Burt’s Bees suddenly found itself in the center of controversy and running an advertisement that some felt perpetuated a dangerous stereotype about Black families.
The Amazon ad featured a Black family wearing matching pajamas from the Burt’s Bees brand. The ad is presented in a manner similar to the others: smiling faces, affectionate poses and the expression of warm familial love and affection. The difference: the Black family’s father was missing.
The reaction from social media was an immediate condemnation of the company for propagating the impression that the majority of Black families are led by single parents.
The company released a statement on Nov. 19, posting an apology on Twitter.
“In response to an image of a family shown on our website, we are deeply sorry for the hurt this image has caused,” the statement read. “We recognize the importance of portraying families in a way that doesn’t promote harmful stereotypes.”
The company continued, “Our choice to use this photo when part of the family was not available for a rescheduled photoshoot was wrong, and we have removed the image from our website.”
The brand explained that real families participated in the photo shoots, which the company had to reschedule because of the pandemic. The Black father had to drop out because of a conflict with his work schedule, while the mother and her two daughters were still involved with the photo shoot without him.
Burt’s Bees also claimed that the four images featured were not formally parts of an ad or compiled by the company, instead claiming that they were “pasted together by a Twitter user” using different photos of actual families displayed on its website, which they said “includes other representations of real Black families.”
Burt’s Bees added, “Even so, we have learned a lot about impact and intent, and we own the responsibility of the impact of having the image on our website. We understand that representation matters, and that representation has impact.”
The company concluded by indicating that it is “actively and continually working on our own inclusion and diversity journey as an organization. We aim for inclusivity and hope to reflect that throughout every aspect of our company. We will do better.”
This is not the first time this type of incident has occurred, as a similar case took place back in 2018. Macy’s was the culprit in this instance; it also posted an advertisement featuring different families, with the Black familial unit being the only one without a father.
According to Newsweek, the images presented “four different families in four separate photos: two mixed-race families, an all-white family, and an all-black family that depicted a mother with three sons.”
After the photos triggered outrage and criticism on social media, the company released a statement on Twitter that also claimed that the images were not an official advertisement and were “cut and pasted together.”
“Thank you for reaching out to share feedback on our holiday pajama product images,” the statement said. “We apologize. Our intent was never to offend. It’s important for us to know when we’ve missed the mark, and we appreciate that our customers let us know.”
“Additionally, if you saw a collection of images on social media, please know that those were actually product images that were cut and pasted together rather than an advertisement from Macy’s,” they wrote.
“We know we are at our best when what we do fully reflects the rich diversity of our colleagues, customers & communities. We have shared the comments with our team & are making changes so our customers see balanced images when shopping online with us.”
Macy’s also issued comments to Newsweek apologizing for the photos, saying that the company never meant to offend.