Gap forced to pull T-shirt after backlash over ‘Manifest Destiny’ slogan

By Sadie Whitelocks, Daily Mail, 17 October 2012

Gap t-shirt with slogan “Manifest Destiny,” coined in the 1800s to justify US colonial expansion westward across North America.

A Gap T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Manifest Destiny’ has been removed from sale, after consumers branded it racist towards Native Americans.
Shoppers complained that the slogan tee ‘serves to normalize oppression’, as the term was used to justify American expansion into the west during the 19th century.
When the item of clothing went on sale as part of the Gap X GQ limited-edition collection on September 27, a petition quickly amassed almost 5,000 supporters.

Indian Country Today reprinted a letter sent to Gap by one of its customers, which read: ‘It is with great sadness that I notify you I will not be shopping at your store until you remove the Manifest Destiny T-shirts available at your stores.
‘Manifest Destiny was the catch phrase which led to the genocide of millions of my people, millions of Indigenous people throughout this country.’
‘I am also inviting the more than 1700 people on my Facebook page to boycott your stores and inviting them to shop with their conscience.’
While another angry shopper wrote: ‘Let me get this straight? The Gap wants to sell T-shirts that read; Manifest Destiny?

‘People, thousands of people, Native people, who were not even considered human beings, died during this arrogant and pompous proclamation.’
Gap has now removed the black and white tee from stores and its website.
A link to the product on its website currently displays a ‘product not found’ error.

The limited edition T-shirt was created in a collaboration with GQ magazine and designed by U.S. fashion designer Mark McNairy.

As shoppers made their distaste towards his design known, Mr McNairy caused further outrage by Tweeting: ‘Manifest Destiny. Survival of the fittest’.
However the Tweet has since been deleted from his Twitter account, and yesterday he explained why he chose to use the ‘racist’ motto.
He Tweeted: ‘I first learned of Manifest Destiny in American history in junior high school.

‘To me it has always meant that one could set goals, work hard, and achieve their dreams.

‘Having the opportunity to design for the Gap was the realization of one of my dreams.

‘The phrase and the way I used it was in no way meant to be offensive or hurtful and I apologize to those who might have interpreted it in that manner.’
The designer is known for using offensive slogans.

His menswear collection, New Amsterdam, includes shirts printed with the words Be Nasty, F*** Ivy and Iowa Bumf***.

Gap confirmed that it will no longer be selling the item of clothing, and said in a statement: ‘Thank you for your feedback regarding the Manifest Destiny t-shirt.

‘Based on customer feedback, we will no longer offer the t-shirt in our stores or online.’


by Aim Southern Cal on Tuesday, October 16, 2012
For Immediate Release

LOS ANGELES, CA, October 16, 2012 – American Indian Movement Southern California (AIM So Cal) Chapter is left furious and demanding more, after Gap insufficiently responds to outrage to a MANIFEST DESTINY t-shirt by designer Mark McNairy.

The shirt, black with white capital letters reading “MANIFEST DESTINY,” promotes an ideology that resulted in the mass genocide of indigenous people. The shirt serves to normalize oppression by giving no context for the racism and inequality that persists in our society, to this day, as a result of this doctrine. By selling this shirt, it is implied that Gap Inc. is racist, ignorant, and/or insensitive to the true meaning of the phrase. In reaction to the selling of this shirt, AIM So Cal mass communicated the issue to their network of Natives and allies. A UCLA student created a petition (link below) that has, within 48 hours, collected over 4,000 signatures, demanding that the shirt be discontinued, and that Gap issue a formal apology. has since removed the shirt from online sales, but there is conflicting information between rumors that Gap will remove the shirt from shelves, and first-hand accounts of the product still on sale and display in stores. Gap has not issued a formal apology nor statement, despite rumors of such. Major, local, and independent news outlets assisted in communicating the seriousness of the issue.

AIM So Cal attributes the cause’s partial success to that of spearheading a community action; AIM and non-AIM members continue to join forces. Fairbanks stated, “This is bigger than AIM. These are crimes against humanity, against all indigenous people of this continent. We demand a formal apology from Gap to the Native and Indigenous communities of the United States, and the world. Gap would do so for other ethnic communities, and we should be no exception. In fact, we are the First Nations of this country and have rights that supersede the United States Constitution. Anyone outside of our nations are immigrants and guests on this land. Dominant society has ignored Native American people, and that is why they forget we exist. That is why designer Mark McNairy and Gap view such products as acceptable, and are neglecting to issue a formal apology. However, this is unacceptable. Their actions will not be excused simply because they have taken this one shirt off of their website.”

There are four shirts that Gap currently sells which glorify westward expansion into Native American territory. AIM So Cal has the following demands: 1) Discontinue all four shirts and advertisements with these shirts from online and offline sale and promotion; 2) That all money profited from the sale of the four shirts be donated to the legal defense for political prisoner Leonard Peltier, for his freedom and to bring him home! 3) Fire the designer Mark McNairy, and agree to never contract with this designer in the future; 4) Most importantly, AIM So Cal demands that Gap and McNairy issue a public, formal apology, taking full responsibility for the creation, marketing and sales of these shirts. An AIM So Cal representative will be delivering a letter to Gap on Powell St. in San Francisco, CA with AIM So Cal’s demands on Tues., Oct.16, 2012.

For more information on this issue, please contact Corine Fairbanks at (805) 284-4114 or For general information about AIM So Cal, please visit View the petition link at resolution photos are available upon request.

MAIN CONTACT: Corine Fairbanks
Director, AIM So Cal

Email: Phone: (805) 284-4114
Public Relations/Media Assistant

Posted on October 18, 2012, in Decolonization and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: