*After a swift social media backlash over a racially charged GapKids ad, the company has issued an apology for using the only black child in the image as a prop.
Ellen DeGeneres and GapKids partnered for activewear line GapKids x ED to launch a new campaign featuring four girls from Le Petit Cirque—three white and one black. One of the white children in the image is resting her arm on the head of the only black child featured, and as The Root notes, the image is reminiscent of “an antebellum South in which black children were used as armrests and footstools, and a present where black children are systemically devalued.”
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Black Twitter was quick to blast the ad for its passive racism, with Huff Post writer Zeba Blay saying she doesn’t personally find the image racist but is empathetic to those who do.
“It’s a shame that these four little girls have been caught in the crosshairs of this heated debate, but the fact that so many people have protested the ad speaks to a reality that cannot be ignored,” she writes. The reality is that there are so few positive, powerful representations of black women and especially black girls out there that, frankly, it’s unsurprising that the photo would touch a nerve.”
Gap responded to the widespread criticism and implied plans to rectify the error in judgment.
“As a brand with a proud 46-year history of championing diversity and inclusivity, we appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we’ve offended,” Gap spokeswoman Debbie Felix said in a statement to Co.Create. “This GapKids campaign highlights true stories of talented girls who are celebrating creative self-expression and sharing their messages of empowerment. We are replacing the image with a different shot from the campaign, which encourages girls (and boys) everywhere to be themselves and feel pride in what makes them unique.”
Despite the apology from the company, the image has not been removed, and is still part of the campaign.
Meanwhile, Twitter user @MatthewACherry dug up an older Gap ad (see below) that shows the opposite scenario—a black girl resting her arm on the head of a white girl, in almost exactly the same pose. “Does the @GapKids pic on the left make the pic on the right okay? Let’s debate,” he wrote.
Watch the ad: