Thursday, May 30, 2013

#Fitchthehomeless - A Humorous Take on a Very Serious Problem

By this time, I'm sure most of you have come across the #Fitchthehomeless hashtags and references saturating every social media platform we're registered for.

For those of you who aren't a part of the cool kids clique, please stop reading my blog. I kid, of course.

If you haven't had a chance to see what all the buzz is about I encourage you to check out this short video by the genius behind all the hullabaloo, Greg Karber:

The gist: a man so disgusted by the exclusionary business model of a deluded clothing company, decides to hit them where it hurts - their brand image.

If you paid careful attention, you'll catch the fact that this video was meant to be over the top. In a hyperbolic gesture, Karber goes about handing out clothing to the homeless of Los Angeles' Skid Row.

I've been reading articles, blogs, and watching various news reports on this newest of hashtags (#Fitchthehomeless), and have found many vilifying Karber and his actions. I'll admit, I was a little apprehensive when I first saw the video. However, after giving it a few more runs, and studying the references made by its creator, I jumped on board. I only wished I was misguided enough in my previous clothing purchases, to have something of A&F's to donate. I, however, remain as uncool as I did in high school. The coolest thing in my closet was a Sesame Street t-shirt from Target. Needless to say, I was severely downhearted I could not offer any firsthand assistance in this movement.

You have to remember, as terrible as the "rebranding" might seem, it's meant as a poke at Abercrombie & Fitch. It's not about homeless being lesser people because Karber is portraying them as such. He's making a commentary on A&F's perception of the homeless. During the introductory section of his video he shows us a screenshot of an article that states A&F would rather burn clothing than donate it to the homeless, according to an anonymous source within management at the organization.

Check it:

Karber didn't say to himself, "Which group of people can I exploit to get the word out on how much I hate Abercrombie & Fitch." He read various articles that showed him the little respect A&F had for those they didn't consider worthy of their brand. He also alludes to an interview with A&F's CEO, Mike Jeffries, which shows just how deluded and full of himself the man at the helm of this clothier is.

The video is a call to action, more so to change the perception in general about exclusivity. There are many other reasons A&F is reprehensible as a company, however, this is the one that has been more polarizing. I'm just calling out the fact that Karber is playing off of their own words and biases. I'm assuming his rationale was, if A&F would rather burn their clothing than donate it to the homeless, then the best way to get back at them would be to give it to the homeless. He wasn't trying to demean anyone. However, there will always be criticism. If he'd gone the overweight angle, he probably would have caught flack for altering A&F clothing and having overweight friends wear it. 

Karber himself urges viewers to push the movement forward, not by following his example and handing the clothing out to strangers on the street. He suggests gathering all A&F clothing and donating it to a homeless shelter. His handing out the clothing on the streets of L.A. was simply a gesture, his movement personified. He didn't intend to bring the homeless down a peg, the pegging was angled towards A&F.

Watch the video, and form your own opinion. At the very least enjoy it for what it is, a funny video. Approximately 7.5 million views can't be wrong. It's got some pretty priceless zingers and a cool reference to my favorite movie of all time. 

It was during this clip I also remembered another touching video about the life of the homeless. 

I'm sure we've all been guilty at some point, of ignoring that homeless person begging at the entrance of some grocery store, or next to some freeway/highway exit.

Please take the time to watch this short interview with Ronald Davis:

Weeks had gone by since I was first exposed to this clip, and I'd forgotten all about Ronald, until my workout at the gym yesterday. I was listening to Pandora when "What It's Like" by Everlast came on. 

The haunting introductory lyrics beg the question, "Have I been guilty of indifference?":

We've all seen the man at the liquor store beggin' for your change
The hair on his face is dirty, dreadlocked and full of mange
He asked a man for what he could spare with shame in his eyes
"Get a job, you fuckin' slob"'s all he replied

God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
'Cause then you really might know what it's like to sing the blues

I've been guilty of indifference. I've ignored that man, stared straight ahead, sunglasses hiding the fact that I can clearly see him. I haven't gone as far as muttering anything disrespectfully. However, poisonous indifference is sometimes more hurtful than an actual comment, as Davis tells us.

Davis' honesty motivated many to act. Since his story went viral online, he's seen the positive influence of those who care. However, not every story will have a happy ending, or garner a huge following like the stories of Ronald Davis or Ted Williams. (Who can forget the Man with the Golden Voice?)

I remember my childhood in Los Angeles, and the mornings I spent with my father buying McDonald's for the homeless in our community. In hindsight, I probably should have purchased healthier food. Now I have to live with the regret of providing them with poisonous sustenance. But that's neither here nor there.

The point is, we don't all have to try to change the world by handing out clothing or food to the homeless of our city. We don't need to go out with a camera and interview the man with a cup full of change at the nearest freeway exit. We just have to remember to be kind. 

No one knows our story, much like we don't know everyone else's life. It's the gestures, the nods, the smiles, and the acknowledgements (or lack thereof) that make this world what it is. We need to be better for the sake of being better, treat each other with respect, and do whatever we can to have some sort of positive impact on our surroundings.

We may never know what it's like to walk in the shoes of those less fortunate, but we can do our best to ensure they can still walk on with their respect intact.

I'd like to give a special thanks to Greg Karber for looking this post over, and ensuring I didn't take anything out of context!