By Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
September 15, 2014
A clothing company's anti-racism T-shirt is getting some hate of its own.
FCKH8 is best known for selling T-shirts with slogans such as “Straight Against Hate” and “Some dudes marry dudes. Get over it.” But recently, the company branched out into what it describes as “anti-racism gear.”
This move is already causing some controversy, partly due to the T-shirt campaign’s link to the protests in Ferguson, Mo.
The new FCKH8 T-shirts, wristbands and bumper stickers are printed with the slogan, “Racism isn’t over. But I’m over racism.” Although FCKH8 is a for-profit company, $5 from each T-shirt, hoodie and tank top will be donated to anti-racism organizations such as the NAACP and the Mike Brown Memorial Fund. These products were launched with a viral video titled Hey White People, which features six kids from Ferguson quoting statistics about racism in the U.S.
You can view the video Hey White People here:
FCKH8’s Mike Kon said that the T-shirts “[give] people a way to turn their chests into little billboards to speak out against the evil of racism and start an important conversation our nation needs to have.”
However, this campaign has already run into some pushback from the very organizations that it was intending to promote. Race Forward, one of the charities originally listed on FCKH8’s anti-racism apparel page, quickly posted to Facebook, saying that they would not accept any donations from FCKH8. Colorlines, a news and commentary site published by Race Forward, then posted an article under the headline, “This is the company making money off of Ferguson,” criticizing FCKH8’s T-shirt campaign and viral video.
Colorlines described FCKH8’s video as showing children “reciting parts of a script that’s clearly been written by adults,” and went on to mention the for-profit nature of FCKH8, which is owned by corporate branding firm Synergy Media.
FCKH8 responded in a lengthy post on their website, saying that Colorlines and Race Forward were using “Click-baiting, Race-baiting, Homophobia, Minimizing Ferguson Residents, Trivializing Breast Cancer Awareness Efforts & Distorting Facts to Get Views & Donations.”
In answer to comments pointing out the potentially problematic nature of hiring a white director to cast African American children in an ad for anti-racism T-shirts, FCKH8 riffed on a quote from Martin Luther King. They wrote, “we’d prefer that the video and message from the participating Ferguson families and kids be judged on the content of its character and not the color of the skin of the director who pitched in to help make it.”
Popular vlogger and comedian Franchesca Ramsey (a.k.a. Chescaleigh, who is known for videos including **** White Girls Say To Black Girls), called FCKH8’s post “eye-roll inducing.”
“This is rich,” she wrote. “A FOR PROFIT COMPANY is accusing an anti-racism non-profit organization of race baiting for donations?! This from the company that has not once spoken about anti-racism until Ferguson (way genuine!), and their contribution is… T-shirts and a $5 donation.”
In an email to the Daily Dot, a representative from FCKH8 pointed out that their products had already raised $6,000 in one week, and that several other charities had contacted them for donations. They also emphasised that the organizations receiving donations from FCKH8 are not necessarily affiliated with FCKH8 itself.
“We specially made it a point in several places on the website to note that the organizations that we are choosing to donate to are not involved with our campaign. As understandably some of our vocal LGBT advocacy and youth-oriented name and attention-getting style are not how these great groups present themselves we wanted to be clear that is is just us supporting them good work and not the other way around.”
The issue of FCKH8’s “attention-getting style” has always been a source of conflict with the marginalized groups it attempts to represent. Both as a for-profit business and as a fundraising organization, FCKH8’s main goal is to promote itself and sell more products. Inevitably, this causes some friction with non-profit campaigners who demand a more nuanced discussion of race, gender and sexuality.