Gap has issued an apology for a racially charged ad that drew fiery backlash on social media over the weekend.
As previously reported by The Root, Ellen DeGeneres and GapKids partnered for activewear line GapKids x ED, and the line’s campaign launched with an ad featuring four girls from Le Petit Cirque—three white and one black—socialized with the tweet “Girls can do anything.”
One of the white children in the image is resting her arm on the head of the only black child featured, a distinctly unempowering pose that harkened back to an antebellum South in which black children were used as armrests and footstools, and a present where black children are systemically devalued.
Gap responded to the widespread criticism and shared how it planned to rectify its error in judgment.
“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,” Gap spokeswoman Debbie Felix said in a statement to Co.Create. “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.”
In this instance, image matters more than intent. And the lack of racial and cultural diversity at the executive level, which allowed that image to be approved and circulated, is one of the many ways in which institutional and systemic racism functions. Those girls, all of them, deserved better than to be placed in such a racial tableau.
Gap took responsibility and made the right decision. Hopefully, more corporations will take notice.