Two nights ago I wrote this post in response to the recent video made by Greg Karber, in which he attempts to “rebrand” Abercrombie & Fitch. I’ll be honest, I expected about 100 or so people to read and not pay too much mind to it, but I was wrong. The post the currently has generated almost 4,000 hits and has been reposted 398 times on Twitter and Facebook. WHAT?! To say I am shocked and humbled is perhaps the understatement of the century. To that I say, thank you. Thank you for caring enough about this topic to begin the conversation with the people around you.
I received so many positive tweets, comments, texts and private messages yesterday it was hard to focus on much else to be quite honest with you. Along with said positivity, I also received quite a few responses in disagreement, which I welcome, I truly believe we do some of our best learning when respectfully dialoguing with one another. Although I can understand many of their viewpoints (ie; A&F needs to be stopped, homeless people are receiving clothes, it wasn’t meant to be harmful), it’s hard for me to watch that video and then turn around and look into the faces of these amazing folks I get to work alongside and not feel a bit indignant, as whether it was intended or not, the filmmaker appears to have made homeless people one half of the punch-line.
In thinking about the vantage point I have in being on the frontlines, I thought it might be best to let you all hear from them. I decided to simply show some of the people I work with the video and write down what was said, unaltered.
This is what I heard:
“What is Abercombie and Finch? Is that a white person store?”
“Wow, that CEO guy is a bad dude.”
“Did he just call Skid Row ‘East Los Angeles?’ He needs to recheck that map.”
“Why the hell would he pass out clothes to us that he said date rapists wear?!”
“I’ve seen my nephew wear that brand of clothing. I don’t think he’s a date rapist…I hope not at least.”
“It doesn’t look like he is explaining what he is doing to anyone he is giving clothes to. That’s not right.”
“Why isn’t he talking to people when he gives them the clothes? I hate it when people who think they are do-gooders act like that.”
“Why did he just give that large man those tiny pants? I thought he just said they don’t make those sizes? That doesn’t seem very helpful at all.”
“He’s not even asking if he can film them, does he think this is a zoo?”
“Hey! There’s our building! I’m glad he didn’t come in.”
“Why would we want our ‘own brand of clothing?’ Especially clothing he said douche bags wear.”
“If you asked us to do this, maybe we would, but I’m not interested in being this guys billboard or social cause, unless it’s to get people homes.”
“We may be homeless, but that doesn’t mean we want to wear ‘douchey’ clothes to prove a point — what purpose would that serve, to dehumanize us even more than we already have been??”
“If someone walked up to me to take a picture of me to put on the internet I would be really pissed off.”
The last comment I heard was made by a sweet woman, whom sat quietly watching and then simply stated, “Well, that sort of hurt my feelings.” Really, does much more than that even need to be said? I don’t for one, believe so.
All in all, do I believe that Greg Karber began this project in malice toward the patrons of Skid Row? No, I’d like to believe he didn’t. But that does not change the reality that this project is attempting to protect one people group while hurting another and I have to believe that there must be a better way.