The H&M Controversy and its Effect on Black Consumerism [Opinion]

In wake of H&M United Kingdom featuring this young black model wearing a hoodie that says ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ going viral, celebrities have used their platforms to re-imagine this hurtful image. The image was first screen-captured by blogger Stephanie Yeboah on Sunday. Since then, the Swedish company has faced criticism for lacking cultural awareness.

Some artists, such as The Weeknd and G-Eazy have even publicly ended their partnerships with the brand.

The debate on whether the image was posted with ill-intent or simply an oversight has been ongoing on all social media. Some believe that H&M’s choosing to have a young black boy wear said hoodie wasn’t a conscious decision.

The real question is if this is really how H&M views the black community. A 2015 Nielsen report revealed that black consumers are becoming more educated and earning more money. This results in a stronger cultural influence and higher buying power. In short, we are one of the top consumers in the world.

We’re going to see a change in the face of America, as multicultural communities and populations grow more. Companies who aren’t addressing that issue now are going to find themselves a bit out of sorts when the minority becomes the majority,” says Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, coauthor of the report and Nielsen’s senior vice president for strategic community alliances and consumer engagement.

It is our duty to use our buying power effectively. It would behoove companies and brands alike to be more cognisant of the power in the black dollar. Having black public figures speak out against brands who are deemed offensive to our community further proves our influence in popular culture.

H&M issued a full statement of apology yesterday:

“Our position is simple and unequivocal– we have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry.”

The fashion brand has also taken down the image and removed the item from sale.

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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.