Like many South Asians, we were smitten with Gap’s amazing Holiday 2013 campaign starring Sikh jewelry designer and model, Waris Ahluwalia. But our love for the retailer has grown after seeing their response to racist slurs scribbled onto the Waris Ahluwalia Gap ad in New York.
Gap launched their Holiday 2013 campaign, “Make Love,” at the beginning of November with a series of ads starring celebrities like Waris Ahluwalia, Tony Bennett, Cyndi Lauper, and model/illustrator Quentin Jones. Fast forward to the end of November when Arsalan Iftikhar, senior editor at The Islamic Monthly and founder of TheMuslimGuy.com, spotted a photo of a Gap billboard defaced with racist slurs at a subway station in New York.
The caption which read “Make Love” was scratched out and replaced with “Make Bombs” and another gem, “Please stop driving TAXIS.” Arsalan posted a picture of the defaced ad to social media (where it went crazy viral) to show how South Asians are still being treated in the USA today, but what he never expected was the response from Gap. They contacted Arsalan to find out the location of the ad, and then changed their Twitter cover image to the Waris Ahluwalia ad to show their solidarity.
A gold star to Gap for their swift response. They stood behind their message of diversity and love, but Arsalan says it best in his article for The Daily Beast:
More than anything else, though, the moral of this story is to prove yet again that we certainly do not yet live in a “post-racial America” since minorities like South Asians (or other brown folks perceived to be Muslim or Arab) cannot even grace fashion advertisements without having nasty racial epithets hurled their way.
But companies like Gap are doing a great job forging a path for minority and under-represented fashion models (like Waris Ahluwahlia above) who do not conveniently fit into our traditional American notions of beauty and actually challenge how we have superficially defined those terms since our country’s existence.