Enough is enough!
The fashion industry cannot continue to produce blatantly racist clothing, shoes and accessories, and think that is acceptable. More importantly, consumers, especially Black consumers, should seriously think twice about the money that they spend to fund the racism they are being subjected to by many retailers who refuse to think about the ramifications of their actions.
Case in point, there have been a litany of racist incidents over the past year that have been called to the carpet by many people on social media.
Over the past several months, including during Black History Month, several top name-brand retailers, such as Prada, Gucci and Burberry, have found themselves issuing apologies for what many have deemed racist fashion choices that they allowed to roll out to the general public.
In December of last year, a social media post caused tremendous outrage, after someone witnessed a window display at Prada’s SoHo boutique in New York showing a $550 charm that resembled a 19th-century racist blackface minstrel doll character, most commonly referred to as “Sambo,” with large round eyes and huge red lips. Only after being charged up on social media, did Prada think the display was wrong. They subsequently removed the display and issued an apology to the people they allegedly offended through a company statement, saying:
“They are imaginary creatures not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface. Prada Group never had the intention of offending anyone and we abhor all forms of racism and racist imagery.”
Fast forward to February, and social media was on fire after Gucci decided to announce to the world that is was selling an $890 black-knit women’s balaclava turtleneck sweater that featured huge and bright red lips with an opening for the mouth to breathe through and that could be pulled up over the lower half of the person wearing the sweater’s face. The entire look was reminiscent of a blackface character, similar to the Prada gaffe.
Gucci, just like Prada, issued an apology to the people they allegedly offended through a company statement, saying:
“We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make. We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond.”
Then, not even two weeks after Gucci released their latest racist fashion item, Burberry started getting dragged on social media after deciding to have one of their fashion models walk the runway during its show at London Fashion Week, wearing a hoodie with a noose around their neck. Of course, for African Americans, a noose is historically reminiscent of the brutal and barbaric act of lynching that claimed the lives of approximately 3,446 Black people in the United States from 1882 to 1968.
Burberry Chief Creative Officer Riccardo Tisci released a statement, saying:
“I am so deeply sorry for the distress that has been caused as a result of one of the pieces in my show…..While the design was inspired by a nautical theme, I (realize) that it was insensitive. It was never my intention to upset anyone. It does not reflect my values nor Burberry’s and we have removed it from the collection. I will make sure that this does not happen again.”
These recent incidents involving Prada, Gucci and Burberry are not the first incidents to have been recorded, and at this recent pace at the start of 2019, surely may not be the last.
In early 2018, the company H&M faced a social media firestorm after they featured an ad with a young African American child model wearing a hoodie that had the phrase “coolest monkey in the jungle” displayed on it. Of course, the monkey has historically been used as an offensive and racist comparison to Black people in this country.
Then back in 2012, Adidas found itself in hot water after deciding to move forward with a new shoe that featured orange shackles and chains attached to the shoes.
There have been countless other recorded incidents, but the real question that should be posed is why the key representatives for the company did not consider the potential racist implications of their products and actions before releasing it to the general public?
As African Americans, who have a projected buying power in 2022 of $1.54 trillion according to Nielsen’s latest report called “From Consumers to Creators: The Digital Lives of Black Consumers,” it is incumbent on the Black consumers to better understand how their dollars can be used as a tool to teach racist companies a lesson for their racist actions.
African Americans must not simply move on and forget, as if nothing ever happened. African Americans must not take their foot off the gas pedal here and become distracted by the usual written apologies that companies only issue to soften the blow and lessen the backlash.
These companies know exactly what they are doing, and because of that, African Americans should no longer allow these incidents to occur without holding these companies accountable for their actions by withholding their dollars and demanding their respect.