— -- Clothing retailer Gap has pulled an ad that some critics say delivers a "racist" message.
In the ad, a 12-year-old white girl from a youth performance group is leaning her arm on a black 8-year-old fellow troupe member, who also happens to be her adopted sister. Critics said the ad gives a message of "passive racism."
The campaign, launched last Friday, was made in collaboration with Ellen DeGeneres' lifestyle brand ED. As part of the campaign, Gap Inc., based in San Francisco, is donating $250,000 to the charity Girls Inc. to support its economic literacy program.
"We're partnering with Ellen Degeneres' lifestyle brand ED to encourage girls everywhere to be themselves," according to a statement on Gap's Facebook page.
On Monday, Gap decided to replace the image in the ad campaign and apologized to critics.
"As a brand with a proud 46-year history of championing diversity and inclusivity, we appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we’ve offended," a Gap spokeswoman said in a statement. "This GapKids campaign highlights true stories of talented girls who are celebrating creative self-expression and sharing their messages of empowerment. We are replacing the image with a different shot from the campaign, which encourages girls (and boys) everywhere to be themselves and feel pride in what makes them unique."
Nathalie Yves Gaulthier, founder of Le Petit Cirque, the youth performance group whose members are featured in the ad, said in a statement: "The child in the ad is not an 'armrest,' she's the other girl's little sister. They are a very close family. The child is a very young [junior] member with Le Petit Cirque, a humanitarian cirque company, and therefore a wee shyer than the more seasoned older outgoing girls. Our company is deeply saddened by some people misconstruing this as racist, and are keeping the children out if this at the moment to protect their beautiful feelings , but we are extremely supportive of dialogue in our country to move past any racial barriers. We stand by Gap Kids and Ellen DeGeneres."
Gaulthier said in the statement that the group's shows "bring us in front of numerous cultures," such as their recent performance in Dubai and future shows in Central America.
The group's work, according to the statement, "is about kindness, love, and empowering kids to move past cultural differences, stereotypes, ethnicites, and assist kids through their fears, shyness, insecurities and transforming them into strong confident and tolerant human beings, so perhaps this ad is now an extension of our compassion of LPC’s mandate by educating more people."