Gap pulls 'Manifest Destiny' shirt amid consumer outrage

Clothing retailer The Gap has pulled a controversial shirt from store shelves and offline after outraged consumers took to social media to demand its removal.

The simple black  t-shirt with the words “MANIFEST DESTINY” written across it in white letters  was a part of the retailer’s collaboration with GQ magazine to showcase America’s best new designers.

For many, what it actually showcased was historical ignorance.

Manifest Destiny was a mid-19th century term used to justify the idea that the United States had a divine obligation to expand across the continent. Indigenous people were enslaved or killed in the process.

A petition on stated that the t-shirt  “promotes a belief that has resulted in the mass genocide of indigenous people, and it serves to normalize oppression.”

As if there were not enough fuel on the fire already, the shirt’s designer, Mark McNairy tweeted, “Manifest Destiny. Survival of the fittest,” in response the flood of complaints from consumers.

McNairy has since deleted the tweet, but not before it was screen-grabbed.

Over 4,700 signatures on the petition called for the retail chain to discontinue the sale of the shirt and for an official apology to be issued.

The Gap released this statement on Tuesday on its Facebook page:

This shirt was part of the partnership between Gap and GQ featuring new designers and was never meant to be insensitive. Because of your feedback, we made the decision to no longer sell the t-shirt as soon as it was brought to our attention. The t-shirt has been removed from and we are in the process of removing it from our stores. We are also focusing on how we select product designs for these types of partnerships in the future. Thank you for your continued feedback; we’re always listening.

McNairy also issued an apology via Twitter saying, “It hurt me deeply to be called racist as that is not me. I reacted without thinking.”

If you try to find the shirt on The Gap’s website now, an error message appears, but the shirt  can still be found in some stores until the company can get all of them removed.

Follow Melissa Noel on Twitter at @noelknowswell.