CINCINNATI — A group of images meant to sell matching sets of Macy's festive family pajamas migrated onto Twitter this week, where they were presented as part of the company's holiday ad campaign and criticized for their depiction of the group's only black family.
The images appear to depict four separate families: Two mixed-race, one all-white (with a fluctuating number of children, depending on the picture) and one all-black. The all-black family is the only one depicted with a single parent -- a mother with three sons.
Some, including online activist Tariq Nasheed and Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor, felt the picture played on stereotypes of black families, single mothers and what a Washington Post columnist once called "the dangerous myth of the missing black father."
The underlying message in this new Macy ad speaks volumes pic.twitter.com/10CbtSXReC
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) November 18, 2018
"Not saying we shouldn't celebrate single families, but when it comes to African-Americans in the '80s and '90s, it was 'welfare queen' and all these negative stereotypes," Pastor said. "I think we first have to get over the stereotype, right? And then I think we maybe can introduce how we celebrate single parenthood."
In response to the criticism, Macy's issued a statement saying the company intended to "celebrate families and togetherness … never to offend."
The brand's official Twitter account also said that the widely reposted collage of four product images -- the black family, one mixed-race family and two images of the same white family modeling different pajama patterns -- comprised product images, not an official ad campaign from the company.
We know we are at our best when what we do fully reflects the rich diversity of our colleagues, customers & communities. We have shared the comments with our team & are making changes so our customers see balanced images when shopping online with us. (3/3)
— Macy's (@Macys) November 20, 2018
"We have shared the comments with our team & are making changes so our customers see balanced images when shopping online with us," according to another tweet.
Not everyone was bothered by the image, however. Joyce Litmon, a black single mother in Cincinnati, said she felt the picture represented families like her own.
"I was mom and dad," she said of raising her children. "And the kids were happy when the holidays came."