‘Manifest Destiny’

October 18, 2012

‘Manifest Destiny’


You can say this has nothing to do with the historical doctrine of ‘Manifest Destiny’ and the destruction of Native societies. However, that makes you an ignorant asshole.

Fuck you Mark McNairy. Fuck you Gap.

I’d presume this was done out of ignorance or thoughtlessness and not malevolence, and/or that it was perhaps intended to “reclaim” the phrase “Manifest Destiny.” I’d argue that phrase isn’t Mark McNairy’s to reclaim. Or the Gap’s, for that matter. And McNairy’s history of printing provocative and rude stuff in unexpected places suggests it might have been intentional. Bummer.


So apparently while I was sleeping on this, it was a big story on the internet. The culprit seems to have been ignorance on the part of a whole pile of people. A reader sends in this Consumerist link, with McNairy’s semi-apology:

Unfortunately, the meaning of my ‘Manifest Destiny’ T shirt has been misconstrued and the sentiment behind it grossly misunderstood.. 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. This phrase and they 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.

“To me it has always meant that one could set goals, work hard, and achieve their dreams.” ?? Apparently Mr. McNairy wasn’t paying attention in that American History class in junior high school, because that sure isn’t what that phrase means to everyone else. You know… the people who “interpreted it in that manner.”

Would you put “Separate But Equal” on a shirt and say that to you, it’s always meant that we should divide our dreams into two equal piles, and tackle them one at a time? (I’m so, so tired of these “I’m sorry you didn’t get it” non-apologies, by the way.)

I wish this apology read something like this:

I apologize to those who were hurt or offended by the t-shirt I designed. When I chose the phrase “Manifest Destiny,” I misunderstood its meaning. I intended for it to mean that one could set goals, work hard, and achieve their dreams. I should have done my due diligence, and learned that not only is that not the phrase’s meaning, it’s a phrase and idea which is deeply sensitive and hurtful to many Americans. I’m sorry my ignorance led to pain.

That’s a real apology. It’s hard to write that, when it’s you, but it’s also important.

And as for GAP? Their apology slash buck-passing went like this:

We’re sincerely sorry for the offense that the ‘Manifest Destiny’ t-shirt may have caused… 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 Gap.com 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.

I probably would have phrased it:

Wow. I guess no one who works in our entire marketing department or our entire design department or any of the other people who saw this before we printed it up has any idea about American history or really… man… I can’t even finish this. Just, sorry. We are idiots.

Look: it’s a t-shirt, it’s not a candidate for president. It’s only so important. And as I wrote before, I believe that it wasn’t malicious. But seriously: cop to it, you guys. And read a book or Wikipedia or something.