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article imageOp-Ed: Shocking shirt from Vans apparel company dishonors First Nations

By Marcus Hondro     Jun 25, 2015 in Business
Many of you will join me in shock that the American apparel company Vans could even think about the racist t-shirt it put out, one that denigrates First Nations. But they did. They had meetings and not only thought about it - they went with it.
T-shirt denigrates Natives
Thankfully concerned people called them on the t-shirt, which features beer cans stacked up to form a totem pole. Funny, no? No. Not funny and with the Truth and Reconciliation Committee report just released in Canada, a report urging the country to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it seems a particularly bad time for such a t-shirt. But then there's never a good time for racism.
Here's some of what a Metis man from Vancouver, B.C., Chad Girardin, had to say about what Vans called their 'Wizard Totem' t-shirt, on a website he's set up to protest it.
"The Vans clothing line have stooped to a disgraceful low and have created a shirt with a totem pole made out of beer cans," Mr. Girardin writes. "This imagery is uncalled for and very hurtful. By creating this shirt Vans is stating that Natives culture revolves around alcohol and that all 'Indians" are drunks."
In a direct letter to the company, Mr. Girardin wrote that "Drunken Indian is not acceptable image to be portraying on your clothing. We want you to discontinue your beer can totem pole t-shirt and make a formal apology for your racist clothing item."
The above seems so obvious that it truly is astonishing an apparel company in 2015 would even consider such a t-shirt. The petition has over 17,500 signatures as of this writing, and would doubtless have a hundred times that amount were it to become more known. So make it so, pass it on.
Vans removes t-shirt
Vans did take the t-shirt off the market and also offered a 'hip' apology, one that, for me at least, grates. It's obviously a back-pedal to save their image and I'm not getting a lot of sincerity out of it. But you'll make up your own mind about it:
“We really appreciate you guys sharing your concerns with us." Vans wrote on their Facebook page. "Your feedback is super important. Please understand that it was never our intention to create a negative feeling and we sincerely apologize for any offense you have felt as a result of this tee.”
Mr. Girardin wants a policy change at Vans. "I would like to see a cultural adviser (employed there) and this is what I will tell them if I hear back from them." He hasn't forgiven, either, writing that he hopes people will "boycott Vans forever for committing such a racist act on Natives who have gone through so much.”
For me, a sincere apology and compensation in the form of money donated to a cause related to racism just might remove Vans from my bad books. And perhaps a sign placed in the board rooms where they discuss ideas for new tees that reads: Racism Hurts Real People. Oh, and finally a t-shirt of a totem pole made out of blocks with the word 'love' written upon them.
Yeah, that might do it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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