As we’ve reported in the past, people on social media have been pretty vocal about an advertising campaign put forth by H&M, the clothing retailer that has operates in over 60 countries throughout the world and has well over 4,000 stores. A picture was accused of being racist because it featured a little boy who happened to be black, and he was wearing a hoodie that read “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle”.
Not content to keep their displeasure with the retailer solely on social media any longer, protestors in South Africa actually showed up at an H&M store on Saturday and started trashing the place. Actually, several stores were protested in such a fashion. Racks were pulled down, and clothing was torn from the shelves of the shops. Access to the shops was blocked. Bystanders and shoppers were forced to flee as a result.
Now the stores affected by the protest are forced to remain closed indefinitely.
Spotted outside of the stores were protestors in red t-shirts, and they were dancing and singing. Many were also holding signs, and one of them read: ‘Away with H&M racist tendencies’.
One Twitter user wrote that racism must fall and that “we will never tip toe” around racists.
According to various reports and footage, the protests were conducted by a political party in South Africa known as the Economic Freedom Fighters.
Understandably, police had to be called, and it has been reported that rubber bullets were used to break up the protests.
At this time, it is not known if anyone was hurt as a result of the protesting.
Social media users have been quick to react to the protests, with several insinuating that they had less to do with H&M and more to do with celebrations related to the birthday of the African National Congress party, which is the ruling party of the Republic of South Africa and has been since the 1990’s.
The Economic Freedom Fighters, also known as the EFF, is considered a revolutionary socialist party. It was started in 2013, and is actually South African parliament’s third-largest party. According to their own declarations, they draw inspiration from the Marxist-Leninist tradition. It is known to be critical of the African National Congress Party as well as the other dominant political party in South Africa.
In regard to the advertisement campaign photograph that prompted the protests on Saturday, it is worth pointing out that Terry Mango, the mother of the young boy featured—to the surprise of many—has absolutely no problem with the image or the campaign. She publicly shared her opinion, telling people who have an issue with the picture that they’re essentially overreacting. As she put it, all of the fuss is essentially pointless as well as useless.
She was also present for all of the photo shoots for the controversial ad campaign. She literally told people to “get over it” and to “stop crying wolf” all of the time.
In case anyone is wondering what the fuss is all about regarding the hoodie, the term “monkey” has been used to describe black people in a pejorative way over the years. Therefore, the fact that a black child was used to model an article of clothing upon which the word “monkey” was written generated a ton of controversy—and led to the protests being discussed.
Even though the mother of the child in the advertisement genuinely thinks the whole situation is overblown, a lot of people disagree with her and are making that quite clear via social media. One social media user noted that all of the other children in that particular advertising campaign were white, and also stated it was terribly unprofessional of H&M to allow such a controversial image to appear in an official advertising campaign.
H&M did, shortly after the controversy began, remove the advertisement and garment from its website. In a statement, the retailer admitted to a certain level of wrong doing, saying that it was deeply sorry and need to be aware of and responsive to all racial as well as cultural sensitivities. It insisted that the incident was accidental and took the fact that people were made upset very seriously, adding that it would be more careful in the future.
H&M hasn’t had the best luck in Africa since it first opened stores on the continent a couple of years ago; it has been criticized for using mostly Caucasian models in its ad campaigns. The response from H&M wasn’t taken too kindly to, either.
Unsurprisingly, celebrities are weighing in on this matter. The Canadian singer The Weeknd, has severed his ties with the clothing retailer. The American rapper known as P Diddy has also gotten involved, offering the young boy featured in the controversial advertisement, a modeling contract.