By TOM GODFREY
A high-end Yorkville store is under fire from members of the community for staging an “offensive” window display that featured two nooses in a cotton field that was exposed on social media.
High profile members of the community are calling for a “full and sincere” apology, diversity training for store staff, or even a boycott of Eton of Sweden whose employees removed the controversial display after a photo was posted on Twitter.
The scene is described as a “cotton plantation from the slavery era including two nooses hanging from the store’s ceiling attached to a small suitcase resembling a casket, and surrounded by a replica of an unpicked cotton field”.
Eton has since apologized but community members claim it is “not genuine or sincere”.
Gary Pieters, of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, called Eton’s apology lame.
This “is a lack of sensitive consideration to the brutal, exploitative and destructive legacy of plantation slavery that enslaved millions of Blacks on cotton plantations from the 1600s to the 1800s,” Pieters said in a release.
He accused Eton of exploiting the pain and suffering that generations of Blacks experienced on cotton plantations to enrich slave owners.
“By using the ropes tied in the form of two nooses, the Eton display reminded those knowledgeable of the slavery era of lynching, which was part and parcel of the imperial ‘show and tell’ of that bygone era,” said Pieters.
Rosemary Sadlier, of the Ontario Black History Society, was also fuming after examining the display. She was there when it was removed.
“It was a very offensive display,” Sadlier told Share. “The noose suggests a level of terror and violence used against men and the phenomenon of lynching that was used as a tool to terrorize people.”
She said some people have been calling for a boycott of the 86-year-old shirt shop.
Eton CEO Hans Davidson said his staff is “sad and remorseful” about the incident.
“It is important you know that our Canadian team had no malicious intent in constructing this display,” Davidson said in an e-mail. “The window was intended to show our raw material, cotton displayed with a suitcase representing the travel-readiness of our product. In reality, it was a poor choice of both materials and design.”
The display had reportedly been there for months until being photographed and tweeted by members of the R&B group En Vogue last week.
Sadlier said the display was installed in a position that was most visible to tourists and visitors, rather than Toronto residents.
Irate members of the community have taken to the store’s Facebook page to vent their frustration.
Andrea Hanson-Fuller urged shoppers to boycott the store.
“This company is disgusting and anyone with a moral compass should not shop in this store,” she wrote. “How would you like it for someone to put that noose around your neck?”
Shawna Davis said Eton should be ashamed for staging the display.
“Racism is a refuge for the ignorant and your company should be ashamed,” Davis wrote. “This is truly a disgusting display.”
Yolanda Gallimore accused Eton of promoting racism and slavery.
“I’m deeply disappointed that such a company would deliberately promote the acceptance of slavery to gain publicity,” she said. “You took steps to display (a) cotton plantation and noose that was used around the necks of Black slaves.”
The incident occurred two weeks after Ontario residents recognized Emancipation Day, which is marked every August 1, in honour of John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, now Ontario.
In 1793, Simcoe passed “the first global human rights legislation”, known as the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada, that helped to end the slave trade and set in motion the outlawing of slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833.