February 24, 2010

Lucky Brand sells "White Lightning" t-shirt

Another "drunk Indian" product, another controversy:

Lucky Brand Jeans--TAKE THE SHIRT DOWN--better yet BURN it--I am very disturbed by this T-shirt. As a mother, and a Native American woman, I have had to deal with the stereotype of "the drunken Indian" my whole life, and now with that of my children. I am appalled that your company has decided to make profit out of it. What does Social Responsibility mean to you? What is your company trying to say by your actions? Can you imagine what this says to my children?

These are the reasons why I am a proud member of the American Indian Movement. Because if we don't stand up and speak on these issues, companies like yours will continue to try to profit in perpetuating negative and racially charged stereotypes. Do the right thing and take down the shirt--wait, don't just take it down, BURN IT.

Corine Fairbanks
American Indian Movement Santa Barbara, CA
And:re: White Lightning T-Shirt

A friend of mine just recently walked into your Santa Barbara store and saw this degrading tshirt in the window display. She contacted the Store's Manager and attempted to educate them as to why it is highly offensive and why it should be removed. The Store Manager refused and informed my friend that those types of decisions are to be made by the corporate office.

And that leads to the purpose of this email.

The Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Indian Movement has made it a priority to address issues regarding the degradation of Native American people in regards to offensive marketing tactics and the use of Native American images as mascots. From the time of European contact and the introduction of alcohol to the indigenous people of the occupied territories now referred to as the United States, there has been a horrific effect on the health and well being of our people. The statistics of Native people who have died and are dying in our communities is terrible. This is not something to be celebrated, much less be used as a marketing gimmick.

In reviewing your website, I found a section you have listed in reference to "Social Responsibility." How more socially irresponsible can you get??!!! I urge you to forward this email to the "powers that be" within your Corporation as this is not just about taking the tshirt out of the Santa Barbara storefront, but discontinuing the sale of this product on a national level. As well, you should be a little more socially conscious about what you choose to market with your name brand attached. And as I understand it, Gene Montesano of Santa Barbara is the Co-founder of Lucky Brand and has several other businesses and investments within our city.

If this is not resolved at your level, I will assure that it will be addressed at all other associations within our city and made known Nationally as this is not something we will continue to overlook.

Roberta Weighill
Community Liaison & AIM TV Host
American Indian Movement--Santa Barbara Chapter
And:Dear Lucky Brand Corporation,

My name is Carla Alvarado, I am a Chumash Indian as well as a member of the American Indian Movement of Santa Barbara, Ca.

It has come to our attention that in your store located on State Street here in Santa Barbara that you currently have a t-shirt with an image of a Native American chief with the words "White Lightning Watering Hole Our Booze made by Mohave Distiller Co." As well as the phrase "may see miracles and spiritual wonders" to the left of the image of the Native American chief. This t-shirt that you are selling is stereotypical, racist and completely offensive to the Native American community.

Alcoholism has affected the American Indian people in a most tragic and self destructive way. Unfortunately it has become one of the leading causes of death. Lucky Brand Corporation even allowing this shirt to be made shows the lack of respect your business holds towards the Native American community; the first inhabitants of this continent.

I am writing this letter to tell Lucky Brand that this racist and vulgar image you are depicting of our people is beyond inappropriate and will not be tolerated. This t-shirt should be pulled from the racks in all of your stores and discontinued and an apology be made to the Native American people for the lack of respect that has been shown as well as the lack of sensitivity.

Carla Alvarado.
Asst. Community Liaison
The outcome:

Victory? Lucky Brand says they are taking it down!Lucky Brand on facebook--

At Lucky Brand, we have the utmost respect for cultural diversity and offer a heartfelt apology for the unintentional disrespect. We hold Native American culture in the highest regard, and we are immediately removing the shirt in question from LuckyBrand.com and from our store shelves. Thank you.

I think we are going to have to check on that in the next few days to see if they actually stick to what they are going to say!

It is amazing what we can accomplish as a collected effort!

Wopila Tanka!
Comment:  It's possible this was an illustration for an actual business: Mohave Distiller Co. But that doesn't change the nature of the offense much, if at all.

For more "drunk Indian" products, see "Drunk Indian" T-Shirts Aren't Stereotypical?, Wine Holders Still for Sale, and Duluth Shop Sells "Drunk Indian" T-Shirts.

Below:  What these products are implying.


Unknown said...

The only problem I see is that the shirt will now be a collector's item. Controversy only drives the value. Not that anyone who actually bought the shirt will have half a brain cell in order to follow this line of thinking. So, is this fodder for the "stereotype of the month" club? I do believe it's up there close to giving away children's toys with Happy Meals that are likened to the visage of General Custer.

Anonymous said...

I gotta give members of the American Indian Movement of Santa Barbara and elsewhere some credit for at least taking action and addressing the issue. Without them, the shirt would still be sold in the mainstream Lucky Brand shops in malls nationwide. All we can do is keep fighting them back with whatever meeans necessary.


Rob said...

A comment from Linde Knighton on Facebook:

"White Lightning" was made by mostly White Mountaineers, and so the stereotype is not only offensive to Indians, but also slights the real producers of the product. Send them a corrected one, with a real white mountaineer, not a cartoon.