Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
I was checking an article in Politico on Sunday evening when a GAP advertisement popped up on the right column of the computer screen. The GAP ad caught me off guard.
Here was a dark t-shirt with white lettering that read: Manifest Destiny.
The T-shirts are Still On Display in Gap Stores
Immediately I wondered: Why would the GAP sell merchandise that is so blatantly racist? I thought how ignorant these greedy corporate types are, using a hurtful term to make a buck.
To American Indians, the term "Manifest Destiny" represents thievery of land and genocide of innocent lives. To American Indians, the blood of our ancestors still cries out from the land.
For some reason I tend to compare what happened to Jews in World War II to what happened to American Indians in this country. Just as the word "holocaust" is a despicable word to Jews, the term "Manifest Destiny" is equally as despicable to American Indians.
Manifest Destiny represents greed of aggressive Euro-Americans who thought they possessed the God-given right to take the country from American Indians. Hitler thought he had the same right to do so in Europe during World War II.
By Monday morning there was a groundswell of anger by American Indians against the GAP. I wondered aloud: Would the GAP ever agree to sell $30 t-shirts with the word HOLOCAUST spread across them?
In the same year, the World Council of Churches apologized for its usage of "the doctrine of discovery" that was used to kill off our ancestors, here was the GAP promoting the Manifest Destiny to a whole new generation of teens, an age group the Gap markets its products to.
History is full of false social constructions. Manifest Destiny was the cover for so-called Christians to take the lands of the Great Plains, down into Texas and onward into the West without feeling any guilt. These so-called Christians bought it. So they set out to conquer the land with bibles in one hand and guns in the other. Translated: if they could not "save" the Indians, they would kill them. It was a sad history which was glorified in cowboy and Indian movies. It was a sad history that non-Indians still romanticize.
Sadly, millions of American Indians were wiped off the face of Mother Earth during the Manifest Destiny era.
When Mark McNairy, the designer of the GAP's Manifest Destiny t-shirt, was called out for his inappropriate creation, he tweeted "Manifest Destiny. Survival of the Fittest," a term associated with Darwinism that implies only the strong survive in evolution.
He then deleted his tweet. On Monday, he tweeted he was hurt deeply to be called a racist, as it is not him.
This self-proclaimed non-racist has not responded to requests by the Native News Network for a comment. We would like to ask him if he was confused about whether or not he thought Manifest Destiny was ever associated with Darwinism. Or if he has any comprehension what the term means to American Indians.
Nor has the GAP responded to inquires from the Native News Network.
Late Monday afternoon they posted messages that they have removed the offensive t-shirts from online. As of Monday evening, the t-shirts were still on shelves in their GAP on Powell Street, some 20 blocks from their San Francisco headquarters.
Even though aftermath of Manifest Destiny has left many American Indians and Alaska Natives in mass poverty, collectively American Indians still have an annual buying power of some $67.7 billion.
American Indians and Alaska Natives need not let the GAP off the hook on their gross disrespect to Native people across the United States. The GAP can sell their$30 t-shirts to others.
I prefer the t-shirts I can purchase at powwows for $10 anyway.
photo credit Mari Villaluna;
posted October 16, 2012 6:30 am edt