The uproar started on Sunday evening when Twitter users noticed that H&M was advertising a green hooded top that read “Coolest monkey in the jungle”, which was being modelled by a young black boy.
Some Twitter users have demanded an explanation of how something of this nature could be allowed to happen, questioning how this advert could have gone through an entire marketing team without anyone noticing.
By Monday morning, the UK H&M site, which had posted the advert, had withdrawn it and the image of the boy in the garment could not be found.
Amelia-May Woudstra from H&M group’s press and communications department said: “We sincerely apologise for offending customers with an image of a printed hooded top that was published on selected global online channels.
This is disgusting & degrading putting this little boy in a hoodie that says coolest monkey in the jungle! Knowing the history of people associating black people with monkeys! Who approved this? @hm @hm @hm pic.twitter.com/W4boZFx4Fs
"The image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in South Africa."
Some Twitter users were taken aback and demanded answers from the retail giant, with @CWatkinsTV saying: “Uh oh, @hm. Can y’all explain why a black boy was selected to model a hoodie that says, ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’? Someone didn’t think this through.”
Other Twitter users had stronger reactions and opinions on the matter, with @bkmsang claiming that H&M was using racism as an advertising ploy.
Urm?? H&M. So you put the black boy in a "coolest monkey in the jungle" hoody but the white boy as the "survival expert". Since when was one human and the other an animal. Can't tell me you didn't think this through!! I know they're kids and all but?? .I dunno yall pic.twitter.com/e4cLMWxP5z
She tweeted: “I’m starting to think ‘these people’ are being racist for publicity! This is racist & insensitive. This beautiful boy doesn’t even know what @hm is making out of him! A whole team shootin & no one saw what's wrong with this?”
Twitter also recalled the racist incident in which realtor Penny Sparrow referred to black people as monkeys, with @SeedAforika saying: “We always start the new year on a racist note... last time it was Penny Sparrow and now it’s H&M @hm. Nothing new... it’s exhausting.”
Other users were enraged enough to demand a boycott of the clothing brand, with @fola_toye saying: “H&M is a racist company, boycott its products.”
However, other users were just as quick to jump to the brand’s defence, with @kieranpatel98 saying: “This whole thing about H&M is stupid... it’s not at all racist, it’s simply a kid modelling the hoodie. The only thing that makes it racist is people viewing it as the stereotype of black people being deemed monkeys. Views like this are what keeps stereotyping and racism alive.”
This isn't the first time that the H&M group has been accused of racism.
In 2015 ahead of the opening of their Sandton and Cape Town stores the group had to do damage control after implying that black models did not present a “positive image” while replying to a tweet.