Gap: Sorry for Black Girl as 'Armrest' in Ad
Critics say GapKids photo is racially insensitive—but there's a twist
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2016 1:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – A new Gap ad is causing a stir on social media for what critics say is a racist depiction of a young black girl, Fortune reports. The photo features the child and three white girls. While the two girls bookending the photo strike acrobatic poses, the white girl in the middle stands next to the black girl with her elbow on the smaller girl's head—making it appear, some say, like the child is an "armrest." The Washington Post reports the promo is part of a larger GapKids campaign in collaboration with Ellen DeGeneres, meant to showcase "girls can do anything," but the paper notes that in the campaign's commercial, the black child is also on display with "seeming passivity," sitting reticently while the other girls chat with DeGeneres. "While all of the girls are adorable ... it becomes problematic when the black child is positioned to be a white child's prop," Kirsten West Savali writes for the Root.

There's a bit of a twist to the story: The two girls in question are sisters, the daughters of Ray Donovan actress Brooke Smith, reports Co.Create. The white girl, Fanny, 12, is the biological daughter of Smith and husband Steve Lubensky, and the black girl is 9-year-old Lucy, adopted from Ethiopia by the couple in 2008, per People. Smith tweeted: "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." Some replies to her tweet softened after hearing that news, but others said the relationship shouldn't matter. "She deserved better. That is our point," one commenter wrote. A Gap spokeswoman apologized: "We appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we've offended." (The Gap has been trying to boost drooping sales.)