In the latest installment of the fashion industry doing something regrettable with respect to whole cultures, Gap has pulled a shirt from production after massive public outcry across Twitter and Facebook (and petitions!). That’s the t-shirt in question up above, which was part of a collection in collaboration with GQ, so it stands to reason there were even more people vetting it than usual. The collection, Gap x GQ, claims to showcase the “best new menswear designers in America.” It was designed by Mark McNairy.
“Manifest Destiny” is, of course, the concept that America was destined to spread Westward (per Heaven) and, although the phrase has a complicated legacy, plenty of people feel it’s a genuinely terrible thing to slap on a shirt and sell at a mall. One activist, Rene Roman Nose, wrote the following email in protest to Gap, which was reprinted in Indian Country Today:
It is with great sadness that I notify you I will not be shopping at your store until you remove the “Manifest Destiny” t-shirts available at your stores. Manifest Destiny was the catch phrase which led to the genocide of millions of my people, millions of Indigenous people throughout this country. I am also inviting the more than 1700 people on my Facebook page to boycott your stores and inviting them to shop with their conscience. In the past Gap has been known for inclusion, rather than exclusion. I am disappointed to see that your marketing and sales strategies have changed so dramatically.
Over at The Gaurdian, James Mackay sums up the problem succinctly: “America has never really come to terms with the contradiction between this bloody origin and its rhetoric of exceptionalism, and American popular history thus remains dependent on a now largely unarticulated form of manifest destiny logic. That said, it seems astonishing that nobody during the product launch process said “Hang on … doesn’t this basically mean ‘white pride’?” Mackay then notes that artist Gregg Deal suggests the Gap “should now launch “AMERICAN IMPERIALISM” or “FORCED ASSIMILATION” lines.”
Today, Gap issued a statement, saying, “Thank you for your feedback regarding the “Manifest Destiny” t-shirt. Based on customer feedback, we will no longer offer the t-shirt in our stores or online,” while McNairy tweeted that, “IT HURT ME DEEPLY TO BE CALLED A RACIST,” (after previously tweeting “MANIFEST DESTINY. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST” and deleting it).
The shirt is currently “not found” on Gap’s site.