Gap Pulls “Manifest Destiny” T-Shirt

The retailer ceased sales of the shirt after an online petition raised awareness of its racist message.

Posted: 10/18/2012 12:10 PM EDT

Graphic tees with pithy messages are now ingrained in popular fashion, but a recent T-shirt release by the Gap angered many Native Americans who thought its message paid inappropriate homage to a painful part of U.S. history.

The Gap tee bearing the phrase “Manifest Destiny” sparked a wave of backlash from the American Indian Movement (AIM) who found offense in the shirt’s message.

“The original 'Manifest Destiny' shirt promotes an ideology that resulted in the mass genocide of indigenous people,” AIM said in a statement released earlier this week.

Gap responded to the outrage Thursday, issuing a statement on its Facebook page, apologizing for the gaffe and promising to remove the offensive shirts.

“We’re sincerely sorry for the offense that the “Manifest Destiny” T-shirt may have caused. This shirt was part of the partnership between Gap and GQ featuring new designers and was never meant to be insensitive. Because of your feedback, we made the decision to no longer sell the T-shirt as soon as it was brought to our attention. The T-shirt has been removed from Gap.com and we are in the process of removing it from our stores.”

The company did not comment on whether any of the other similarly themed shirts would be removed.

Manifest Destiny refers to a 19th-century concept among early, white American settlers who believed that it was their God-given right to expand ever westward, in their colonial quest to establish a new homeland outside of Europe despite the existence of Native communities. The doctrine fueled the acquisition of several Western states, but also the mass murder and destruction of Native Americans.

In addition to the AIM petition, a UCLA student launched a Change.org petition demanding the removal of the shirts. Others raised awareness via Facebook and other social media sites.

From the Change.org petition:

“This article of clothing promotes a belief that has resulted in the mass genocide of indigenous people, and it serves to normalize oppression. This shirt is marketed to teens and young adults, and it gives no context for the racism and inequality that persists in our society, to this day, as a result of this doctrine. We are asking that this shirt be discontinued, and that an apology be issued.”


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(Photo: Gap)

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