Major British retailer Marks and Spencers have stocked a racially insensitive birthday card in which 4 monkeys are being depicted as jazz musicians.
The card was purchased from the Eltham branch of M&S for my father. Upon receiving it both of our initial responses were that the card was racially insensitive.
Jazz music originated from the African-American communities of New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is an all to common racial slur to call for those with dark skin to be called a monkey. For M&S to sell a card depicting an African-American genre of music with 4 monkeys could be portrayed as deliberate racism or a poorly judged attempt at humor.
I reached out to people on social media to see their reaction and here are some of the responses. Omni Love who is of Jamaican/Irish descent said: “I kind of feel it’s intentionally done like everyone knows about the connection between black people and jazz and also being likened to apes is racist, there’s no way you could overlook that being interpreted as racist.”
Zac Dendry who described his ethnicity as “Black British” said “I don’t understand why they’d use this to portrait jazz music. Most definitely has a racist element to it Luke,” He continued “I don’t like it at all.”
This is not the first time Marks & Spencer have been seen in a negative light, in 2017 The Independent shared that they were using a supposedly environmentally friendly material called viscose, produced in factories that were devastating the health of people in Indonesia, China and India.
An investigation reported by the Guardian also showed they were using Cambodian factories which mistreated their workers. This included complaints about abuse, forced overtime, underage labor and firing women who became pregnant. When asked about the incident, M&S refused to comment about suppliers they had used.
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