Zara ‘White Is the New Black’ T-Shirt Sold Out Despite Controversy, Employees Say

zara white is the new black teeHave you heard about this controversy? Women's clothing store Zara has been selling a T-shirt that says "White is the new black," and some people are calling it offensive and racist. 

But Zara staffers told The Stir that no one seemed to take issue with the top when it was on store shelves a few weeks ago.

"Excellent job Zara for the 'White is the new black' tee," said Twitter user Jennifer Stevens. "Whichever anonymous designer drew up that needs to be fired."

Zara employees at a store in New York City, who declined to give their names, told The Stir the top sold out when it was on U.S. store shelves about three weeks ago. There were no complaints from customers, they said. The company has yet to issue an official statement about the uproar, but the shirt is no longer available on its website.

So was it all just an innocent mistake -- or should the brand have known better?

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Word has it that it might have been a language barrier with the Spanish-based retailer (though that might not be the best excuse these days -- especially for a company with such a strong U.S. presence). It was sold alongside another tee in the line that read "Leopard is the new black" and was said to be a play on words -- a reference to both the common fashion trend mantra and the popular TV show Orange Is the New Black.

Not everyone is in a tizzy over the top, however.

"That's clearly not what Zara means by 'White is the new black'. Stop making everything a race issue," tweeted @LovelyLAURA, an African American fashionista.

Look, I happen to love the women's clothing store. It's basically H&M for sophisticates -- sharp-looking, minimalist runway knock-offs at pretty affordable prices. There's one just a couple blocks away from my office. Perfection for this busy working mom! 

But this baffling tee kind of takes the rosy glow out of my adoration. 

If we were living in a post-racial world, I'd say, "Oh sure, I get it -- the white T-shirt is the new little black dress. Haha." But this controversy hit the same week unarmed black teen Michael Brown was shot and long-simmering racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri tipped, sending hundreds into the street to protest racial profiling and police brutality.

The same week hundreds of girls Instagrammed themselves blithely wearing the "White is the new black" T-shirt, we also saw this on our screens: images of a largely white, militarized police force gassing and shooting at mostly black protesters marching with their hands up.

Whatever your opinion or perspective on what's happening in Ferguson, it's probably a passionate one. And if you think people should lighten up about this T-shirt, you're probably angry that anyone would find it offensive. But what does that say about us?

This T-shirt's popularity is an expression of our desperate desire for race not to matter in this country. It's an example of our denial. That some are downplaying it, like @LovelyLAURA, reveals how deeply that wish runs within the black community too.

I know this much, though. Defending this ill-timed and carelessly-created article of clothing isn't going to bring us any closer to world that truly is color blind.

Would you buy -- and wear -- this T-shirt?

 

Image via chlorisdemeter/Instagram

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