H&M apologizes for racist ad, triggering protests in South Africa

By Reuters/Alexander Winning, Anna Ringstrom   January 14, 2018 | 10:29 am GMT+7
H&M apologizes for racist ad, triggering protests in South Africa
A picture taken on 13 January 2018 in Sandton City shopping mall in Johannesburg shows the H&M clothing store closed after members the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party stormed the store in protest of a alleged racist slogan printed on a hoodie that caused uproar on social media. Swedish clothing giant H&M on January 8 said it had withdrawn from sale a green hoodie with the inscription "coolest monkey in the jungle" after an ad featuring a black child triggered racism accusations. Photo by AFP/Wikus De Wet

The ad featured a black child wearing a sweatshirt that says 'coolest monkey in the jungle'. 

Fashion group H&M apologized earlier this week for an advertisement featuring a black child modelling a sweatshirt with the slogan "coolest monkey in the jungle" and said it had removed it from all its marketing.

The ad was widely criticized for being racist, including by Canadian pop star The Weeknd, who collaborated with H&M, the world's second-largest clothing group, on two collections in 2017. He said he would not do so again after seeing the advertisement.

"woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. i’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore...," The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, said in a tweet late on Monday.

The word 'monkey' has long been used by some as a racial slur.

Swedish H&M said in an emailed statement it fully understood and agreed with The Weeknd's reaction to the image.

H&M racist ad triggered backlash on social media. The ad was later removed from their website. Photo via H&M website. 

H&M racist ad triggered backlash on social media. The ad was later removed from their website. Photo via H&M website. 

"We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print," it said, adding that it would now look into its internal practices to avoid similar situations in the future.

Other celebrities criticizing the advertisement via social media included U.S. rap star Diddy and basketball star LeBron James. 

Protests in Johannesburg

Protesters angered by a "racist" H&M advertisement ransacked several of the Swedish fashion group's South African stores on Saturday.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) protesters targeted six H&M stores in the Gauteng province, where South Africa's economic hub of Johannesburg is located, tearing down shop displays and throwing clothes around, police said.

In one instance, officers fired rubber bullets to disperse the protesters, the police added.

But Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, spokesman for the ultra-left EFF, said that was too little, too late.

"The time of apologies for racism are over; there must be consequences to anti-black racism, period!" Ndlozi wrote on Twitter, posting pictures of a vandalized H&M store and video footage of chanting EFF supporters.

H&M South Africa did not respond to a request for comment, but its local website carried an apology for the advertisement.

Police said they were monitoring the protests, but that they had made no arrests so far.

Protests over perceived corporate wrongdoing have a history of turning violent in South Africa, where some drivers for ride-hailing service Uber have had their vehicles torched over the past year by regular taxi operators.

 
 
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