Culture, Current Events

When cultural insensitivity goes horribly wrong

When cultural insensitivity goes horribly wrong



Zara, a Spanish clothing retailer with more than 2,000 stores worldwide, apologized recently for selling a shirt that bears a close resemblance to clothes worn by Jews in Concentration camps. The clothing retailer committed a huge faux pas when it allowed the shirt (which was labeled as a “striped sheriff t-shirt”) to be sold online. The garment has since been pulled and the remaining stock has allegedly been destroyed.

They didn’t try to argue or defend the design. Probably because even Stevie Wonder could see this was a huge mistake. I commend Zara for choosing not to defend the design.  It’s rare that people don’t argue a controversy. My guess is that they knew they were dead wrong and want to avoid a poo-poo storm.

This is actually the second time that Zara has sold an item with purported anti-Semitic imagery. The first incident happened in 2007 when the store sold a handbag embroidered with swastikas.

Apparently, Zara needs to hire someone to look over their designs with an eye out for potential cultural issues. An international company of this caliber simply shouldn’t be making multiple mistakes like this. Even if said mistakes are seven years apart.

Zara has caught some serious shade and side eye from this, but we should also be side-eyeing the designers. What kind of culturally illiterate person designs a handbag with swastikas on it?

When I look at the picture of the shirt in question, I can certainly see how it could be a ‘sheriff shirt.’ The star appears to have the circular points of a traditional sheriff’s badge. It even faintly has the word ‘sheriff’ emblazoned in the center of the star. HOWEVER, it isn’t any kind of stretch of the imagination to see the yellow Star of David that Jewish people were forced to wear during the Holocaust. I would have never purchased this shirt for my kid for that very reason.

And the swastikas…

How does that even happen? I understand that swastikas have a meaning outside of the Nazis, but do they really belong on anything ? Especially on items that people wear out in public in places where the swastika only has one cultural meaning? If the bag had been sold exclusively in places where a swastika isn’t such a loaded symbol, I don’t think that I would be [as] put off by it.

It actually took me a minute to see the swastikas on the bag in question, but I think that’s way worse than if they had been the only thing on the bag. I say that because I’m sure there were a lot of people who bought that bag who had no idea they were proudly sporting a symbol of hate. I, for one, would be mortified if I had been unknowingly walking around with something like that on my person.

I’m not going to sit here and call conspiracy and say that this company is being low-key anti-Semetic (even though I really want to). Instead I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they made two very embarrassing mistakes (or at least they should be embarrassing) and that they will learn from them.

Let this be a lesson: Optics are everything. Intent means very little when something just plain looks sketchy.

Secondary lesson: Own your mistakes and do better next time.




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