Last week H&M became yet another brand to find itself in a PR disaster caused by racial insensitivity. While having a Black boy model a hoodie that reads “Coolest money in the jungle,” was probably not meant to be malicious, it was definitely tone deaf. It showed a complete lack of knowledge and/or understanding of the Black point of view.
Because of this, the Sweedish brand announced on Tuesday via Facebook that they would be appointing a diversity leader. This is interesting to me because I’ve seen many people say on social media that incidents such as the monkey hoodie highlight why people of color should have a voice in the conversation when companies make decisions. I’m sure that H&M saw these sentiments as well and this is their attempt at giving the people what they want.
However, I’m not sure that’s enough. While I’ll always be an advocate for people of color having a seat at the table, at this point that shouldn’t be necessary to make better decisions. Being tone deaf stems from ignorance, but there is really no excuse for this kind of ignorance.
We live in an extremely social world in which brands have the ability to truly get to know their consumers and how we think. Moreover, we’re currently in a period in which race/racism is an extremely sensitive topic. Simply paying attention would have alerted H&M that putting a little Black boy in anything that said “monkey” probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
Similarly, simply paying attention (and actually caring) would’ve prevented the makeup brand Tarte from only creating three shades that could possibly work for women of color when they formulated their new Shape Tape Foundation. While reviewing the product, Alissa Ashley stated that we shouldn’t have to beg for inclusion anymore which led to me adopting the same attitude towards all offensive acts from brands.
We should no longer have to ask a brand to consider our point of view after they do something wrong because not initially considering our point of view is a choice. It’s a choice to be ignorant and/or lazy. H&M appointing a diversity leader to prove that its “commitment to addressing diversity and inclusion is genuine” would have felt much more “genuine” if it was done proactively rather than reactively.
Be the zeitgeist.