Gap released their newest kids campaign earlier this month, and ever since then the internet has been swirling with opinions. On April 2nd, the Gap Kids account tweeted out the photos below, but it’s only one photo, where the black girl appears to be an armrest, that has people upset.

In a world where girls, especially black girls, are told what they can’t do rather than what they can, it’s easy to see why Gap’s ad is so cringeworthy. Although Gap has since apologized for the impression the ad gave off, people still aren’t happy and now the mother of the two girls in question is speaking up.

Unfortunately, the mother’s comments might have made things worse. However, she does bring up a great point. But first, I want to dissect the situation. There’s a lot going on in the photo in question. First of all, it’s almost the exact style of an ad Gap has done previously, the girls are just different and switched around a bit. From that standpoint, I don’t think they’re racist for making the black girl the armrest this year, but they do need to get more creative.

Secondly, there’s the look on the black girls face. She seems uninterested and bored. And to top it all off is the fact that she serves as an armrest. It’s awkward, not necessarily because she’s black, but because she’s a dancer. They are all dancers, so why not have all of them pose to reflect the fact that they are dancers? I understand that kids can be shy and uncomfortable, especially with a lot of lights flashing around them, but part of a photographer’s job is to make their subject comfortable enough so that they can produce their best work.

As for the mother’s comments, they are extremely heartbreaking. It shows that even at a young age, her daughter and her are living with two different realities. It doesn’t matter if they’re related. The mom is right though, her daughter should just be able to be an 8-year-old who likes to dance and was featured in an ad. But, unfortunately, black people (and plenty of other marginalized groups) can’t just exist singularly. Our separate existences are constantly being used together as an example of how our entire race is. It’s why when a black man gets caught with drugs, we all become thugs according to the media and the people in comment sections. White people have the luxury of being an individual. Of speaking solely for themselves. For example, when multiple white men shoot up buildings they are mentally ill and their actions aren’t reflective of their entire race.

Black people can’t do anything without being scrutinized. From a very young age, my parents made it clear to me that I not only represented them, but black kids everywhere. I can never be angry for a legitimate reason, I have to be an angry black woman. It becomes something that was always in me and always will be. It dismisses my feelings of anger in any given moment and labels me for life as angry because of the skin that I live in, not because of the situation.

I feel bad for the girls involved in the ad. This was supposed to an awesome honor for them, most 8-year-olds don’t know that they’re perpetuating a stereotype. At that age, they should just be able to be a kid. I’m glad the mother is getting a great lesson on what it means to black in the world and the responsibility she has as a mother of a black child. Her daughter is just a child, but she isn’t. The ad wasn’t meant to be harmful, but it is. It continues to perpetuate stereotypes that programs like Black Girls Rock! have been trying to break for years.

Brands must do better and we have to keep holding them accountable to ensure that they do.

What are your thoughts? Is the mother right or is this still a deep issue? Tell me in the comment section below.

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