Ikea delays 2021 catalogue to expunge a potentially racist image

Theresa Braine, New York Daily News

Ikea is delaying its 2021 catalog after determining that one of its photos carries an image that could be construed as insensitive or even racist.

It’s an innocuous enough photo in and of itself – a man, staring down at an off-putting pile of furniture parts, obviously stymied – but one component contained imagery deemed potentially problematic.

The original, as described by Quartz, is of an “injured young Black man wearing a leg cast and a finger splint,” which props elsewhere in the photo imply is from a skateboarding accident.

However he’s sporting a T-shirt printed with a sequence of numbers across the back. After Ikea sent the catalog around for internal review, an employee pointed out that the numbers could make the attire look like a prison jersey.

While not reprinting the catalog, Ikea is expunging the image and distributing a delayed version.

“After reviewing the photo, we agree that it could lend itself to negative interpretation and reinforce negative stereotypes,” the furniture retailer told Quartz. “As a purpose-led organization where diversity and inclusion are core values, Ikea strives to be a force for positive change in society. An important part of advocating for change is acknowledging and taking action when we get it wrong. We are committed to doing so in an open and transparent way.”

Catalog are planned a year in advance, Quartz noted, meaning its conception pre-dates the high-profile police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the subsequent protests that drew mass attention to police brutality and systemic racism.

This catalog was originally slated to be released in August, but the recall means it will be issued later this year.

“We will not be reprinting the U.S. print catalogs, but are working to remove the page with the image,” Ikea told USA Today. “The printed version of the U.S catalog will be available in stores later this year. We will provide more information at that time.”

The digital edition bears a corrected version of the image, in which a Black man stares down in befuddlement at a pile of components, a not uncommon experience for any buyers of the furniture.

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