Not another dadgummed shirt kerfuffle. A couple years ago, it was scientist Matt Taylor’s allegedly misogynistic pictorial fashion choice. This week, it’s a deeply racist Walking Dead t-shirt, featuring a picture of Lucille the Baseball Bat in all her barbed-wire-wrapped glory, with the shocking text eeny meeny miny moe.
Now, those of us who have been mesmerized by TWD for the last few years know exactly what the shirt is talking about: the brutal Season 6 cliffhanger and even more brutal Season 7 opener, wherein hypervillain Negan gives old Lucille quite the workout. Indeed, there is a whole genre of t-shirts commemorating that episode, some of them rather tactlessly described as “eye-popping.”
[In the interests of full disclosure, that whole Negan event horizon killed TWD for me—not because it was violent and included character deaths, since we’re used to that, but because it was dull. Negan would just not shut up. It was all talk-talk-talk THWACK talk-talk-talk THWACK talk-talk-talk THWACK. Ho hum.]
Anyway, one Methodist clergyman from Yorkshire evidently does not know his TWD Ps and Qs. Walking into a Primark store in Sheffield, Ian Lucraft and his wife were horrified to see a certain TWD shirt on sale, and he wrote immediately to Primark management to let his feelings be known:
We were shocked when we came face to face with a new t-shirt with a racially explicit graphic and text. It was fantastically offensive and I can only assume that no-one in the process of ordering it knew what they were doing or were aware of its subliminal messages.
The slogan is “Eeeny meenie miny moe…..” It stops there, but of course we all know what the original said: “catch a n***** by his toe.
The graphic has a large American baseball bat, wrapped round with barbed wire, and covered with blood. This image relates directly to the practice of assaulting black people in America.
It is directly threatening of a racist assault, and if I were black and were faced by a wearer I would know just where I stood.
Okay, hands up, any of you who have ever heard anyone use the pre-tiger version of this counting rhyme? How many millennials and Gen-Xers have even heard of it? It was expunged so long ago that I could barely remember it myself, and it is the tiger that leaps to my tongue. And if you look at the history of the rhyme, the “nigger” version isn’t even the original. You really have to work the butt off the etymological fallacy to turn “eeny meeny miny moe” into a racist threat.
But what did Primark do? They forthwith pulled the shirt off the shelves. Which leads me to two unhappy observations. In this culture of offense, a virtue-signalling ignoramus can find something offensive in almost anything; second, people like the Primark executives are so terrified of putting a foot wrong that they will take that ignoramus seriously. This scares me far more than Lucille the Barbed-Wire Bat.
Well, I may find Negan to be a rambling bore, but the actor who plays him sums the situation up in a few masterful words: “Holy crap people are stupid.”