I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about H&M’s racist advertisement by now. People have (rightfully) called out the issue and just as expected, there has been pushback with folks decrying “oversensitivity.”
I’d like to propose that we retire all words and phrases that proclaim any group of people as “too sensitive” or “over sensitive.” If people are complaining about something, I think listening might be a better first step. What I’ve found is that people who are the quickest to throw out claims of “over sensitivity” are folks who are the least informed about an issue. Seriously, Google is your friend.
I wrote this on a friend’s FB status about H&M’s racist advertising, and prior to that, I wrote it about Dove’s. It’s so useful that I’m posting it again here:
I think people (and brands) need to understand history and context. Ads don’t happen in a vacuum. There is no clean slate from which to launch your product. You are pitching to people (of all races) who are situated in history. A history that is very much informed by race. A history where black has been (and still is) portrayed as animalistic. A history where black people were dehumanized and called monkeys. So, when you put out an ad that (whether unintentionally, or not) plays on the same tropes and stereotypes, you’re going to get (well-deserved) pushback.
This isn’t an issue of people “complaining” or “taking things out of context” or being “overly-sensitive.” The issue is that major brands (and a large number of the American populace) don’t know/care about the historical context and racist ideology that informs their decisions. And so their predominantly white teams continue to (“unintentionally”) propagate the same racist tropes our country was created in. This is literally how institutional racism works. Again, their *intent* doesn’t matter here. The focus should be on the *impact* that their actions have on the people involved.
Whether I, individual black person, was “personally offended” or not also shouldn’t be the focus. What is the impact on all of us when we are constantly bombarded with images that (intentionally or not) characterize black folks as monkeys? Or dehumanize us? Context is crucial here. Knowing history and how racist ideology propagates is also clutch.