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Morning Mix Gap sorry for ‘offensive’ ad that made young black girl seem like a prop to some

The ad for Gap’s latest collaboration with Ellen DeGeneres is awash with pleasing blue hues, from the kid models’ navy outfits to the talk show host’s denim jacket

But the shades that really caught people’s attention were on the children’s skin. The commercial’s stars were three white girls and a black girl.

That, in itself, wasn’t a problem. In the days following the campaign’s launch last week, what drew ire from commentators online was the seeming passivity of the African American girl. While the other girls eagerly fielded DeGeneres’s questions about their troupe “Le Petite Cirque,” she sat silent. While the white girls were highlighted performing solo acrobatic tricks, she seemed to appear only in reference to the others — balancing on someone’s knees or with her arm wrapped around someone’s waist.

At least, this was the interpretation of those who were angered by the ad. And they were angered, most of all, by a photograph that showed the white girls standing in all manner of complex poses while the black girl’s arms dangled idly at her sides, her head a cushion upon which another white girl rested an elbow.

This imagery sparked the usual chain of reactions online. Those who were offended minced no words in expressing their outrage, and they were promptly reprimanded by those who thought they were overreacting summoners war hack cheats download.

Many critics zeroed in on the caption Gap had used to introduce the campaign: “Meet the kids who are proving that girls can do anything.”

So @Gap decides to use the only Black girl in this campaign as a prop…..we see you!

— Introverted Bama (@Sneaker1984) April 3, 2016

That ad certainly isn’t suggesting that *black* girls “can do anything,” @GapKids. It’s incredibly distasteful to your black consumer base.

— stacia l. brown (@slb79) April 3, 2016

The Root’s Kirsten West Savali articulated the essence of the distress: “While all of the girls are adorable, and indeed, all of them should grow up to be and do anything, it becomes problematic when the black child is positioned to be a white child’s prop.”

The company apologized Tuesday.

“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,” Gap spokeswoman Debbie Felix said in a statement to Fortune.

The offensive image will be removed, but the campaign will move forward, the company said

Was seeing the black child as a prop too far-reaching a conclusion to draw? Not so, Savali argued, when there is a history of “‘passive racism’ masquerading as cosmetic diversity” in advertising. She pointed to a 2014 story about Russian art gallery owner Dasha Zhukova that pictured Zhukova sitting in a chair realistically sculpted to look like a half-naked black woman with her legs in the air.

While the chair itself was designed to be a commentary on gender and racial politics, the image of Zhukova sitting atop the black woman, without any context, was troubling. With Zhukova clad in a white blouse and framed by creamy light, the photo seemed to reinforce the notion that black women were sexually depraved.

Savali pointed out that the Gap ad “shows how early that positioning begins.”

Other African Americans disagreed with this interpretation. “There is so much more in the community to be worried about,” said one Twitter user. Matthew Cherry, a black filmmaker, invited people to consider an ad from last year’s campaign for the same line, which shows the racial composition of the controversial pose reversed — with a black girl resting her arm atop of the head of a white girl.

Does the @GapKids pic on the left make the pic on the right okay? Let’s debate

— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) April 3, 2016

As Zeba Blay wrote in The Huffington Post, this kind of discussion is always “tricky.”

“I found the pose to be pretty harmless,” Blay said. “And yet, it’s unfair to say that the people who do take issue with the photo are simply overreacting. Because it’s not the pose itself that is the problem, but the context in which it is delivered. The context being: an advertisement, with all the conscious and unconscious messaging that images used to sell an idea tend to entail.”

To add one final twist to the controversy, it turns out that the black girl and the white girl in question are sisters.

They are the daughters of actress Brooke Smith, of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Silence of the Lambs” fame. The white girl, 12-year-old Fanny Grace Lubensky, is Smith’s biological child. Smith and her husband, Russian cinematographer Steve Lubensky, adopted 9-year-old Lucy Dinknesh Lubensky from Ethiopia in 2008.

The actress seemed weary of the scrutiny when addressing it on Twitter. Lucy didn’t talk in the video because she was “too shy,” Smith said. “Everyone needs to calm down.”

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@TheRoot girl with arm resting on her shoulder is her sister She didn’t talk in video because she was 2 shy. everyone needs to calm down.

— Brooke Smith (@Iam_BrookeSmith) April 3, 2016

The snafu is just one example of companies inadvertently producing their own public relations calamities. During the last holiday season, Bloomingdale’s had to apologize for an ad that seemed to encourage date rape.

“Spike your best friend’s egg nog when they’re not looking,” read the caption on an image of a suited man leering at woman turned away from him. It recalled a similarly distasteful Bud Light bottle label from April of last year: “The perfect beer for removing ‘No’ from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever call of duty heroes hack tool online.”

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