WHY I THINK MASTODON’S THANKSGIVING SHIRT IS HORRIBLE EVEN THOUGH I’M NOT A NATIVE AMERICAN
(In this post, guest writer Tal — whose own blog is here — forcefully expresses some opinions about the shirt emblazoned with the above image released by the band Mastodon for this year’s Thanksgiving holiday. As always, Comments are welcome.)
In case you haven’t been on the internet since before Thanksgiving, Mastodon decided to mark that holiday by putting out a really tasteless shirt. The shirt, which shows a male Pilgrim pointing a musket at a kneeling, scantily clad, stereotypical image of a Native American woman holding up a turkey, has drawn outraged responses from members of Native communities (for example here and here). The band seem to think that they are doing something to raise awareness; they wrote on Facebook:
“Regarding our thanks giving shirt, whether you choose to believe or not, the American Indians were massacred by the white settlers who became the Americans we are today. this shirt represents this atrocity and celebrating in the face of this atrocity is chilling.”
They felt the need to add: “we may have a sick sense of humor, but we are far from being ‘Racist’ as some of you who might not get it are calling us.” (What’s actually chilling is that this post had over 4,000 likes as of the writing of this article.)
Mastodon in effect dismisses the criticisms leveled at their choice of imagery by implying that the critics don’t “get” the shirt or somehow don’t believe that Native Americans were massacred at the hands of white settlers, when this is not the problem at all. The problem is not their message, but the way they’ve chosen to execute it, and the band’s response just makes it worse.
By attempting to stifle the opinions of the very people they’re supposedly trying to support, they’re in fact perpetuating the racism they claim to be against. As one comment on the shirt read,
“To try and prove a point of how NDNs were horribly treated by the settlers is admirable, but when you offend the entire population of said descendants of said NDNs then no matter how innocent the intention it is a fail. When you then try and tell the millions of offended NDNs how they can’t be offended, then you become the pilgrim with the blunderbuss pointing it at the head of each and every one of us.”
I debated about whether to write this article for many reasons – the firestorm of comments sure to ensue, the fact that I’m not a Native person, the knowledge that it would give Mastodon’s stunt more publicity, which was surely why they did it in the first place. But in the end I decided that this was too important for me to remain silent – especially in the face of the mainstream trying to drown out the Native voices protesting against this shirt. I don’t claim to speak for any Native people, but I want to add my voice to theirs pointing out something that just ain’t right, no matter what background you come from.
The band, as well as the people who are saying it’s “satire” or “a joke” are missing the point of those who object to this shirt. No one is disagreeing with their intention to expose the falseness of the Thanksgiving story, but with the thoughtless execution. It’s not funny. A joke can still be so tasteless or offensive that it should never be uttered. And it’s in no way clear that this shirt is satirical on the level that the band implies; their supposed “satire” of the Thanksgiving myth is obscured by the problematic imagery they’ve chosen. They probably thought the shock value of a Pilgrim pointing a gun at an Indian would force people to confront the truth. If it makes you uncomfortable, then it makes you think about the issue, right?
Well, I have two problems with that.
Sure, the image depicts violence against Native peoples, something that is often glossed over in elementary school versions of the Thanksgiving story. But it doesn’t do anything to challenge the violence – the continued erosion of Native languages and cultures, severe poverty and lack of economic opportunity, disproportionate rates of mortality due to lack of healthcare – that continues to this day. It doesn’t challenge the power of Anglo society over Native peoples at all, and disturbing Facebook comments prove that there are people who gladly take the image of dominance at face value and gloat over how their Anglo ancestors got the better of Native people.
Native Americans are not a thing of the past, and neither is the oppression they face. As one Facebook commenter points out,
“people talk about our ancestors and what their 8xgreat grandparents did but what most non-natives don’t relive is that there were Indian missions stripping natives of there language and culture up to the 1980’s. there are still people taking potshots at my fellow natives trying to run them off public hunting ground. the decimation of the native population is not something that happened. it is happening. it is very much a current event and has been for 500 years.”
Another commenter points out how the violence is present even in the debate over the shirt:
“When Indigenous people come on here and say this shirt is racist, sexist, and appropriating our struggle, and white people and settlers of color rush to the defense of the shirt and band and attack the Indigenous people who are objecting, it is racist, and sexist, and furthering the violent oppressive dynamic depicted in the image on the shirt.”
