In my last post I described my bafflement at the fact that the Gap was selling a t-shirt with the words “Manifest Destiny” blaring across it like some call to arms or some new Nike ad campaign. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough, but at the time (Oct 9th) I searched around the web and couldn’t find anybody especially upset about the shirt.
Well, since then it looks like the controversy just BLEW UP on the Gap. I linked to the Business Insider article because, frankly, when business publications are noting it, you know something’s up).
Word finally spread about the shirt. Native Americans, not surprisingly, were especially upset. A petition was started online. Check out the petition comments; people got mad.
And now the Gap is pulling the shirts off their shelves and off their website. More than a week? I’m surprised it took this long. Could have to do with the relative obscurity of the word in contemporary society, but it happened nonetheless.
I had wondered what the shirt designer was thinking when he created this shirt. From Salon’s article, obviously not much of anything at all: ”The shirt’s designer, Mark McNairy, took to Twitter with an early, ill-thought defense of his work. “Manifest Destiny! Survival of the Fittest!”
Wow. Not only is that an especially insensitive remark given the corporate-public nature of his shirt, but he’s confusing Manifest Destiny with a cliched description of Darwin’s theory of evolution, which came a couple decades after Manifest Destiny was already in full swing. McNairy took the tweet down, but the damage to his reputation was already done. Mark McNairy: Catch him drunk, aggressive, and incredibly white at the keg party nearest you.
So. You can call it a victory for an oppressed minority, or a minor corporate marketing fail, I guess, but to me it’s a (small) victory for the complexity of history and movements like Manifest Destiny. These things just can’t be reduced to a cozy slogan on a t-shirt, no matter how much people McNairy might want to “Just Do It.”