Brooke Obie on Substituting Royalty When Humanity Will Do
Fashion brand H&M raised the ire of many when it released a racist ad of a young black boy in a green hoodie with “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” inscribed on the front. The ad sparked immediate backlash on social media and prompted boycotts of the Swedish retailer. Even one of its celebrity spokesmen, the Weeknd, cut ties with the brand, saying that he was “deeply offended.” The outrage worked and H&M pulled the ad and stopped selling the product.
Rightfully, black people on social media considered the harm the ad could cause to the self-esteem of the boy featured in it. Rallying around him, users created various images of the boy with a crown on his head and “royalty” or “king” inscribed over the offending phrase.
The sentiment is lovely. We should be concerned with the impact the ad might have on him (and all black children), and we should want to build him up. But we can build up this young boy without reinforcing hierarchies among classes of people. The opposite of “monkey” isn’t “royalty”; it’s human.