H&M’s major public relations screw-up and racial insensitivity have grazed many nerves. Some feel that it was a minor oversight that shouldn’t be rattling everyone’s feathers as much as it has. Others feel that it was an intentional act no matter how damaging it was to certain groups that will rake in sales and publicity for the now infamous retailer who by the way is frequented by many people of color. I am of the latter opinion.
Racism and discrimination is the bedrock of American society. This nation was founded on the work produced via the sweat, blood, and tears of slaves. We can’t get over it because institutional racism is rampant today. Systematic racism is one of the key reasons for the disparity in health care, the vast differences in educational opportunities afforded to affluent members of society versus the less fortunate, the reason for the differences in housing opportunities and amenities on Central Park, New York not found in the Bronx, NY.
The reason why you may not see a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood or if you do then you now have the issue of gentrification in which you stand a high chance of being “gently” pushed out of your home due to “sudden rising costs of living.” Institutional discrimination is the reason why the wealthy pay fewer taxes in certain areas while the working class finds it difficult to thrive and can often be found living paycheck to paycheck. Contemplate why Kalief Browder was kept in jail on a suspicion of robbery which caused his unfortunate suicide, and then ponder on the reason why Brock Turner was released after spending just three months in jail for raping an unconscious woman.
The fact that Terry Mango, the mother of the young man that modelled the monkey hoodie thinks we’re “crying wolf” is deeply concerning. Blacks have long been compared to monkeys that commit heinous crimes such as stated by The Conversation Africa, the account by Antonio de Torquemada exhibits the process in which Africans are portrayed as wicked. “In the story’s first version (1570), a Portuguese woman was exiled to Africa where she was raped by an ape and had his babies.”
But it’s no big deal, right? Black is scary and dangerous and White is right. This is what we’ve been led to believe. Isn’t this why African and Caribbean men and women are damaging their skin in order to appear lighter? Isn’t this why President Obama and the first lady Michelle Obama were constantly compared to monkeys in caricature form during Obama’s administration?
The first call to action is to delve deep into how racism effects the lives of people of color. It’s not a matter of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. Look at the policies and legislature implemented by each presidential administration and examine how it disenfranchises Blacks. Look at those seemingly subtle comments or rules that are either spoken or unspoken and how they negatively affect the lives of Blacks. It’s time for men and women of color to infiltrate positions that effect change in agriculture, science, laws, housing, education, healthcare, politics, and international affairs.
Next, it’s imperative that African-Americans begin the process of improving the state of their homeland. The first step would be to find out their specific origins and then begin the steps to visiting and finding a need they can fill and are passionate about building upon. Then, not disenfranchising our own by favoritism, greed, and corruption. Create real and solid opportunities for others to thrive.