H&M has shown racial insensitivity before- Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

CAPE TOWN – While H&M deals with the furore that has erupted following what has been labelled a racist advert, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said on Monday that it was not the first time that H&M has come under scrutiny regarding racial insensitivity.

“In 2015, the company came under criticism from a social media user for not featuring black models following the opening of their stores in South Africa. The company’s response via Twitter implied that white models were featured to create a ‘positive image’,” Neeshan Balton, the foundation’s executive director said in a statement.

“These two incidents are perhaps indicative of the type of ignorance that continues to prevail around issues related to race, perhaps not only at H&M, but in the broader advertising sector and in society in general.”

The retail brand recently caused outrage when it showed a black child wearing a sweatshirt with the words “Coolest monkey in the jungle” printed on it. The company has since apologised and removed the image and the sweater from retail. They also said they were “investigating internally to ensure this can’t ever happen again”.

The foundation has since requested a meeting with the company about how “such racist adverts could have passed by the company’s marketing team, and its management, without the racial undertones being picked up”. They have sent a letter to its global headquarters and the South African office.

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