs modelled by white children remain.

In the UK, Labour MP Kate Osamor tweeted: “I was totally shocked, dismayed to say the very least, to find this online image. hm do you think this imagery is an appropriate representation of a young black boy?”

Another Twitter user wrote: “It’s a projection of your neocolonial thinking.”

The implication here, of course, is that there are racist undertones to the H&M advert. But who, truly, is the racist here? Those in H&M’s marketing department who dressed the models for this advert clearly only saw a young child when preparing the photoshoot and choosing what the children should wear; that is opposed to a young black child. Skin colour was irrelevant to them, and isn’t that the way it ought to be? Their only mistake was in assuming that all those viewing the advert would have a similarly mature and enlightened approach.

If people want to criticise H&M that is their right. But shouldn’t they be focusing on the issues that really matter? The company’s adoption of a fast fashion business model which makes inefficient use of the world’s precious resources, and the economic exploitation workers in South East Asia are two which spring to mind.


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