The ads seem wholesome enough at first. A video shows four young girls in Gap clothes hanging out with Ellen DeGeneres, and some photos feature the girls striking powerful, exuberant poses—except for the black one. She just kind of stands there while her taller white friend uses her head as an armrest.
The new Gap Kids campaign features the tweener dance group Le Petit Cirque, which is made up of three white girls and one African American girl, all between the ages of 8 and 12. And while Gap Kids can’t be blamed for the troupe’s racial makeup, it can be questioned for the peculiar “armrest” photo, and for the fact that the one group member of color remains largely silent in the video component of the campaign.
Social media has exploded in outrage over the ads.
“Thanks for perfectly illustrating what ‘passive racism’ looks like in mainstream media,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Indeed @GapKids girls are so talent Black girls can even be armrest,” wrote another.
Gap Kids has not yet commented on the backlash.