Fashion has been intertwined with revolution for ages. The Black Panther Party is remembered for its all black attire, disillusioned white people cut the Nike logo off of gear after a deal with Colin Kaepernick was announced, and female family members of mine announced their distance from the COGIC church by wearing pants. Certain statements have come with consequences, but they are always worth it. This past Black Friday, openly gay, Black H&M employee Magnus Juliano, went to work. In his mind, it was just another day that was going to be busy, as Black Friday’s usually are. Before the end of the day, he was asked to leave the store. Why? Because he was wearing a shirt calling for the end of racism against Black people.
H&M is certainly no stranger to controversial, no, downright racist clothing. Earlier this year, the company was in hot water after running an advertisement of a young Black boy wearing a hoodie that read “coolest monkey in the jungle”. Black customers and celebrities could not believe what they were seeing, many speaking out against the flagrantly racist image. CNBC reported that although the image was pulled from the site, H&M continued to sell the hoodie in places other than America. That alone was evidence that H&M doesn’t think critically about Black people. This most recent instance of disregard for the feelings of Black people further cements their stance.
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@hm got this one wrong (coolest monkey in the jungle) @mrchrisclassic got it right!🙌🏽 : I made this because I dont wanna see this young Kings face anymore with the shirt he was hired to wear by H&M. I'm almost certain the Persson Family and their $31 Billion wont care in Sweden but… this lil guy will see his pics and the mockery one day because the internet doesnt erase… so I just hope he gets to see this one or any like it that celebrate him. #mysavoirfaire
“I read the dress code policy to make sure I did not infringe upon anything.” Juliano says.
“After [that], I wore my shirt again to my next shift. I pointed out to my manager how I did not go against our policy and questioned why I was punished for nothing. She explained it was a decision made for the company and had nothing to do with our dress code policy, which was..confusing. I was also told two members of higher leadership agreed with my store manager’s decision. After reaching out to these members, I find out this was not true. With one member, there was no conversation even had regarding the topic and I was actually the first to bring it to their attention. In spite of H&M’s “straight forward and open minded” mantra, I have been told that I have created a hostile work environment by using my voice to speak truth to power.”
“I was aware I was in the midst of an internal investigation regarding my experiences as a victim of discrimination, racism, and sexual violence in the workplace.”
I interviewed Magnus Juliano to get all of the details surrounding his story. Read our conversation below.
Brooklyn White (BW): Can you explained what exactly happened on the day of November 23rd?
Magnus Juliano (MJ): ..After working for about half of my shift, I was pulled to the office by my store manager. She says, “Um, so..I wanted to talk to you about your shirt today. Unfortunately, because it is controversial, you can’t..you can’t wear that!”
My shirt read, “Stop Racism Against Black People”.
I have been with this company for over 3 1/2 years and have never been told my clothing was inappropriate for work. I was aware I was in the midst of an internal investigation regarding my experiences as a victim of discrimination, racism, and sexual violence in the workplace. I knew I was a target because I had spoken out against corrupt practices by leadership, including my store manager. I knew there was animosity brewing, but I also knew I needed to question this decision.
“This is the culture at my store. Black employees provide backbreaking hard work and those who demand respect are bullied out.”
After my inquiry, she doubled down on her remarks of my shirt being too controversial and unprofessional. It was clear that she was hiding behind these buzzwords instead of simply saying my shirt made her feel uncomfortable. I began mentioning how we sell controversial artist/band t-shirts and sold a Pride collection in June that was essentially the same message of ending hate. Regardless of my rebuttals, she was unwavering. I was told I could either change or leave. I..clocked out.
BW: How did the request for you to leave the floor make you feel?
MJ: I felt humiliated, retaliated against, and silenced. It is astounding to me that this white woman openly discriminated against me and still holds her title as store manager. It is not fair.
BW: Did H&M ever apologize to you? If not, why do you think that is?
MJ: I have not received an apology from anyone on any level at H&M. I do not expect to.
This is the culture at my store. Black employees provide backbreaking hard work and those who demand respect are bullied out. The management is very cliquey, which in turn leads to bias. This becomes apparent when you take note of scheduling, excess fraternizing, phone usage, and things other employees would receive backlash for. Our management team has not had any black management for years. This includes our district and human resources teams as well.
BW: Do you plan on taking further action against the company?
MJ: I am considering it. I am hoping to weigh out my options once I have a moment to just rest. My family and I have recently lost our matriarch so going into the holidays has been rough enough. I still deal with the animosity at work. My focus right now is to keep my sanity.
BW: What do you have to say to the people who are supporting you right now?
I am so so so thankful! The messages of love and encouragement really keep me going! I often feel so alone and picked on, so the constant reassurance boosts my confidence. It lets me know that my efforts are not in vain. A special thanks to Ericka Hart and Ebony Donnley for their love and holding space for me on their platforms. As well as CHEAPYXO!
Since Black Friday, I have consistently worn my shirt to each shift. After being messaged about it online, I have now begun to sell the shirts on my website.
It is time and has been time to stop racism against black people. Our voices are valid, we are enough, and we deserve respect.