I’ve seen several comments stating that the image is nothing to be upset about because metal is supposed to be shocking and disturbing. I agree that we didn’t sign up for this genre to be conformist and PC. I also think, however, that the metal community has a duty to use the genre’s shock value to resist the mainstream and fight injustice, not to further racism and repression. While controversy does garner attention and ferment discussion, this choice of imagery puts Mastodon in the same league with the NSBM bands in terms of being “controversial.” That’s not the side of the fence where I want my musical tastes to place me.
In addition, the image used to represent Native Americans is not only stereotyped, in no way an accurate representation of the Wampanoag tribe that the Pilgrims interacted with, but it also perpetuates the sexualization and objectification of Native women. One would think if Mastodon cared about the history of Native Americans, they would use an image that accurately represents a particular Native culture, since they are not all the same. One would think if they cared about the dignity of Native people, then they wouldn’t objectify a Native woman. Since this sort of image is as familiar to the average American as Disney’s take on Pocahontas, perhaps it isn’t too surprising that they chose it, but that doesn’t make it right, and it’s in no way “the truth” or “accurate” as some commenters claim. No one is denying the genocide of Native Americans; people are speaking up against the offensive way a Native person – a Native woman – is depicted on this shirt.
Ruth Hopkins, in her article “Native Appropriation Month?”, writes:
“This image is so disturbing it warrants a trigger warning to any Native woman who has been abused or assaulted by a non-Native man. In fact, non-Native men commit sexual violence against Native women at such epidemic levels that it pushed Congress to pass provisions that help protect Native women in the Violence Against Women Act just last winter. Trivializing sexual violence against women is inexcusable. It is not art, and it’s not funny.”
If you think about it really hard, the image can be interpreted as a satire of mainstream media images of Native women – but this interpretation is so distanced from the actual image that it feels like reading too much into it. With that line of thinking, every pornographic image of a woman dressed up in an “Indian” costume could be interpreted as satire – hardly likely! The most obvious message of the image is one of objectification and subjugation of Native women, something that is in no way enlightened, nor metal.
To boil it down, the shirt is offensive primarily for its stereotyped and sexualized depiction of a Native woman, in a situation whose supposed satirical nature is unclear, while its dynamic of oppression and violence toward Native people, and Native women in particular, is all too clear. This is what I see when I look at this shirt. I don’t claim to speak for Native people, but to see one people oppressed by another, or to see women degraded, is something that disturbs me as a human being, not as a member of a particular group.
Does a shirt really matter so much? It matters as much as every Native woman that is raped – one in three, more than twice the national rate – and every Native person that dies due to lack of access to adequate healthcare. Not until we challenge the relegation of Native people to an exoticized, objectified, or forgotten role, whether in pop culture or in underground subcultures, can we effectively address the issues affecting Native communities. We must pay attention to the little and the big things if we are to change as a society. If there’s anything redeeming about this shirt, it might be that it brought the issues faced by Native communities and women especially to the fore of the metal community.
The shirt has disappeared from the band’s website, and Facebook comments seem to imply that it sold out. That means the band has made a good bit of money off it – in essence, continuing the exploitation of Native people for the profit of white men. As blogger Jordan Darville writes,
“The shirts cost $22, and there’s no indication that a fraction of the proceeds go towards any sort of Aboriginal charity. This means Mastodon can still profit off the genocide of an entire people, even if they were born a few hundred years too late.”
There have been many comments calling for the band to donate profits to Native American charities. Considering the band’s response so far, this seems unlikely. It’s up to us metalheads then to show our support for true Native American causes. I encourage every person that abhors this shirt and Mastodon’s tactless attitude to donate $22 to an organization such as the Native American Heritage Association, National Relief Charities, Native American Rights Fund, or another of your choice (here are some more ideas).
At the same time, we can’t let the issues faced by Native Americans get swept under the rug after clicking the Donate button. This T-shirt and the controversy it has inspired just go to show how pernicious stereotypes and racism can be. By ignoring the concerns raised by Native people and others, Mastodon threw out an enormous opportunity to foster dialogue and understanding between Native Americans and the other inhabitants of the Americas about the racism faced by Native people, as well as to raise awareness about the serious issues confronting Native communities to this day. Instead, they chose to perpetuate and defend harmful stereotypes and racist imagery, and to continue to silence and oppress Native people. If anything, this shirt should remind everyone not of the atrocities of the past, but of the atrocities that continue to this day.
This site is getting all deep and thought provoking.. Not that that’s a bad thing. Not being a Native American myself, I can’t decide for them if the shirt is offensive or not. Obviously they don’t find it amusing. Very good article.
