H&M just lost my business.
As a Black mother of a son, 20, and daughter, 13, the racist historical context of dressing my younger son in a sweatshirt that reads, “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle,” is deafening.
My first thought: “Does this boy’s parents understand that wearing clothing that depicts Black people as animals relies on the notion that Black people are inferior to whites?” What mother in her right mind would want to put that on her child?
The mom at the center of the controversy, Terry Mango, of Stockholm, Sweden, reportedly co-signed the shenanigans. For Mango it was business as usual.
In a series of now-deleted Facebook posts, she wrote:
“Am the mum and this is one of hundred of outfits my son has modeled. Stop crying wolf all the time, unnecessary issue here…get over it.”
H&M has since apologized and deleted the image from its site, but that didn’t stop Black Twitter from setting the retailer ablaze. Don’t get me wrong – I’m the first one to say, “Get them coins girl!” After all, it’s what I do as a personal finance writer and editor.
But at what point does the money usurp one’s dignity and resolve?
Understand this: My husband a.k.a. “The Professor” is a history buff who would just as soon give me a lesson on this tactic of de-humanization before he would ever allow either of our children to rock a racist epithet. Besides, as a journalist, I’ve always been of the ilk that you have to be very careful about the messaging that you communicate, whether you’re speaking it, writing it, or wearing it.
I support my kids’ style choices—as long as it’s not too cray cray—but if you’re allowing your kids to wear fashions with signs, symbols, or writing that goes against your own creed, then who are you?
The same principle applies whether it’s a modeling shoot or not. For those parents who think this is no big deal – they’re dead wrong.
As Black moms, we are all busy trying to raise positive, loving, caring, smart, intelligent kids who have a strong sense of self. Read: #Woke.
Why would I ever dilute that for a check? I wouldn’t because I believe that words are powerful. And in a land where my brown son could be executed just for being a brown male in this America, I don’t have the luxury. As for H&M: #ByeFelecia.
Tanisha A. Sykes is an award-winning money, careers, and small business writer in New York City.