The Gap clothing retailer has apologized and pulled an ad that some critics say delivers a “racist” message.
The Gap ad in question featured a 12-year-old white girl from a youth performance group leaning her arm on the head of a black 8-year-old fellow troupe member, who just happens to be her adopted sister, according to ABC News.
Critics of the ad said it gives a message of “passive racism.”
USA Today said Gap tweeted the photo on April 2 with the caption, “Meet the kids who are proving that girls can do anything.” While the ad was meant to be empowering, many noted on social media that the black girl was being used as a “prop” or a piece of furniture.
In collaboration with Ellen DeGeneres’ lifestyle brand ED, the Gap campaign was launched last Friday and was to be part of a campaign to support the economic literacy program, Girls, Inc. Gap still plans to donate $250,000 to the charity, according to a statement on Gap’s Facebook page.
“We’re partnering with Ellen Degeneres’ lifestyle brand ED to encourage girls everywhere to be themselves.”
— ABC News (@ABC) April 6, 2016
On Monday, Gap replaced the image in the ad campaign and apologized for its lack of sensitivity to critics. A Gap spokeswoman released a statement.
“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. 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.”
Nathalie Yves Gaulthier, the founder of Le Petit Cirque, the youth performance group whose members are featured in the ad, was a little miffed at the comments about the ad and defended the choices made by Gap. However, she also expressed the need for greater dialogue to erase racial barriers in the country.
Gap apologized for this new ad some people thought was racist https://t.co/7P3RwTYlws pic.twitter.com/bsESt2zRGk
— Kicker (@goKicker) April 6, 2016
“The child in the ad is not an ‘armrest’, she’s the other girl’s little sister. They are a very close FAMILY. The child is a very young [junior] member with Le Petit Cirque, a humanitarian cirque company, and therefore a wee shyer than the more seasoned older outgoing girls. Our company is deeply saddened by some people misconstruing this as racist, and are keeping the children out if this at the moment to protect their beautiful feelings, but we are extremely supportive of dialogue in our country to move past any racial barriers. We stand by GAP KIDS and Ellen DeGeneres.”
Girls can do anything. And these kids are here to prove it. #GapKidsxED
— Gap (@Gap) April 1, 2016
Gaulthier added that the dance company is privileged in that the shows in which the children perform “bring us in front of numerous cultures,” such as their recent performance in Dubai and future shows in Central America.
— Duke (@somethingldsay) April 6, 2016
According to the statement, the shows are about “kindness, love, and empowering kids to move past cultural differences, stereotypes, ethnicites [sic], and assist kids through their fears, shyness, insecurities and transforming them into strong confident and tolerant human beings, so perhaps this ad is now an extension of our compassion of LPC’s mandate by educating more people.”
[Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images]