“If you think about it really hard, the image can be interpreted as a satire of mainstream media images of Native women – but this interpretation is so distanced from the actual image that it feels like reading too much into it. With that line of thinking, every pornographic image of a woman dressed up in an “Indian” costume could be interpreted as satire – hardly likely!”
I think the leap from this shirt to pornography is a bit too far. The shirt is clearly mean to be satirical (although whether it succeeds as that is a different matter*), whereas the equivalent pornography is meant to titillate based on a stereotype, not send a message about the brutalization of indigenous peoples. I do think that the band intended to heighten the message by using stereotypical images in the style of the Thanksgiving decorations of yesteryear (and probably some decorations that still exist), although obviously the sexualized Native American woman is much more problematic than the buckle-hat wearing pilgrim. I think the message would have been only slightly more palatable if it had been a traditional “Brave” being aimed at, but my guess is they wanted to ratchet up the ick factor with the very worst stereotypical image they could come up with.
But with that said, I’m not defending the shirt or the band for doing this. As I parenthetically mentioned, saying the shirt is satire and succeeding at that are two very different things–this is clearly not at the level of a Jonathan Swift essay. I think they could have hit the same hot button issue without throwing the issue of sexism and it’s particularly egregious effects on Native Americans on top, but I suspect that would have meant operating at a level of subtlety and art in this medium that they either don’t possess or chose not to exercise.
*See my second paragraph for why I’m not really defending this shirt.
“A joke can still be so tasteless or offensive that it should never be uttered.”
I respectfully disagree. Metal has a history of being offensive, politically incorrect, and rebellious in just about every way possible. We see images of religious figures being disemboweled and brutally tortured on albums and t-shirts all the time and don’t bat an eye and even laugh, but suddenly this has gone “too far”? You’d think Mastodon had just adorned the Nazi swastika as their new emblem with the amount of internet outrage over this.
I don’t condone the chosen caricatures and won’t be buying the shirt, but I think folks need to lighten up a bit. How many satirical stereotypes does South Park visually and verbally perpetuate on a weekly basis to get across a message?
Besides, yellow would look terrible on me anyway. 😛
Metal isnt nearly as rebellious and outspoken as you people seem to believe. Yeah you can burn churches and bite the heads off a bat, but if someone rebels from the strict rules of what metal is by mixing in rap or clean vocals or if they wear the wrong t-shirt or listen to the wrong band all of a sudden everyone gets a titty attack. Most metal reflects the white conservative conformative thinking of their fanbase that somehow sees themselves as victims of society.
And south park is not the end-all be-all of satire. By lampooning both sides of an issue it may seem like they’re being “objective”, but it really just plays off as snarky condemnation saying “dont feel strongly about anything because caring about stuff is stupid”. And that’s a very easy viewpoint for some middle class Canadian whiteboys who are now millionaires to convey, but that doesnt speak for the people who are affected by those issues.
Its very easy for white people to say “what’s the big deal, just chill”. And I get it. But your viewpoint doesnt undermine the discontent of others just because you are among the status quo. (Conversely, we would have no right to tell a Native American that they should be offended by this if they didnt feel that way; nonetheless the critcsm would come back down to “this is a poorly done satire”)
“Poorly done satire” I can agree with. The message is surely overshadowed by the imagery. But is it offensive? I don’t know. The line between “funny” and “offensive” is in a different place for everyone, it’s entirely subjective depending on who you ask.
I won’t comment too much on the rest of what you said about the metal scene, because that experience depends entirely on where you look. I know plenty of metalheads that are into rap-metal and dancecore and that sort of thing. There’s a place for everyone. I’ve never “looked the part” of a stereotypical metalhead ever in my entire life and to my knowledge haven’t really been criticized for it. Mostly just angry, over-opinionated bloggers (and commenters) that get upset over petty stuff like that. Good music is good music.
My partner happens to be a Native American woman, and when I showed her this shirt she was absolutely mortified. She and I had seen Mastodon live (it was her first concert she’d ever been to) on one of our earliest dates together, and until now that has remained a fond memory for us. Granted, I stopped liking the band years ago, but this still ruined several good memories for us. The Mastodon tour poster that we had hanging in our home as a souvenir has since been torn down, and my CD’s have been sold off in protest.
The fact that a group of privileged, arrogant white men can just ignore all criticism by saying “it’s just a joke” is bullshit. The oppressor doesn’t have the right to decide what the oppressed feel or is insulted by. Shame on Mastodon.
In my experience, fake apologies like “Lighten up, it’s just a joke!” and “Political correctness is out of control!” are often code for “I want to say horrible racist/sexist/offensive/stupid shit without people calling me out on it.”
Exactly. That has been my observation as well.
I’d just like to say a couple things/respond to some parts of your article (which is well done btw)
First, I’m not going to tell anyone what they should/shouldn’t be offended by. Different people see things differently, and there’s no accounting for or arguing against that. So if you’re offended by the shirt, okay then. It’s good to have the dialogue so more people can understand why that is.
“It’s not funny. A joke can still be so tasteless or offensive that it should never be uttered.”
Well, that’s debatable. I pretty much outright disagree with the second sentence there. Whether the shirt is funny or not doesn’t really matter.
You bring up the imagery, and the stereotypical and oversexualized image of the Native woman. To me it doesn’t seem that different from other arguments I’ve heard a lot of recently about the oversexualization of Asian women, or of black women, or Latinas, or even white women. Maybe the problem there is that women in general are objectified, and it’s got nothing to do with a particular ethnicity.
Speaking of stereotypical characters, I’m pretty sure that all settlers didn’t shoot native people in the face while smiling. To me, it seems pretty obvious that it’s meant as satire. I think using those characters makes the meaning more clear. That’s also why they wouldn’t use an image of a particular native culture. It’s not like there was only one culture that was mistreated.
Also, complaining that they’re not donating the proceeds to charity is like saying “okay, you tried to help a cause, but you didn’t help it enough and/or you didn’t help it in the way I think you should have.” The band is under no obligation to try and help at all, and they’re definitely not obligated to donate the money.
There is a difference in the general objectification of women and the starkly specific native American rape epidemic where 1 in 3 experiences as was linked to in this article. The shirt displays a painful obliviousness to this issue. Different races and cultures of women experience different types of sexism and objectification. And just because something is obvious satire it doesnt mean it’s a good or effective satire that works. There’s clearly more complexity to these issues than simply “lol white people suck, happy holidays!”, and when they muddle those issues it makes the effect and quality of the satire null.
Really disappointed in the band, considering deleting their library from my computer and getting rid of their t-shirts. I can take a joke, but this is ridiculous in my opinion.
Hopeless to see someone commenting ‘whether it is offensive depends on different opinions’. It’s not about opinions, any image or information conveying genocide is just simply wrong. There is no tolerance or debatableness of ‘jokes’ on this or any sort to anyone who has a clear sense of consciousness. Many things aren’t black and white, but aknowledging and respecting each others’ right to exist and live equally as human beings is just the bottomline. Come on, what did Nelson Mandela’s whole life tell you?!
By the by, Jimmy Kimmel is a moron.
Whatever “satirical” rationalizations went through their head when they thought up (or approved) this idea, my simple question is this: Who did they think would buy and proudly wear this shirt other than a bunch of fuckin rednecks? And is that the demographic they want to represent Mastodon? (and i use the phrase “fuckin rednecks” as a native Texan)
Don’t forget hipsters, to be ironic. And collectors. This has stirred so much controversy this will inevitably be worth hundreds, maybe thousands, in a decade or two if this remains their only pressing of the shirt.
This does not make me feel better.
Did Cradle of Filth get this much attention over their “nun sticking a cross up her whoohaa” t-shirt? Because I find that one way more offensive. Not enough to ‘clutch my pearls” and complain about it on their website however. Is it because religion(s) are always fair game in metal?
Every group of people, even metal, has their own “taboos”. From my observation at least, religion, white people (particularly rich ones), and Western civilization is free game because these are groups that have historically held positions of power and dominance in the past (and present). There are some I’ve heard even argue that whites cannot even be “oppressed” or “victims” because they are not a protected class, thus justifying any sort of hate speech against them. I’m definitely not saying that’s what’s happening here, just observations of logical extremes I’ve seen elsewhere.
A double standard for sure, but it’s just the nature of our society.
i’m staying out of the conversation on the “message” of this shirt because i can only wade into the pool of human stupidity for so long before i start wanting claw my eyes out. but i do think the life expectancy of this little stunt has been greatly extended by all the negative attention it’s received. as someone who lives down the road from the Westboro Church i’d like to offer this bit of advice; the best way to get an asshole to shut up is to stop paying attention to him.
