Clothing retailer Gap Kids pulled an ad after some said the images projected "passive racism" — but others thought the issue was blown way out of proportion.
In the new ad, which was made to promote a collaboration between Gap and Ellen Degeneres' lifestyle brand ED, a 12-year-old girl from a youth performance group is seen resting her arm on a fellow group member, an 8-year-old black girl, who also happens to be her adopted sister.
According to critics, the photo offers a message of "passive racism."
"@GapKids proving girls can do anything... unless she's Black," one person tweeted. "Then all she can do is bear the weight of White girls."
Another tweeted the brand, saying, "@GapKids the best way to lose the black demographic. Making your only black model an armrest."
As part of the campaign, Gap, Inc., which is headquartered in San Francisco, is donating $250,000 to the Girls, Inc., charity to support the organization's economic literacy program.
"We're partnering with Ellen Degeneres' lifestyle brand ED to encourage girls everywhere to be themselves," Gap said in a statement on its Facebook page.
But after receiving so much criticism, the clothing brand apologized for its "racist" ad.
"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," a Gap spokeswoman said in a statement. "This GapKids campaign highlights true stories of talented girls who are celebrating creative self-expression and sharing their messages of empowerment. We are replacing the image with a different shot from the campaign, which encourages girls [and boys] everywhere to be themselves and feel pride in what makes them unique."
However, some pushed back against the criticism, including Nathalie Yves Gaulthier, the founder of Le Petit Cirque, the youth troupe featured in the ad.
"The child in the ad is not an 'armrest,' she's the other girl's little sister," Gaulthier said in a statement. "They are a very close FAMILY. The child is a very young [junior] member with Le Petit Cirque, a humanitarian cirque company, and therefore a wee shyer than the more seasoned older outgoing girls."
She went on to say she is "deeply saddened" that some called the ad "racist," but added that the Le Petit Cirque is "extremely supportive of dialogue in our country to move past any racial barriers."
@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
She later added that she, too, is open to discussion about race in the U.S.: "I'm all for an open + honest discussion of race in America. Difficult to do in twitter land but open dialogue is always a good idea."
Follow the author of this story on Twitter: