A British retailer, Primark, has been pressured to discontinue the sale of a The Walking Dead T-shirt after some in the UK deemed the shirt racist. The shirt contains a picture of Lucille — the baseball bat surrounded by barbed wire wielded by the show’s ubervillain, Negan — and the words “Eeny Meeny Miny Moe.”
“It was fantastically offensive and I can only assume that no-one in the process of ordering it knew what they were doing or were aware of its subliminal messages,” one shopper complained, according to The Telegraph. “It is directly threatening of a racist assault, and if I were black and were faced by a wearer I would know just where I stood.”
Within the context of The Walking Dead, it is not likely to be perceived as racist, as it refers to a scene in which Negan uses his bat Lucille to choose who among a lineup for characters he will kill. “Eeny meeny miny moe catch a tiger by its toe,” he says, in choosing his victim. However, I can see why someone unfamiliar with The Walking Dead might find the t-shirt offensive. The “Eeny meeny miny moe” rhyme has a troubling past and historically has been followed by the line, “catch a n***er by his toe.”
In fact, when I asked a friend sitting in the same room with me — who doesn’t watch The Walking Dead — what her instant reaction to the shirt was, she didn’t hesitate to say, “Oh, that’s racist.”
Many fans of The Walking Dead disagree and are upset with Primark for giving in to public pressure.
A spokesperson for Primark has apologized on behalf of the retailer.
“The t-shirt in question is licensed merchandise for the U.S. television series, The Walking Dead, and the quote and image are taken directly from the show. Any offence caused by its design was wholly unintentional and Primark sincerely apologises for this.”
Context matters. There was no racist intent behind the design of the T-shirt, and fans of the series would be unlikely to imply any. However, in a retail store where shoppers may be unfamiliar with the reference from The Walking Dead, it might be easy to confuse the rhyme with its racist history, especially as it is juxtaposed with a bloody baseball bat, which might be suggestive of something more nefarious to people outside of The Walking Dead circles.
(Via The Telegraph)