Oh come on. I really don’t get the fuss this caused, especially from people who, listen to music about war, brutally torture/rape/murdering (pick one or two… or all) humans, pissing on religion etc.
Metal is quite offensive, wimps and whiny over-sensitive people can leave the hall 😛 One would think that if you can listen to music like this and get the hidden message without sending cease & desist letters to every band, or just downright ignore their message, you could get that shirt is meant to make fun of the tradition, reflecting on its origins.
Also the post cites quite dubious claims:
“when you offend the entire population of said descendants of said NDNs” – Quite bold, did they ask everyone, or just made it up so it sounds much better?
“Trivializing sexual violence against women is inexcusable.” – Where does the shirt imply this?
“and white people and settlers of color rush to the defense of the shirt and band and attack the Indigenous people who are objecting, it is racist, and sexist” – Oh my god! People don’t agree with you just because you’re a Native American, must be because of the colour of their skin!
One point that might be important is metal music on murdering, torture or such topics is mostly fiction or insinuation (I rarely like this kind of stuff, like cattle decapitation), that it does not point to a certain ethnic groups or relate to a historical tragedy, rather picturing imaginary violence no more than an outlet. For example, there is a distinct line between a song called ‘kill ___(fill in a ethnic group)’ and a song called ‘kill’, the former indicates songwriter a fascist, while the latter might merely be a frustrated person in his work or some sort.
Music on war or politic issues is a different story.
I recalled there was a NCS article about ‘whether metal music is evil’…you might be interested.
That article you mentioned is pretty much spot on with my opinion. If this is the one you are talking about: https://www.nocleansinging.com/2013/11/15/am-i-evil-no-im-not/
That’s why I’m baffled by this one.
The shitstorm this shirt has caused, isn’t much better than the bible-humpers going HURR DURR SATANISM YOU WILL BURN IN HELL, when talking about metal bands. It’s the clinging to imagery, the surface without trying to dig a bit deeper.
Also placing Mastodon on the same shelf as NSBM bands is quite a hyperbole by Tal, when the intention of Mastodon is not some Colour Supremacy propaganda, even if he thinks the shirt is crap.
Plus I have a question 🙂
What do you think about the track Speak English or Die from S.O.D. ?
To be clearer, two things need to be reiterated : 1) the shirt points to the genocide of a certain enthnic group; 2) the shirt relates to a historical tragedy. No matter how surface it is, I’m certain it is far from morally right just visually displaying.
About the evil article, I guess I need to be clearer as well, one of the key points of the article seems that (and like I said) the evil part of metal music is fiction or theatrical effects that you don’t act on in real life. That’s the distinct line needs to be drawn. And yes, extreme anti-religion behaviour so prevails.
Never heard the song, I guess it would be quite forced to say there is a difference between ‘speak English or die ___(fill in a group of people)’ and ‘speak English or die’, but you get the point I’ve been repeated……btw do you approve the song?
Look, it does not seem like a question that requires highly logical processing and testification, and I don’t think band being on the surface or inconsiderate makes this thing more acceptable. I’m sure most people including you sir (or madam) would not be willing to purchase and wear that shirt. But if you still insist the shirt is fine, have a nice day…
‘visually displaying on regular commodity’ to be exact
Simply to play devil’s advocate here:
There have been tons of musicians that reference genocide of entire groups of people, as well as historical events. Punk and metal is riddled with imagery of oppressors beating down the oppressed, making reference to and pointing out real-life tragedies (System of a Down anyone?). Is the only reason this is different is because they took a non-serious, semi-humorous, satirical tone instead of showing something darker? Had they shown something more dark and sinister and “truthful/realistic” would it have made a difference? And depending on how you answer that question, does this mean nobody should ever take a humorous/satirical stance on important issues?
I mean, I look at this and the imagery is so outrageous that it screams satire. Admittedly it’s the sort of immature, “be as offensive as you can to be funny/make a point” type of satire (Like this: http://youtu.be/k1FKS1SHSsc ). It’s not particularly thought-provoking. Others may not see it that way, and I respect that. I have a very dark sense of humor and I’ve been completely desensitized to all forms of detestable imagery, that’s why I’m pretty indifferent to the whole situation.
Granted many musicians have touched the topic of tragedies. BUT a lot been said about the way of execution conveying sensitive information in this thread. It does matter how such thing being demonstrated.
I can think of a proper example of ‘showing sth darker’–Exodus’ Nanking (another suitable example would be MMD’s anti-social network) But by no means do I want to see someone on the street wearing a tee of a WWII Japanese soldier decapitating a Chinese (or a pervert attempting to rape a teenage). What does it convey to me, even someone being through that?
It not appearing offensive to you does not mean that it won’t be offensive or hurtful to others. You can ‘show’ darker sides in a museum for the sake of history and I encourage that. But this case, this sell of commodity, is not that. Think about the possible consequences.
So ‘does this mean nobody should ever take a humorous/satirical stance on important issues?’—depends on what issues. Genocide? I’d say no.
I kinda regret the example made…
Na, it’s all good man. I’m just trying to see where others are coming from. I’m a fairly “laissez faire”, live and let live kind of person when it comes to speech. Even speech I don’t like. I do agree that there’s a degree of sensitivity that’s lost when you’re selling it as clothing for profit. They have every right to do so, but I can see how it degrades the intent of the message. I just hold very few taboos when it comes to things that can be made light of. Out of respect for others though, I do at least have the decency not to display “shock humor/satire” such as this in public (assuming I had purchased it, which I haven’t).
[Preliminary notes: I’m European, so I couldn’t care less about Thanksgiving, and my knowledge of the current and historical position of Native Americans (NAs) is quite rudimentary. I am also extremely sensitive (and allergic) to hypocrisy, double moral standards and general “do as I say, not as I do” rhetoric — and it itches the most when accompanied by a violent state of denial with respect to said hypocrisy. I will try and sketch similarities to other outbursts of controversy and to shed some light on the underlying societal currents that induce them. With that out of the way, let me begin. Thanks for bearing with me this far.]
In short: this whole controversy (which, as so many others, carries the all too familiar stench of hypocrisy) has all the hallmarks of a typical “protest fueled by peer pressure”.
I am not saying that NAs have no right to be offended, should not be offended or should not voice their opinion. It is understandable that the shirt is the figurative salt in the wounds of centuries of abuse and mistreatment. The problem that I have with a “scandal” like this is with the (usually progressive) opinion leaders who immediately seize the opportunity to preach to the choir. We discern the following characteristics:
1. A ‘target’ which (mostly) triggers sympathy among those who tend to care about issues like these (let’s call them the ‘listeners’) — the target in this case is the NAs, but also e.g. (cuddly) animals, poor people, immigrants, gays;
2. An ‘antagonist’ which triggers resentment among the listeners — here, a metal band, but also often a certain industry, and conservative groups, religious or otherwise;
3. A ‘controversy’ involving an allegedly “wrong” (also “immoral”, “racist”, etc.) action or expression of the antagonist concerning the target — here, the shirt (I’ll leave other examples to you);
We see that once the opinion leaders have expressed themselves, a population mechanic sets into action: the three points are quite obvious, and the average listener decides that it is easiest to go with the flow, and that the flow is to express disagreement with the antagonist for the controversy. Or, in the case that a listener finds themselves in the safe haven of the internet or a bubble of predominantly like-minded people, a loud condemnation with the entire array of sticks to beat with that they have been able to muster.
The rot comes into this scheme by another human property: the desire to remain popular/retain influence. Whether conscious or not, many opinion leaders take the expected response of their audience into account when deciding what they will talk/write/twitter about. This results in a (very) skewed distribution, where the attention given to a certain issue (that would, in a perfectly consistent moral world, be given equal attention regardless of the identity of target and antagonist) is greatly influenced by the sympathy of the public for the target, and the antipathy for the antagonist.
What is particularly disturbing is that in the ensuing “discussion”, all nuance, contemplation and balanced application of “achievements” like freedom of expression (for the antagonist) and non-discrimination (one’s rights do not depend on one’s standing with the public) are thrown overboard, by precisely those people who throw them in as arguments when the antagonist is considered to violate them.
In conclusion, I’m not saying that one should keep silent about things. But *please*, do present it in a cogent, serious manner and using sound, well-thought-out argumentation — you may even find some space for (*gasp*) nuance. The message to be conveyed should be central, not the form in which it is brought, or even worse, the messenger. This is a bigger service to the target than any undirected rant could ever be.
For those of you who don’t feel that this shirt is all that racist, I invite you to buy one in a size that fits you. Then, I implore you and your new shirt to visit Northern Ontario or Western Canada. Maybe you could try wearing your new shirt as you walk through Winnipeg’s North end in the summer time? I’m sure that people will stop you and share a pleasant laugh about the knowing irony displayed on your humorous top.