Twitter is calling out Ellen DeGeneres's new line of children's clothing with Gap, called GapKids x ED, for its racist portrayal of the only black model in its new commercial.
The advertisement, which features a message of empowering girls everywhere, portrays a number of white models and just one black model. This is a notable lack of diversity in a line that explicitly focuses on, as reported by the GAP website. "inspir[ing] all girls to be strong, smart, and bold by providing life-changing experiences and solutions to the unique challanges girls face."
In one particular photo that was tweeted out by GapKids, while the white models are depicted holding yoga poses and doing handstands, the black model stands limply, her head being used as an armrest by a white model.
meet the kids who are proving that girls can do anything.
— GapKids (@GapKids) April 2, 2016
Twitter couldn't stand for such racism and a demeaning portrayal of the only model of color in Ellen's new ad. The backlash ranged from users calling out the lack of diversity in the presence of just one black model among a number of white models to the passive racism involving the black model being used as just an armrest.
Black girl's head as white girl's armrest????? @GapKids, u can do better than this, right? #DiversityRules #gapkids pic.twitter.com/64xvak30ud
— Janice Deul (@JaniceDeul) April 3, 2016
Other Twitter users pointed out how normalized racism has become if even Ellen DeGeneres' Gap advertisement, which is explicitly meant to empower all girls, disempowers a black girl.
The new #GapKids is a clear example of how white supremacy is coded into all facets of society, including our visual language.
— Emily Wehby (@EmilyLWehby) April 3, 2016
Others noted the lack of diversity in Ellen's new campaign, actively naming the Gap commercial as racist.
You seriously think this ad demonstrates empowerment? Diversity? Equality? I only see proof of racism. https://t.co/EfBoVB2Nmh
— peaches (@valentinacheese) April 3, 2016
Most of the Twitter conversation revolved around this problematic depiction of little black girls in the media, centering itself around Ellen's new line that claims to empower young girls but only depicts the black model negatively.
But when filmmaker Matthew Cherry brought up a second Gap ad that depicted a similar shoot but with inverted race relations -- a black model using a white model as an armrest -- the Twitter conversation was further complicated.
Does the @GapKids pic on the left make the pic on the right okay? Let's debate pic.twitter.com/rCFbK4uG5y
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) April 3, 2016
Twitter users simply responded to this inverted Gap ad by claiming that it did not damage the white image in any way, while Ellen's Gap x ED commercial damaged the black image.
@MatthewACherry @GapKids No. Racist power imbalance/damaging stereotypical representation does not go both ways in this case.
— Shantal Nev (@ficklemuse_) April 4, 2016
All of the negative publicity to Ellen DeGeneres' new line at Gap is surprising, as only last year it was being heralded for its empowerment when it hired a girl with Down syndrome to be a model.
This particular photoshoot for DeGeneres' Gap line appears racists and seems to disempower black women rather than empower them, but as the hiring of a girl with Down syndrome suggests, the line really does want to empower women.
Further, Mic reports that the young black model was used as an armrest in one picture that was tweeted out but was seen to be expressing herself and in an empowered position in other parts of the shoot.
"As seen in a short video tweeted by GapKids, there were plenty of other photos taken during the shoot, most of which show the black girl being more than just being an armrest."
All the same, Twitter detected the racist undertones of Ellen's Gap commercial based on the tweeted pictures and the decision to use only one black model (and as an armrest too).
[Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images]