Burt’s Bees apologizes after ‘family’ Christmas photo shows Black woman without a husband

The beauty products and apparel brand says they had no intention of sending a stereotypical message in an ad for holiday pajamas

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Until recently, Burt’s Bees had been best known perhaps for their bright yellow packaging, their lip balm and baby products that are ubiquitous at every beauty and drug store you can think of.

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Apparently, the Maine-based company that is a Clorox subsidiary also makes apparel, including cutesy sets of holiday pajamas suitable for the family holiday Instagram shots. But that’s where they got into some trouble recently. Burt’s Bees decided to post an ad that showcased real-life families in their holiday gear to promote said baby products and PJ’s.

In the four-panel ad, there are three white photogenic families with children – all nuclear families with mom and dad as their usual ad campaigns feature. The issue came with the portrayal of the Black family which showed just a Black mother and her children.

Posted initially by Baller Alert, with a caption that said “Why?,” the ad generated controversy from observers who say the ad perpetuates stereotypes about Black fathers. While some might argue that that’s a topic hotly debated within the Black community, the issue is that Burt’s Bees intended to showcase the white families as an ideal that the Black family didn’t ‘match’ to pardon the pun.

The company issued a quick response after the social media backlash saying that their intention was not to be dismissive of Black fathers. They said that after shooting several real-life families over the past summer the pandemic changed their shoot schedule and the Black father couldn’t make the new shoot dates due to his work schedule.

Also, the photos used were not placed together as part of a campaign but a compilation of pictures shared on social media that showed photos of families used on their website.

“On behalf of Burt’s Bees Baby, in response to an image of a family shown on our website, we are deeply sorry for the hurt this image has caused,” the company said in a statement posted to their social media accounts. “We recognize the importance of portraying families in a way that doesn’t promote harmful stereotypes. Our choice to use this photo when part of the family was not available for a rescheduled photoshoot was wrong, and we have removed the image from our website. These four images were not part of an ad and not collectively compiled by our Company, but pasted together by a Twitter user using different images of actual families we have on our website, which includes other representations of real Black families.

“Even so, we have learned a lot about impact and intent, and we own the responsibility of the impact of having the image on our website. We understand that representation matters, and that representation has impact. Please know that Burt’s Bees Baby is actively and continually working on our own inclusion and diversity journey as an organization. Our mission has always been to do good, to be kind, to care for all families, our planet and each other. We aim for inclusivity and hope to reflect that throughout every aspect of our company. We will do better.”

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Today on the Burt’s Bees website, there is an image at the top of the site showing two Black parents with their baby. But the error left some social media uses questioning the original intent.

Some on social media were a little more conciliatory.

The photo of the Black mother and her children has since been deleted from their website.

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