My Quandaries With the Retaliation Against Mike Jeffries and #Fitch the Homeless

If you were on the internet yesterday it is possible that you stumbled across the #fitchthehomeless campaign.  When I first watched the video I chuckled, laughed out loud even at the antics of Greg Karber.  I tittered when Karber compared CEO Mike Jefferies to an Old Biff look alike.  At the end of the video you found Karber handing out Ambercrombie and Fitch clothing to reluctant homeless men and women in the street.  The video ends with this logo:

Together We Can Make Ambercrombie and Fitch the World's Number One Brand of Homeless Apparel. 

When a friend posted this video on their FB page the only response I made was, "I think the homeless are too good to wear Ambercrombie and Fitch."  I was holding back what I really wanted to say (which is what blogs are good for).  It slipped my mind until I saw this wonderfully worded blog on the subject by a young mom, named Kristen.

If you aren't sure what all the buzz about Mike Jeffries is, you can read it about it here.  The main quote I would liked to pull out is this, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."  Mike Jeffries here is displaying here the ultimate form of bullying.  The elitist mentality that I can exclude others just because I think I am prettier and better than they are.  There aren't many people who wouldn't agree that this is a disgusting mentality.

So, what is the issue with Greg Karber's #fitchthehomeless campaign?  At least he was doing something, right?

The main issue I found with the video is that it had an elitist mentality itself.  I do not think it was intended, but it did all the same.  This was a middle to upper middle class, white man's solution to a problem.  "Hey, let's go to the Goodwill or have our friends raid their closets and take Ambercrombie and Fitch Clothes to the poor, so they can wear their clothes.  That would be so cool!!"  I admit that what Jeffries said exploited anyone who was outside of the cookie cutter world he made for society or his definition of "beautiful people".  But in giving these clothes to the homeless, by videotaping them and taking their pictures without sitting down and finding out what their real needs are and how we can help them at that level, isn't that exploiting them as well?  And although the intentions may be different, isn't the end result the same?  Jeffrie's goal was to make Ambercrombie and Fitch the number one brand for popular people (which Karber so lovely calls "douche bag clothing") and Karber wants to make it the number one brand for homeless people.  Kristen is right in saying that it is a re-introduction of the caste system, which is just what Jeffries wants. 

Another issue I had while watching the video is that Karber asked it's viewers to look in their closets, and raid their friend's closets, but not once did he say, "STOP BUYING FROM THIS COMPANY".  Honestly, this may be an obvious deduction from the video's message, but I have learned you can't always assume that people will understand the obvious.  What is the point of pooling all of our A&F clothing together if we are just going to go out tomorrow and buy new ones?  (*Note it's possible that Karber has said this elsewhere, but that is not what is being circulated around the internet, this video is).  Go support companies that encourage all people of all shapes and sizes to know that they are beautiful, like H&M or Dove.

The last issue I have, which is probably a smaller issue and most people wouldn't think twice about it, is the words that Karber uses to degrade Mike Jeffries.  The video opens with the words, "Ambercrombie and Fitch is a terrible company because their CEO insists on only hiring attractive people which is ironic because he looks like this [insert image]."  I realize that most people would say that Karber was justified in putting down a scum bag like Jeffries.  As I said previously, I couldn't help but laugh at some of his put downs. I guess my only question is, where do we draw the line?  When does the verbal abuse end and the positive action begin?  We are always tempted to go after someone who calls us a dog and do the same, but some of the world's greatest leaders would urge us to do otherwise. 

Jesus told us to turn the other cheek.  Martin Luther King said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  We cannot stoop to Jeffries' level when dealing with this issue.  It only perpetuates the society plagued with bullying that we currently have.  Booker T. Washington said, "I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him."  Jumping on Jeffrie's bandwagon by calling him names and telling him he isn't pretty enough is doing exactly what he is doing to everyone else.  It is stooping to his level.  It's telling our kids that if someone insults you, it is okay to insult them back.  That is not the kind of adult that I want my daughter to grow up to be.

So, what do we do?  I remember in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and the West Texas Fertilizer Plant explosions there was a rally cry from all over the United States for people to bond together and do good.  Show a little light to your corner of the world.  Whether it be paying for the groceries for the person in front of you at the store or checking on your elderly neighbor from time to time and providing them with company.  I am not by any means comparing what Mike Jeffries' said with these terrible events, but I am encouraging all of us to have the same response.  And I would encourage you to take your good works a little further.  To focus on what Jesus called "The Least of These".  

I think Karber hit the nail on the head when he encouraged people to go to the homeless.  I don't believe that the means he used was the best one, but I still do applaud the fact that he told people to get off of their couches (or from behind their computer) and DO SOMETHING.  Go talk to the homeless.  Go find out what they need.  Be friends with them.  Volunteer at a homeless shelter and not just at Christmas and Thanksgiving, but year round.  Go volunteer for a Downs Sydrome charity in your area (if you are in Louisville I know a wonderful girl who works there and I could connect you).  Go to a nursing home and play Go Fish with the elderly there, you may be the only visitor they get in a year.  Find out if your community has a Burrito Riders group (people who make burritos and deliver them to the homeless on their bikes.  They build relationships with them and help them where they are at.  Find out more about Louisville's here.) Go out on a limb and take fresh baked cookies to your local Ambercrombie and Fitch store.  Get to know it's workers.  Remember, the people that work there are just as in need of love as the people outside of there.   

We can only pray for Jeffrie's to change his  philosophy on business.  Chances are, there are issues from his past that go deeper than we could even imagine.  We can speak up when injustice is served, as it was most definitely in this case.  But we have to do something if we are going to make a difference.  Be the change you want the world to be.  Maybe bringing a little light into a dark corner will plant more lights that you would have ever imagined. 


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