H&M are now facing even greater backlash after selling a hoodie which many deemed as racist.
The high street clothing brand apologised last week for using a black model to market a children’s hoodie which included the message, ‘The coolest monkey in the jungle.’
Many people were outraged with the connotation of the phrase and the racial implication of a black child being a ‘monkey’, especially when other hoodies in the same range were modelled by white children.
Users on Twitter were incensed and made their feelings towards the brand publicly known.
There were calls for a boycott of the store, with numerous celebrities, such as The Weeknd, denouncing the brand and deciding to cut their ties with the popular chain.
— Floyd Shivambu (@FloydShivambu) January 13, 2018
Now, the unrest has heightened and because of numerous protests, H&M have decided to temporarily close their South African stores.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – a South African radical militant group started by expelled former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) President Julius Malema in 2013 – headed to malls in the capital Johannesburg, as well as Boksburg, to protest the hoodie, reports The Independent.
#EFF protesters have shut down #H&M in Canal Walk Cape Town because they are furious over the company's #coolestmonkeyinthejungle t-shirt modelled on a black child. @TeamNews24 pic.twitter.com/NfwLC9pKiw
— Jenni Evans (@itchybyte) January 13, 2018
The police reportedly used rubber bullets on the protestors in order to try to break up the crowds.
Various other outlets, including The Local, are reporting the protesters tore up the stores, knocked over racks of clothing and ripped apart mannequin displays
In a statement, a H&M South Africa representative said:
What matters most to us is the safety of our employees and customers. We have temporarily closed our stores in South Africa. None of our staff or customers have been injured.
We continue to monitor the situation closely and will open the stores as soon as the situation is safe again.
Yesterday, January 15, representatives from South Africa’s Democratic Alliance (DA), announced they’d be reporting the company to the country’s Chamber of Commerce, saying it violated their marketing standards and ideals.
In a statement the DA said:
The DA will also write to H&M South Africa to express our deep concern over this tasteless advert which evokes painful sentiments among Black South Africans as well as the Black community abroad.
The displays of violence at H&M stores across the country are totally unacceptable and violence is no way to fight racism but only compounds it.
@hm this is disgusting & irresponsible. You know the history of racist using the term “monkey” to demean people of African descent… and you put this on your website! ???? “Coolest Monkey In the Jungle” #SMH pic.twitter.com/IY877D2d8R
— Karamo Brown (@KaramoBrown) January 8, 2018
As a country, South Africa has been fraught with racial tension and incidents of discrimination, including its Apartheid, which legally segregated black South Africans from white South Africans from 1948 to 1991.
A spokesperson for H&M United Kingdom and Ireland said they’d be monitoring their other stores in light of the recent events:
We are monitoring the security situation closely and the stores are open if we have assessed the situation to be safe.
We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable.
We would like to stress that our store staff had no part in this poorly judged product and image.
At the time of writing, H&M haven’t yet officially announced when it would be re-opening their stores in South Africa.