Coolest Monkey In the Jungle

If you haven’t already heard about the controversy regarding H&M, let me fill you in.

H&M is a Swedish garment company that is popular for their cheap clothing and trendy styles. They have recently come under fire for using an African American child to model a hoodie that says ‘Coolest Monkey In The Jungle.’ Many are accusing the company of racial discontent for their negligence of the repugnant relationship between the word “Monkey” and the African American community. While the advertising for the sweatshirt was nonetheless inflammatory for some, the product itself was in no shape or form racist.

Before I begin I must clarify the following: I am not defending H&M, nor do I advocate the idea that H&M is a wholesome company, but I believe it is unfair to accuse the company of portraying racist beliefs when the accusations themselves are racist. Imagine that the product was modeled on a White child. Nobody would have said anything, given that there is no history of “monkey” being used as a racial slur for Whites. With a White boy as a model, does this mean that H&M is now calling all white people monkeys? No, because a sweatshirt with the word “monkey” on it is not racist. So, what’s the difference between a White model an African American model? There is none, nor should be any, because all races should be treated equally. People fail to realize that we will never achieve true equality if we continue to identify people by their color. If you truly see a problem with an African American boy wearing the sweatshirt, but no problem with a White boy wearing the sweatshirt, then it is you who is associating the racial slur, “Monkey,” with the model of color, thus perpetuating its racial context.

This whole situation should have been a wake-up call to ‘social justice warriors’ when the mother of the model, Terry Mango, recognized the controversial advertisement as an ‘unnecessary issue.’ “That’s my son… I’ve been to all [his] photo shoots and this was no[t] an exception, everyone is entitled to their opinion about this.” She added, “This is one of [the] hundreds of outfits my son has modeled… stop crying wolf all the time, unnecessary issue.” At this point, SJW arent fighting for anybody; They will continue to give their two cents on the matter until the next major news story develops– and nobody needs that, especially not the child’s mother. Until then, the most we can do is just armor up and ride it out.

What surprises me the most is how many people are actually outraged by a sweatshirt, yet fail to acknowledge the far more substantial problems regarding the company. H&M is one of the largest international clothing manufacturers, as they retain dozens of supplier factories in 35 different countries around the world. There’s no question that a company of this caliber requires a massive amount of (child)labor to manufacture enough product to distribute internationally. On the outskirts of Rangoon, girls as young as 14 worked in H&M’s supplying factories. Their typical shifts lasted 15 hours, for whole weeks at a stretch. The situation in Myanmar’s H&M factories was uncovered in 2016 by Swedish investigative journalists Moa Kärnstrand and Tobias Andersson Åkerblom. The two spent years studying working conditions in garment factories like those of H&M. Within the same year, their discoveries were released in a book entitled “Modeslavar,” which translates to “Fashion Slaves.”

“There is one girl we write about in the book, she was 14 when she started and as with the other girls, she worked 12 hours a day at some points. She told us that she was not allowed to leave the factory for lunch so her mum had to sneak lunch in through the factory fence,” Åkerblom says.

In addition to the employment of under-aged girls, many of H&M’s factories lack standard safety features including those as basic as fire escapes. H&M was the first major company to follow the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety after the disastrous collapse of a Rana Plaza factory that killed 1,129. However, in February of 2016, a factory in Bangladesh that manufactured material for H&M caught on fire early in the morning, injuring four and taking firefighters four hours to contain. Local news reports showed workers jumping from windows as the flames raged above them. Had the fire set ablaze a few hours later, the building would have been filled with nearly 6,000 workers. Since then, H&M has issued a statement, “The Accord is working towards a transformation of a whole industry, in a low-income country, to Western safety standards.” Progress, however, is significantly reluctant. Washington-based Workers Rights Consortium director Scott Nova says, “…And while there has been some progress in some of those factories, the reality is that the majority of H&M’s factories in Bangladesh still aren’t safe more than a year after the safety renovations were supposed to be completed.”

It’s sickening to think that Americans are more concerned over a garment of clothing than they are with the fundamental human rights of the working class. I am unsure if people are just unaware of what is happening across the globe, or if they just choose to ignore it because it’s not “trending.” Unlike the facts against H&M’s fair treatment of factory workers, it’s easy to show hostility towards the sweatshirt incident because it is an issue being discussed by everyone virtually everywhere thanks to social media. It’s ridiculous how people are so quick to take offense to a matter that relates to ‘blacks’ being mistreated by ‘whites,’ especially when there are (FACTUAL)ongoing problems far worse than (OPINIONATED)accusations. Hopefully, I’ve shed some light on an actual human rights issue for you, but if you still choose to denounce H&M over a sweatshirt, may I please suggest that you imagine yourself -or your children- in the shoes of one of their factory employees.

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