Nearly a week after a photo of a black child modeling an H&M hoodie with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle” went viral for what many saw as a racist phrase and image, the clothing company has decided to respond by hiring a diversity leader. The brand pulled the hoodie from its website and issued an apology soon after the controversy started ballooning, but following an internal review, H&M announced on Tuesday via its Facebook page that its “commitment to addressing diversity and inclusiveness is genuine,” and it has appointed a “global leader, in this area, to drive our work forward.”
The hoodie sparked global outrage and was denounced by many celebrities, including LeBron James, G-Eazy, The Weeknd, and Diddy. The Weeknd and G-Eazy both announced they would not be working with H&M in the future, and Diddy was reportedly ready to offer the five-year-old model a $1 million dollar modeling contract.
But it seems not everything has been so easy for the child, Liam Mango, and his family. Mango’s mother, Terry, told BBC Outside Source that the backlash to the photo has forced the family to move out of their home in Stockholm over “security concerns.” She did not reveal what the specific security concerns were, but she mentioned that the recent protests at H&M stores in Johannesburg, South Africa had something to do with the family’s decision to move.
Terry has also spoken out against the backlash, claiming she does not see racism in the situation. “I respect other people's opinion on the issue. I know racism exists, but does the shirt to me speak racism? No it doesn't,” she said. She reportedly did not even know about the photo or the hoodie that her son had modeled in before the controversy erupted.
Terry also admitted that she has been a victim of racism herself—and has even been called a “monkey.” “To put the T-shirt and the word ‘monkey’ with racism, maybe that is not my way of looking at it,” she said on This Morning from Stockholm. “I’m just looking at Liam, a black young boy, modeling a T-shirt that has the word ‘monkey’ on it. Everybody should respect different opinions based on racism.”
But despite the global response to the situation, Liam’s parents say that he is not entirely aware of the debate that his photo has sparked. “He’s aware he’s a superstar and people love him,” they said.