Despite H&M publicly apologizing last week for its controversial ad, in which a black child model was placed in a green sweatshirt that said “Coolest monkey in the jungle” on the chest, the clothing giant is still feeling the heat for the racist image (which had since been removed and the sweatshirt discontinued).
Over the weekend, the Swedish company was forced to close the doors at all 17 of its locations throughout South Africa after an onslaught of demonstrations by the country’s socialist political party, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) broke out.
One video shows group members dressed in the signature head-to-toe red walking through an H&M chanting in protest:
— Ntobeng Ntobeng (@ntobengndo) January 13, 2018
While other footage reveals protesters knocking over mannequins and pushing down racks of clothing displays:
Look at the lawlessness!!! This is at H&M pic.twitter.com/UvpHEYS9dQ
— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) January 13, 2018
The aftermath, with clothing strewn about, can also be seen in an image uploaded to social media:
— Floyd Shivambu (@FloydShivambu) January 13, 2018
“We continue to monitor the situation closely and will open the stores as soon as the situation is safe again. We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable. We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image,” H&M said in an email statement to the New York Times on Saturday.
But EFF party leader Julius Malema had some strong words for the clothing brand, explaining in a statement also made on Saturday that, “We make no apology about what the fighters did today against that store called H&M.”
For some, the ransacking of the clothing stores is counterproductive and doesn’t properly address the issue of racism:
EFF’s message was loud and effective but went against what should be happening which is discussions. H&M contribute to the country and money that flows. They provide jobs and give people access to funds – even if only one H&M store closes or closes for a while it affects a family
— Tk (@TkMatakanye) January 13, 2018
Still, H&M has a long way to go before it can wash its hands clean of this disastrous lapse in judgement, and a few public apologies likely aren’t going to make the racist image disappear from consumers’ minds overnight. Perhaps a mandatory “What is Racism” class for all employees? Or, at the very least, some new art directors or casting directors on set for its next photoshoot.