Ikea is delaying the release of its annual catalog in order to remove a potentially offensive photograph that shows a black man assembling furniture while wearing a shirt that some say resembles an inmate’s uniform, according to a new report.
“With a print run of over 200 million copies, IKEA’s meticulously-constructed catalog ranks with the Bible, the Quran, and the Harry Potter series in terms of mass circulation,” wrote Quartz At Work, which first reported the story.
Fox Business said “the image shows the black man wearing a splint on his finger and a cast on his leg while positioned near a coffee table in need of assembly, Quartz reported. But the shirt he was wearing, which was reportedly emblazoned with the numbers ‘45678,’ raised eyebrows, the company said.”
“After distributing the 2021 catalog internally, we discovered an image that could be misinterpreted,” an Ikea U.S. spokesperson said in an email to Fox Business on Monday. “As a purpose-led organization where diversity and inclusion are core values, IKEA strives to be a force for positive change in society. An important part of advocating for change is acknowledging and taking action when we get it wrong. We are committed to doing so in an open and transparent way.”
The company said it “would prefer” not to share the image. “The clothes were chosen only for the visual impression of the image and the numbers were intended only as a design detail. We understand that the image can be interpreted as reinforcing negative racial stereotypes, and our partners in Global reshot the image in a more appropriate setting,” the IKEA spokesperson said.
“The catalog was released online today — marking its 70th birthday — without the image in question or any mention of it in the release,” The Hill reported. “Instead, on page 133, a Black man in a plain white t-shirt is standing, holding an IKEA instruction manual and looking down on parts. ‘You can assemble it yourself,’ the catalog reads. ‘But you don’t have to.'”
After the police shooting of George Floyd in June, the company condemned racism and injustice.
“IKEA Retail U.S. will commit $3 million over the next 12 months to support organizations that are working in support of social justice, economic empowerment and education initiatives for Black communities,” Javier Quiñones, IKEA’s retail U.S. president, said in a statement. “By the end of FY20 (August), we will donate a combined total of $1.1 million to Black Lives Matter initiatives, Equal Justice Initiative, 100 Black Men of America, Inc., African American Policy Forum’s #SayHerName Campaign, YWCA USA and the National Black Justice Coalition for LGBT+ rights.”
Several products removed longtime logos as racial violence spread across the U.S. In June, after Quaker Oats announced it would be removing Aunt Jemima from its 133-year-old brand of syrup and pancake mix, the company that makes Cream of Wheat said it is beginning a review of its brand and packaging, which features a black chef holding up a piping hot bowl of cereal.
“B&G Foods, Inc. today announced that we are initiating an immediate review of the Cream of Wheat brand packaging,” the company said in a statement then. “We understand there are concerns regarding the Chef image, and we are committed to evaluating our packaging and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism.”