Retail Fail: Gap Apologizes For Reportedly Racist Ad

If enough consumers view an advertisement as morally offensive, the company behind it — whether or not it agrees — is best off trying to set things right.

That’s precisely what Gap Inc. has done, apologizing for (and replacing) an ad on Twitter that many users on the social media platform found to be racist.

As WWD explains, the contested image — an advertisement for GapKids X ED, the retailer’s offering in which Ellen DeGeneres is a partner — depicted four members of the children’s circus group Le Petit Cirque — three Caucasian girls and one African-American girl. While two of the Caucasians were posed in various feats of athletic prowess, the lone African-American child was shown doing nothing but allowing the third Caucasian to rest an arm on her head.

The image sparked something of a firestorm on social media, with many Twitter users voicing opinions that the African-American child was being used as a “token black girl” in the ad, depicted as possessing no discernible value other than to literally prop up a white kid. (Unknown to Twitter users at the time, and for what it’s worth, WWD notes, is the fact that the Caucasian girl and the African-American girl at the center of the controversy — and literally in the center of the picture — are adopted sisters.)

Gap got the message, and a spokesperson for the retailer issued the following statement (shared by WWD):

“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.”


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