By Michelby Coco Whitehead
At the 75th Golden Globes Oprah said something that will carry us all throughout the year no matter what we are facing. She said “speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” Therefore, it’s only right that H&M and any other racist companies feel our wrath in 2018. Since the explosion of consumer outrage on yesterday morning, the controversial advertisement of a Black boy in hoodie has been removed from its website and H&M has issued an apology. However, the sad reality is this could happen again with another company. To “stay woke” is to stay ready. Here are four ways we can speak truth to power the next time consumers of color are disrespected.
1. Sharing is caring. Some pseudo activists will say that sharing things of this nature on social media has no effect, but it does. It’s the quickest way to spread awareness. I saw the ad on a colleague’s Facebook page and that led me to writing this blog post. Hashtag, tweet, repost and call these companies on their ignorance. There is a social media manager and a social media coordinator on salary who will see every complaint. *Kanye shrug*
2. Send an email. We’ve had plenty of practice with getting co-workers together via a nice-nasty, professional email, so this shouldn’t be hard at all! Karl-Johan Persson is the CEO of H&M, but I couldn’t be certain if I’d found his LinkedIn account or not because he doesn’t have a profile pic up. However, I found his assistant Carola Ardehn’s profile and she will do just fine to receive some backlash this week. In fact, here is a list of all H&M’s spokespersons who deserve a piece.
3. Blow up their phone line. Use your lunch break to call customer service and let these brands know how distasteful the advertisement is. Don’t yell or use profanity; they expect you to do that. However, do be bold and firm in your stance and keep it brief so the next sister can get through the line.
4. Keep your coins. H&M is cancelled. There’s no way you can convince me that photo shoot was an accident. Those things take planning. One had to cast a model, hire a stylist, hair, makeup, photographer, book a location, etc. to make this racist ad possible. There is nothing coincidental about such a malicious act. It was intentional and we intend not to shop there or anywhere else that views us less than human.
Everything mentioned above is worth the effort; I know from experience! Wet Seal pulled this same stunt almost a decade ago. I was shopping online, and I noticed a T-Shirt that read You can’t keep a ninja down. I sent an email to the customer service department explaining why the company had clearly lost its mind! I appealed to them as a concerned African-American consumer and as recent public relations graduate and tore their marketing efforts to shreds. And voila! The shirts were taken off the website in a couple of hours and I was sent an apology email. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only person to speak up about it. But just in case you need to be reminded again, speaking your truth is the most powerful tool you have. So say something.
Update: Singer ‘The Weeknd’ who has collaborated with the brand on a few occasions has since cut ties with them sharing on twitter, “woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. i’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore…”