Gap responds to backlash over racially insensitive ad

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Earlier this week, Gap debuted it’s latest collaboration with Ellen DeGeneres, in an ad featuring kid models, shades of blue, and lots of denim. Unfortunately, in today’s racially fueled society, it wasn’t the many shades of denim but that of the children’s skin, that caught people’s attention. The commercial’s stars were three White girls and a Black girl.

That, in itself, wasn’t the issue. What drew criticism was the seemingly passive attitude of the young Black girl. While the other girls eagerly fielded DeGeneres’s questions about their troupe “Le Petite Cirque,” and were featured performing solo acrobatic tricks, the African American model sat silent for a majority of the clip. In addition to the commercial, the clothing and accessories retailer released a photo ad, highlighting the White girls standing tall while the Black girl’s arms dangled idly at her sides, her head a cushion upon which one girl rested her arm.

At least, this was the interpretation of those who were peeved by the ad. Many critics zeroed in on the caption Gap had used to introduce the campaign: “Meet the kids who are proving that girls can do anything.”

Other’s went as far to say that the young girl was used as a “prop.”

Meanwhile, another Twitter user disagreed with the interpretation, offering up an ad from last year’s campaign, where the roles were reversed. In fact, in the ad, a Black girl rested her arm atop of the head of a White girl.

Photo credit: Gap
Photo credit: Gap

Now, following much backlash, Gap has issued a public apology for an “offensive” ad. “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,” Gap Spokesperson Debbie Felix shared in a statement issued to Co.Create.

As it turns out, the two girls in the controversial pose are adopted sisters. Their mother, actress Brooke Smith (“Grey’s Anatomy”), also went public on social media to provide some context. “Girl with arm resting on her shoulder is her sister She didn’t talk in video because she was 2 shy. everyone needs to calm down,” she tweeted.

But was Gap’s apology enough? Should the company go as far as pulling the ads altogether? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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