Karamo Brown has the right idea: Maybe, instead of turning our backs on H&M, we start a conversation with the brand.
It was just a few months ago when H&M’s “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” sweatshirt, worn by a young Black boy in their ad, went viral and stoked the flames of racism and cultural insensitivity in the masses that saw it. Instantly, many Black consumers called for a boycott and banished the affordable brand from all cookouts. And while withholding the Black dollar has been a successful tactic in forcing the concerns of our community be heard, it isn’t the only one — and Brown decided in this situation, it wasn’t the right one.
As someone with a relationship with the retailer, Karamo used that leverage to garner a conversation with the executives, one in which he was able to help H&M navigate the complexities of cultural insensitivity and also help the 71-year old company create tangible changes to ensure better cross-cultural relationships.
In an exclusive statement to HH, Karamo revealed what fueled his desire to do more than just boycott and how the brand is taking steps to avoid insensitive situations in the future:
“I am very excited to share a project I am doing with H&M very soon. Prior to partnering with H&M, I was aware of H&M’s controversy – an image on their website portrayed a child of African decent wearing a hoodie with the slogan “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”. Rather than rejecting the idea of working with H&M all together, I decided to use this as an opportunity to start a conversation with the company about cultural sensitivity. In no way do I support the use of that image, but in order to see change, I knew I needed to use this partnership as an opportunity to reach out in hopes of starting a thoughtful and intentional conversation with this brand that I love so much and have patronized for so long. I met with executives at H&M to discuss how the company could ensure, through practical training and tools, an elimination of cross-cultural misunderstanding and, instead encourage positive cross-cultural relationships going forward. I was excited by their desire to create new checks and balances to keep everyone working with and for H&M accountable, so that they can prevent these instances from happening in the future. I plan to continue to meet with executives and employees to ensure they are building on the foundation and tools they have already enacted to become even more culturally competent and lead the way in this area going forward.”
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