The urgent need for more corporate diversity became painfully evident with Forever 21’s tone deaf ad that featured a white model, when it would have been much more appropriate to hire a Black person for the job.
As in previous cases, the retailer pulled its ad, this one showing a blond-haired man wearing a Black Panther sweater that read “Wakanda Forever!” The company also issued an apology on Tuesday after the fierce backlash.
“We celebrate all superheroes with many different models of various ethnicities and apologize if the photo in question was offensive in any way,” the company said in a statement that Hollywood Reporter posted.
“Black Panther” was a major box office hit this year—not just in the Black film genre, but in American movie history. It tells the story of the fictional African nation of Wakanda where the national motto was “Wakanda Forever!”
The pride that people of African descent around the world felt from the movie’s positive message and financial success should have made it easy for Forever 21 executives to predict the reaction Black people would have when they saw a white person modeling the sweater.
This is just the latest example of tone deafness from retailers. On Friday, Prada came under fire for using blackface-style imagery in a New York City storefront and online. The luxury brand’s “Pradamalia” collection features a black caricature with exaggerated big red lips. It was on display as part of Prada’s new holiday marketing campaign.
As with Forever 21, Prada apologized and removed the figurines.
The statement said, “The Pradamalia are fantasy charms composed of elements of the Prada oeuvre. They are imaginary creatures not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface. We abhor all forms of racism and racist imagery. We will withdraw all of the characters in question from display and circulation.”
Here’s a look at Prada’s flub and several others.