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U.S. official chastises Abercrombie, Hollister over racial gaffes

September 11, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu
  • Tweets from Hollister models have generated controversy among customers in South Korea and beyond.
Tweets from Hollister models have generated controversy among customers… (KoreaBang )

Clothing brand Hollister apologized recently after male models it sent to South Korea sent out several racist tweets, posing squinty-eyed for photos and making rude gestures. But a U.S. official says the mea culpa isn’t enough.

Michael Yaki, member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, called on Hollister and parent company Abercrombie & Fitch in a letter to “conduct an immediate, public review of its diversity and cultural awareness programs.”

He urged the company to take “the more courageous path” and publicly explain why the tweets -- which he called a “grotesque display of stereotypes” -- came to be.

Hollister fired the models, who were sent to Seoul to pose with customers at a store opening, and backed away from the social media missives on Facebook.

“On behalf of our more than 80,000 associates around the world who cherish our core values and our culture of diversity and inclusion, we sincerely apologize for the offense caused by these unauthorized, ill-considered actions,” Hollister wrote in its apology.

But, Yaki wrote, “The incident does not occur on a blank slate.”

Abercrombie “has a long history of discriminatory hiring practices and marketing campaigns that perpetuate racial stereotypes by avoiding Asian and African American models,” Yaki wrote.

After a 2003 class-action lawsuit resulted in promises from Abercrombie to improve its diversity efforts, Yaki said “allegations of discrimination continue.” A reputation for intolerance “is bad business,” Yaki wrote.

“A company that targets teen and twenty-something consumers in the United States needs to wake up to the fact that the upcoming generation is majority-minority,” Yaki wrote. “A company trying to extend its reach globally has to have a strong record on race issues.”

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