He hadn’t even been dead a week. George Floyd, crushed under the weight of a Minneapolis police officer, hadn’t even been dead a week before at least one retailer found a way to profit from the pain coursing through America as cities literally burned with a rage simmering for 400 years.
Not that there’s ever a good time to exploit someone’s death—let alone a racially charged one.
But it’s 2020, and aside from life-threatening pandemics and life-threatening encounters with our police forces, black people are apparently also at the mercy of what The Root’s Managing Editor Genetta Adams concisely termed “blood-sucking, exploitive assholes.” No doubt, there are any number of George Floyd-themed (or Ahmaud Arbery-themed, or Breonna Taylor-themed, or maybe even Tony McDade-themed) pieces of merchandise currently for sale as people don protest-appropriate gear across the country—though sadly, this isn’t the first time “I Can’t Breathe” has made it onto a T-shirt.
But the Today Shopping’s Company, which bills itself as “a passionated [sic] company who loves to create creative things to help your life easier,” has taken exploitation to an unfathomable new low. Its site, which, among other things, sells dog accessories and jigsaw puzzles, appears to also be selling a bedding set—$59.99 for a twin three-piece to $99.99 for a king four-piece—featuring the face of a black man who is almost certainly supposed to represent a masked (or muzzled?) George Floyd.
In the illustrated image, Floyd stares through a “rip” pulled through by (Caucasian-toned?) Superman-like hands, the words “I Can’t Breathe” both scrawled beneath his visage in graffiti-like font, and superimposed across the background. No artist is listed, so we don’t know whether this is someone’s ill-conceived idea of an artistic tribute or a passive-aggressive yet sinister plot manifested in poly fiberfill, but seriously: What kind of fuckery is this—and how have over 35 been purchased in the past 42 hours? Who thought, “This’ll be a cool design!” And who predicted, “These will sell like hotcakes!” What monsters must live under your bed to make you want to sleep under this triggering-ass comforter every night? Or maybe the better question is: What kind of monster do you have to be to buy this?
Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a dozen better ways to honor George Floyd than referencing his terrifying final moments for posterity and bedroom decor. But since somebody approved mass production of this mess, it’s worth noting that Today Shopping’s Company boasts that “We never stop thinking of making something new daily,” on its “About Us” page. The words float above what is likely a stock photo of a white family with their arms about each other, backs to the screen. It’s also worth noting that despite exploiting Floyd’s image, no mention is made of proceeds being donated to racial justice organizations or to Floyd’s family.
“This is how we live and how we work,” says the page.
We wish we could say this is the most egregious transgression upon the memory of a slain black person that we’ve seen as of late. But no, that dubious honor belongs to whoever thought themselves clever when they purchased the domain name “BreonnaTaylor.com” and linked it to the Louisville Metro Police Foundation; a move that even the charity itself disavowed, stating that it “did not and would NEVER show this disrespect.”
As I write this, Black Twitter is going awf on strategist Karen Civil, due to an ill-advised photo full of provocative fashion choices, including a T-shirt implicating Derek Chauvin, the now-charged former officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck. (Hey, she made you look.) But while virtual draggings are admittedly perversely entertaining to watch, perhaps the bigger enemy might be incorporated and profiting from black deaths and our collective pain, one sweatshop at a time. Because when it’s not open season on black lives, it’s clearly still an open market; our trauma lining the pockets of the capitalism this country thrives on, just as easily as our bodies once did.
We’ve reached out to Today Shopping’s Company and will update this post pending a response. Looking for ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.