Just when I was about to treat myself to a sumptuous “It’s Okay to Be White” T-shirt as an early birthday gift, comes the heartbreaking news that they’ve been pulled.
Newsweek reports that the New Zealand-based online auction site Trade Me made the agonizing decision after Kiwis, the Human Rights Commission and other groups exploded with outrage—presumably due to white supremacists adopting the phrase as a rallying cry and bigots like Lauren Southern openly endorsing the product.
The New Zealand Herald reports that the shirt had the following item description:
“An ‘It’s okay to be white’ T-shirt will let people know that you are not a racist who thinks that a child can be born into sin if others with the same skin color have acted badly in the past.”
“Wear this shirt as a white person to troll your local Communists, or wear this shirt as a brown person to troll stuck-up middle-class urbanites. Either way it’s funny!”
“Despite what the advertisements say, it seems likely that the stickers and T-shirts are intended to convey a message of intolerance, racism and division,” a Human Rights Commission spokesperson told the Herald. “There is no place for that in New Zealand.”
The “It’s Okay to Be White” movement—not to be confused with the sacrilegious “It’s Okay Not to Season Your Food” movement—became a thing when the image board community 4Chan launched it as a troll campaign with the explicit intent to incite media backlash. And it worked, because racists couldn’t help themselves. So stickers, T-shirts and other memorabilia began popping up all over the damn place. As The Guardian notes, even former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke was so smitten by the presumed trend that he ran an article on his website titled “It’s OK to Be White Campaign Sweeping the Nation!”
However, Trade Me evidently wants out of the shock value business.
“We knew there was some ambiguity associated with this phrase so it’s been a tough one for us to wrestle with,” Trade Me’s head of trust and safety George Hiotakis said. “New Zealand has told us that they don’t want to see this sort of thing on Trade Me and we agree, so this slogan will not be allowed to be sold on any item on our site.”
Moral of the story: if you’re going to normalize your bigotry, at least print it on a red hat and have one of the biggest rappers in the world claim wearing it “makes him feel like Superman.”
Otherwise it’s just bad business.