This week was all about the apology.
It wasn’t just that the New York Times had to apologize for mistakenly referring to Dick Cheney as the former president of the United States. Apologies abounded! Like the one from Jacob Dorsey, the 19-year-old Republican candidate for the Wisconsin Assembly, who not only apologized but dropped out of the race after his “hurtful” (his term) comments about black people and gays resurfaced on social media. Future GOP politicians, take note: It’s never too early to figure out that calling people “f*gs” and “n*ggers” on Twitter and YouTube might not be a winning election strategy. Even in Wisconsin!
Speaking of insensitivity, the next “OOPS” came from the editors of the Lancaster New Era, which had published an editorial cartoon that compared cramped, modern air travel with the horrors of humans packed into slave ships. “To somehow link the inconveniences of air travel with slavery in general and the slave ships in particular was not only just plain wrong it was deeply hurtful,” the editors later wrote with what seemed like genuine remorse.
More ambiguously, Sarah “it takes a village idiot” Palin came along this week to declare that she “owe[s] America a global apology [sic].” Not for refusing to go away — but for John McCain not winning the presidency in 2008.
We were trying to figure out if Palin finally realized that her candidacy was a global joke when along came another apology, this time from the retail giant Urban Outfitters. This one was a doozy. And, no, they weren’t apologizing for for making teenagers look funny.
Urban Outfitters never tires of offending people — selling things like a Monopoly board game parody called “Ghettopoly” (where players build crack houses and projects instead of houses and hotels) and stuff like T-shirts declaring Everyone Loves a Jewish Girl that’s printed amid a sea of dollar signs. It’s part of a long list of ways the company has pissed people off.
This time, one of their Mensa-Merchandisers thought it would be a good idea to sell faux-vintage university sweatshirts. Not just any university. Kent State University. Circa 1970. And part of the sweatshirt’s “faux vintage” effect include what looks like bullet holes and bloodstains.
In case you grew up on Texas schoolbooks, Kent State University is where, in 1970, four unarmed students were caught up in a protest about the escalation of the Vietnam War — when along came the patriotic Ohio National Guard to shoot them to death. Nine more students were injured; one was permanently paralyzed. Half a century later, the chilling details of that day still spark outrage.
So what the hell was Urban Outfitters thinking? “The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray,” went the official response from the company. Oh, and the bullet holes made it difficult to fit longer words like Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook Elementary on the front. Mm hm.
Is there anything Urban Outfitters won’t commodify? Kent State. Urban ghettos. Jewi$hne$$. We didn’t even mention the time they were called out for hawking sparkly gun-shaped Christmas-tree ornaments in crime-ridden Philadelphia, or forced to stop selling a shirt with the word depression printed repeatedly across the front.
Sensitivity be damned. Offending people may not work for everyone, but Urban Outfitters obviously feels it works for them — surely they’ll find more ways to offend. It’s going to be hard to top a bloody Kent State sweatshirt, however. So let’s help them out! Since they clearly want to find the most offensive way to market their brand, what will they sell next? What do YOU think?