Many of us were skeptical when I received a tip about a clothing company that was advertising a t-shirt with a monkey on it by placing the face of a black toddler on the hanger. "This can't" be real, one staffer said. So I called to find out.
Bad news, everyone, Just Add A Kid clothing really is allowing people to display their adorable monkey shirt with the face of a black child. When I called the company I spoke to Nancy, who told me that the t-shirts and hangers came separately and that it was up to each individual store to put the two together. So while Just Add A Kid doesn't necessarily create the combination, they certainly make it possible. The shirts, according to Nancy are very popular (and cute).
In an effort to make sure that I understood that Add A Kid Clothing didn't have any racist intentions, Nancy told me that the hangers came in several different colors including Oriental, Africa-American [Sic], and Latin. This is where our conversation took a fun turn.
Me: Wait, did you say Oriental?
Nancy: Yes, sir.
Me: Nancy, does your website say Oriental?
Me: Why? (This is me hoping Nancy just fucked up and was going to correct herself because people aren't oriental. Oh my god what? Fun story: I once had to leave the ESPN restaurant at Disney because a drunk man asked me if we had a lot of Orientals in San Francisco and I told him that was offensive and he got aggressive with me.) (But the fries were pretty good)
Nancy: It is still very new. We didn't have them yet.
Me: Do you know that's an offensive term?
Nancy: What is?
Nancy: No, what am I supposed to say?
Me: Asian. Oriental is for thing. People are Asian.
Nancy: Ok, I agree with you sir.
Me: Nancy, where are you located?
Me: Where in California?
Nancy: That can be found on our website.
Nancy was clearly not pleased with me (although she also seemed to think my name was Jezebel, which has happened before), but it's also not okay to run a business that allows the advertising of black children as monkeys, regardless of intent. Here's the thing: If you're opening a business, you have to consider the context and content of your product and considering the fact that black people have, in fact, been compared unfavorably to monkeys should be something to think about when your company sends out shirts and hangers that could produce such a combination.
Even if the goal is not the pairing of black child and banana, you must know that there are some people that will put these two together because they're just-for-laughs racists or because they're racist racist, or because they're ignorant and still calling people orientals like Nancy (who seemed like a very nice person and was really amenable to changing her wording even though talking to me seemed to leave her exhausted ).
Hopefully the company will reconsider their product. When I relayed the news of my conversation back to the staff (in a chat room where my username is currently markiscool), Hillary (username hillary) had an important tip for the company: "Word of the day: Oriental; hint: Don't say it."
Update: Just Add a Kid has issued a statement about this incident and say they are taking steps to work with retailers to make sure all displays are sensitive and promote the company's longstanding commitment to diversity.
h/t: Laura Beck