raceAhead: Everyone’s Mad at H&M

A new advertisement from H&M has the public, including some very high profile celebrities, crying foul.

The ad, which showed an adorable black boy modeling a hooded sweatshirt that said “coolest monkey in the jungle,” was met with widespread derision.

The Canadian singer, The Weeknd, tweeted the offending image and this: “[W]oke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. i’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore..” The singer, whose name is Abel Tesfaye, had previously collaborated with the Sweden-based company on a collection and modeled their clothing.

LeBron James edited the offensive language out of the image and posted a new one on Instagram, with the child wearing a “King James” crown. “African Americans will always have to break barriers,” he wrote.

The company rushed to apologize yesterday.

“We sincerely apologize for this image. It has been now removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in the United States,” H&M said in an email statement to Fortune.

The issue is not just a cute kid in a bad hoodie.

The animalization of black people has roots in slavery, a strategic gambit to justify the abuse of other human beings that is impressive in its simplicity and endurance.

Neal A. Lester, an English professor and the founding director of Project Humanities at Arizona State University explains how the ugly underpinnings that inspired the backlash live on today, in an essay on TeachingTolerance.org:

Add incidents, headlines, illustrations and images of black people as primates to historical pseudo-scientific efforts to equate black people to animals, and you challenge the notion of a supposed 21st-century post-racial United States head on. Such is the case with former Charleston Daily Mail columnist Don Surber, who described Ferguson, Missouri, teen Michael Brown as an “animal” that had to be “put down.”

It could be President Obama imagined as a chimpanzee in a 2009 New York Post cartoon about his stimulus package, Serena Williams compared to the racing horse American Pharoah or Saartjie Barrtman being paraded around Europe as a “freak show.” It could be the depiction of Little Black Sambo, who whets the appetites of three tigers in the popular 1899 children’s book by Helen Bannerman, or the reality of black babies used as alligator bait. New or old, real or imagined, these examples and countless others show that U.S. race relations inextricably connect the past with the present.

As always, when incidents like these happen, it is correct to call for diverse teams and better processes that screen out racist and culturally insensitive concepts. But this monkey business isn’t expertise. It shouldn’t be the domain of a select few. This is us, our shared history. Unless everyone knows it and owns it, we are all doomed to repeat it, one image at a time.

On Point

Also, everyone is mad at CESIt’s not just the lack of women speakers on the main stage. “Oh they’re pitting the human strippers against the robot strippers now in the spirit of innovation,” tweeted tech/culture reporter Taylor Lorenz, reporting live from Las Vegas. The robot dancers, named R2-DD and Triple CPU, gyrated alongside human dancers at a CES-themed party at the Sapphire, a Las Vegas strip club. The robots were flown in from London, said the club manager, in a bid to attract more women and CES attendees, who might enjoy the robotic dance-off and the club's silicone valley jokes, and oh my God, I can’t even finish this sentence.The Daily Beast

James Damore is mad at Google
Famous memo-writer James Damore has sued his former employer citing allegations that Google discriminates against white men. “Google’s management goes to extreme — and illegal — lengths to encourage hiring managers to take protected categories such as race and/or gender into consideration as determinative hiring factors, to the detriment of Caucasian and male employees and potential employees at Google,” the suit reads. Damore is joined by another former Google engineer in his suit.

Everybody is mad that every other body wants Oprah to run for president
Will she or won’t she? She shouldn’t either way, says Ira Madison III. Oprah’s story is inspirational and aspirational, he says. But “being a celebrity shouldn’t be a prerequisite for running our country,” he says. Get a grip, says Paul Waldman. “Politics has never been immune to other brands of magical thinking, and there are few more powerful ideas among voters than the notion that there’s really nothing to being an officeholder,” he says.  I’ll give Dahlia Lithwick the last word. The debate we’re having about Oprah's possible run is a side note to what she told us to actually do. “What I heard in her speech wasn’t a bid to save us all, but rather a powerful charge to the young girls watching at home to tell their own stories, to fight for their own values, and to battle injustices with the certainty that they will be seen and heard,” she writes.

New Jersey state prisons reverse a ban on “The New Jim Crow” book after the ACLU got mad
After lots of people, including the ACLU, raised a serious fuss, the state’s Department of Corrections reversed its ban on Michelle Alexander’s 2012 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, a definitive look at the link between racism and mass incarceration. According to the ACLU, New Jersey has the worst black-white incarceration in the U.S. “That the very prisoners who experience the worst racial disparity in incarceration in the country should be prohibited from reading a book whose precise purpose is to examine and educate about that disparity adds insult to injury,” they said in a statement.
Huffington Post

The Woke Leader

Weirdly, nobody is really mad at Don Lemon anymore
In this latest edition of Gimlet’s juicy podcast, The Nod, culture writer Ira Madison III weighs in on a fascinating topic. Remember when CNN’s Don Lemon, the host of CNN Tonight was all about the respectability talk –  lecturing black folks to pull up our saggy pants, stop using the N-word, respect where we live,  speak proper English, etc.? Well that Don Lemon seems to have transmogrified into someone else, namely a person who has smart takes on the Confederate flag and NFL knee-taking. So what happened? Madison starts with a Magneto reference (X-Men) and then says that in part, Lemon shifted because it suddenly works to be political. “It’s a slow transition,” he said. But host Eric Eddings isn’t so sure it’s a good one. “It’s kind of late, bruh,” he says. Is Don Lemon good for black people or nah?
The Nod

Kids in the U.S. are 70% more likely to die before adulthood than kids in other wealth countries. You mad yet?
The research, published yesterday in the journal Health Affairs, finds that the U.S. lags behind other wealthy, democratic countries on a variety of factors, leading to increasingly poor outcomes for kids. “In all the wealthy, democratic countries we studied, children are dying less often than they were 50 years ago,” said the study’s lead author. “But we found that children are dying more often in the United States than in any similar country.” Since 1961, that accounts to roughly 600,000 deaths that wouldn’t have occurred if the children had been born and raised elsewhere.

Meet Rebecca Aguilar, the journalist behind Latinas in Journalism
Yes, she’s mad, but mostly she’s determined. The Dallas-based former television reporter’s answer to the pipeline problem, namely, finding qualified Latinas in media, is a Facebook page with more than 1,400 members sharing stories, job notices, news stories, and advice. It’s filling a real gap: The 2017 RTDNA Women and Minorities in Newsrooms report shows that Latinas make up 8.7% of the workforce in English-language television and less than half of the 87.6% of the Latino workforce in Spanish-language television.  Latinas comprised about just 2.47% of the workforce in U.S. newspaper newsrooms, according to the 2017 ASNE, Google News Lab Diversity Survey.
Media Shift


We were all ranked together at the valuation. Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses and men, cattle and women, pigs, and children, all holding the same rank in the scale of being and were all subject to the same narrow examination.
Frederick Douglass

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