By now you've probably seen the controversial Gap Kids ad featuring pint-sized performers in Le Petit Cirque. In the image, a white girl rests her arm on the head of a black girl.
Turns out that while the girls are actually sisters, many viewers felt the ad was offensive and "casually racist."
I say "casual," because I think it was a gross oversight on the part of Gap, which generally has a good track record when it comes to diversity.
The San Francisco retailer has since apologized and withdrawn the ad - which was the right and obvious thing to do when you have a plethora of better shots to fall back on.
“We appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we’ve offended.”
And conversation is right. If any good can come of such an ad, it's the public discourse it has inspired.
Black filmmaker Matthew Cherry opened up the debate by juxtaposing the current ad with another Gap ad, in which a black girl resting her arm on the head of a shorter white girl.
But because of the long and complex history of racial oppression in the world, it's impossible to see such a picture without context.
It may be unfortunate and depressing, but that's the world we live in. We shouldn't be telling people what they should or shouldn't see in their world. Different viewers have different opinions of the ad, and while some see no harm, the photo is vibrant in its message. The pose between the two girls may be fine in their private familial arrangement as siblings who love one another, but without context to a larger audience it had caused visceral reaction. What we should never lose sight of is that these feelings are valid and we need to listen to all voices whether we agree or not.
If anything, this awful ad has taught Gap and other brands a valuable lesson. Human beings should never be used as armrests. Period.