Indie

Big Thief Share A Lengthy Apology About Merch Featuring ‘Reckless, Offensive Imagery’

Like most bands, Big Thief isn’t touring right now, but they are still selling merch. It appears they have misfired with one shirt design, though, as the band has offered an apology about it today.

The band shared a lengthy Instagram post today about the shirt in question, which features “an illustration of cartoon purple arms and hands holding onto jail cell bars.” In the apology, the band wrote:

“We feel that this is reckless, offensive imagery. The jail cell was meant to be a metaphor symbolizing imprisonment and oppression of the mind and spirit because of constructs, etc… The arms were intended to be purple so as to avoid realism and race all together, but we feel that that thinking was misdirected. We believe that something as pervasive, horrific and insidious as incarceration can not be lightly approached and most especially in avoidance of the issue of race, as the entire incarceration system is fueled by racism. The lack of attention we paid to this symbolism, to us, is a reason to bring it up. Letting this image get printed on a shirt is just another example of a symptom of being conditioned in a culture of normalized white supremacy and we apologize to anyone who may have felt hurt by or uncomfortable with this image.”

The band goes on to say the shirt is just “a piece of a much larger, much more important conversation” about “the ways in which we have been steeped in and benefiting from a patriarchal white supremacist capitalist culture.” They also note that starting now, they will be “allocating a portion of the money we make from all of our masters and publishing into causes that we feel will help start to address these injustices, starting with initially giving to the Equal Justice Initiative,” as well as “donating a portion of our earnings [from touring] towards environmental justice and the climate emergency.”

The message concludes, “We continue to be committed to the work of repatterning and reconditioning ourselves to being actively anti-racist and an ally to communities and individuals affected by oppression and, in turn, to ensure that energy is what encompasses every aspect of the physical and virtual spaces that envelop the culture we are co-creating with our audience.”

In response to a comment on the post, Big Thief also noted, “We are no longer using the design or selling the shirt.”

Find the band’s full message below.

“Today, we want to take a moment to address something that has been brought to our attention. One of our t-shirts (multicolored with parrots and sound waves on the front and many small images down the long sleeves) includes an illustration of cartoon purple arms and hands holding onto jail cell bars. We feel that this is reckless, offensive imagery. The jail cell was meant to be a metaphor symbolizing imprisonment and oppression of the mind and spirit because of constructs, etc… The arms were intended to be purple so as to avoid realism and race all together but we feel that that thinking was misdirected. We believe that something as pervasive, horrific and insidious as incarceration can not be lightly approached and most especially in avoidance of the issue of race, as the entire incarceration system is fueled by racism. The lack of attention we paid to this symbolism, to us, is a reason to bring it up. Letting this image get printed on a shirt is just another example of a symptom of being conditioned in a culture of normalized white supremacy and we apologize to anyone who may have felt hurt by or uncomfortable with this image.

Our band t-shirt isn’t the main point here — Rather it is a piece of a much larger, much more important conversation which we have been having that considers all of the ways in which we have been steeped in and benefiting from a patriarchal white supremacist capitalist culture — about how the music industry which serves as the vehicle for our art getting into the world functions much the same as any other industry — and how we as a band of people who are white, benefit from a system that was built unfairly.

Going forward we will be allocating a portion of the money we make from all of our masters and publishing into causes that we feel will help start to address these injustices, starting with initially giving to the Equal Justice Initiative. On the touring side of things, we will be donating a portion of our earnings towards environmental justice and the climate emergency.

We are limited by our perspectives, and much of the time we have been able to move along in relatively peaceful, uninterrupted ignorance of how BIPOC communities and individuals are affected by the systems in place. As a queer woman, Adrianne has been passionate about dissolving and ripping apart the misogynistic, homophobic constructs that have worked to oppress her in the world, but we see clear! that it is not enough to address only the things that affect one of us, or even to simply express empathy for that which affects “others” (and this otherization in general may be the most dangerous of all pitfalls, fertilizing the thought pattern that one can live in avoidance of pain or discomfort or prejudice so long as we are not the direct recipient of it).

Almost everything that we as a band address in our songs has to do with internal and external healing of the wounded spirit body and the wounded earth body in some form. If there is suffering, it permeates, and those who feel unaffected by it are cutoff from true vitality. If music is to be a unifying force, which we have always believed it can be, then as a band we need to better acknowledge and recognize the stark differences in experience that people face. We are committed to facing up to our own conditioning and internalized racism. We continue to be committed to the work of repatterning and reconditioning ourselves to being actively anti-racist and an ally to communities and individuals affected by oppression and, in turn, to ensure that energy is what encompasses every aspect of the physical and virtual spaces that envelop the culture we are co-creating with our audience.

Love, Big Thief.”

×