Gap’s Backlash on ‘Racist’ Ads

Gap Inc. apologized on April 5 after receiving backlash over an advertisement that some critics called ‘racist’.

The ad was released on Twitter for Ellen DeGeneres and members of the preteen group, Le Petit Cirque. In the video, the four girls, ranging from 8 to 12, discussed their humanitarian work, their troupe and girl power.

The infamous Gap Kids advertisement

While the campaign was meant to be empowering for young girls while selling Gap’s new line of children’s athletic clothes, but many people saw the only black girl in the ad, in one photo, was used as an ‘armrest’ by her older, taller troupe member.

The other girls featured in the photo are in strong, powerful stances, but people complained that the black girl appears passive and more as a ‘prop’ than a person.

Though the advertisement has drawn criticism from a large audience, especially from the black community, others argued it’s an over-exaggeration.

The filmmaker Matthew Cherry posted the Gap Kids ad and a similar ad featuring a black girl resting her arm on the head of a shorter white girl. “Does the @GapKids pic on the left pic on the right okay? Let’s debate,” Cherry tweeted.

It’s too simple to say that the picture on the left justifies the concerns of the black community nor to call the picture on the right is racist, with unpacking what that means.

It seems to simple to call this ad racist. When seeing the advertisement and strong reactions to it, I knew that this wasn’t the best PR move on behalf of Gap, but I didn’t immediately think, ‘racist’.

Although I don’t see the pose as intentionally harmful, it’s unfair to say that people who are offended are ‘over-reacting’. It’s not just about a white girl putting her arm on a black girl’s head. It’s an advertisement that is messaging certain ideals through these images. The message in this conveys that black girls are inferior to white girls, and it’s a fair reaction for people to address what this ad is representing.

In a society where black women are rarely represented in advertising, it makes sense that many are reacting to the negative portrayals. Even if it seems like an ad isn’t ‘racist’, it can impact the viewers and strike a nerve within the black communities. Maybe if there was a stronger and more positive of black women and people of color in media and advertising, controversies like this wouldn’t happen.