So I go to the Bay yesterday (don’t ask!) and find that all over the store, also known as soulless place of sweatshop goods for sale, are these signs for “world fashion” and “ethnic chic”. No joke. Here’s the letter I’m sending to the top executives at the Hudson’s Bay Company:
I was shopping in the Bay store at Yonge and Bloor in Toronto recently and noticed signs all over the store for “world fashion” and “ethnic chic”. I need to let you know that the notion of “ethnic chic” is offensive, racist and imperialist.
First of all, it’s offensive because in the City of Toronto, 44% of the population describes themseves as “visible minority” according to the last Canadian census (2006). Who, exactly, do you imagine you are appealing to?
And even if there are hardly any people of colour in the communities where your Bay stores are, across Canada, this is unacceptable in the year 2008, when more and more people of colour are living in Canada and deserve respect.
As for racism, the idea that non-Anglo cultures are “interesting” and “exotic” is racist, based on centuries-old ideas of “the other”. Dovetailing into imperialist, this is the exact same mind-set that missionaries used when colonizing Africa, China, the subcontinent of India and, duh, Canada. The dark “other” is understood through a number of racist stereotypes, some framed as “positive” (exotic, hard-working, noble) and some framed as “negative” (savage, ignorant, superstitious). All those stereotypes are racist, and what you’ve done with your ignorant and offensive campaign, is to reiterate these stereotypes into the culture of Canada, once again, just in case people forget about them, or choose to ignore them, or even fight against them.
Shame on you, and stop this campaign immediately. I further suggest that you embark on some intensive anti-oppression work at all levels of your organization. I know some consultants I can refer you to.