The people I follow on various social media channels are righteously upset today. They are appalled at a tacky shirt that a large chain store is selling. The shirt has Kent State written on it, but it is printed to look blood splattered. The shirt mocks the tragic death of college students. Nothing about it is funny. It is a vile marketing decision by Urban Outfitters.
The social media reaction is predictable. I follow the people speaking out against this shirt, BECAUSE of their passion and constant effort to make the world a little better. That said, I need to tell a snippet of a story from my past. It took place during my early college career. With my foot in a cast, the only summer job I could get was at Spencer’s in the mall.
My manager went to Kent State. He was on campus the day of the shootings. I know these things because they were part of this manager’s pick-up routine. The closer he moved to breathing on your neck, the more details he shared. It was beyond creepy and I spent most of my summer going to great lengths to avoid my manager. The fact that his main “move” was to tell a horror story means that some percentage of the time, people reacted positively to his gross out romance technique.
While my social media and IRL circle of people work non-violently to get an unfunny and cruel shirt removed from a store’s shelves, there are far too many people out there who only care about issues if there’s something in it for themselves. There’s always going to be some guy trying to use something offensive to get someone in his bed. Always.
Don’t buy the shirt. Don’t hang out with the people who do buy the shirt. This shirt has gotten the publicity that the store wanted and it will quietly disappear. Now, they’ll print something equally terrible. Don’t buy it.