Many of us may not be made aware of this often enough, but groups of all backgrounds face discrimination online. Thankfully, companies that may have served as a vessel for this type of bigotry are responding to accusations and acting accordingly, bringing down haters by not giving a platform for their bigotry to be displayed.
Fake items were being sold on Amazon and eBay carrying a racial slur that has long been associated with the Roma or Romani Gypsies, also known as the Travellers. According to BBC, firms that once allowed these products to be sold openly on their websites are now taking action to ban them.
The items were sold under the tagline “Just Nick It” instead of Nike's “Just Do It,” making many consumers believe that the brand had lent its designs to bigots. Products that have not been taken down from Amazon listings included hoodies, baby clothes, and fridge magnets that came with the racial slur “p****,” which is a pejorative term used by many Europeans to refer to members of the Traveller community.
Hazel Marsh, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia who's also a Romani Gypsy, was the first to bring up the incident to Nike, telling the brand that its design was being used to encourage hate toward people of her background. The sportswear company then responded, thanking Marsh for reaching out and saying that people at Nike “respect and appreciate every one of our consumers no matter what their race, age, or gender is.
My response from Nike, promising to investigate racist use of their logo, reported by the BBC.https://t.co/s83wbvrIO4— Hazel Marsh (@HazelMarsh18) April 12, 2017
Sherrie Smith, the woman behind “Report Racism Gypsy, Roma, Traveller” website, said that she found the products carrying the racial slur and sporting the “Nike tick.”
To the Roma people, the p-word “is a disgusting word. It's exactly the same as the n-word,” Smith said.
Danniel Bennett, 19, is also a Romani Gypsy who works as a hairdresser and lives in Nottinghamshire. According to the young man, the term isn't only offensive, it's also damaging.
"It doesn't matter how many good things I've done in my life, or whether I go to university or college," he told reporters. "All I will be labeled as, is as a p**** that just nicks things.”
Talking about the derogatory term being used on products, he continued:
"When somebody puts on a T-shirt like that, I look at it and think, 'Is that what people think of me?' It doesn't matter what I do, or where I go, or what I achieve in life, I will always be what that T-shirt says. And that doesn't make me feel good."
To 25-year-old Lisa Smith, a Romani Gypsy activist, few people see the p-word as a racial slur. In many cases, she told reporters, people misuse it to mean “dirty” or “poor.”
“It's been so normalized in people's everyday vocabulary, we're almost immune to it," she stated. "We're de-sensitized to this word as a racial slur.”
Comparing the term to others used to refer to people of different backgrounds, she added that she believes that it's as if “[being anti-Gypsy] is the last acceptable form of racism that we still have in society."
Nike told the BBC that it's currently looking into the “misuse” of its logo on such products while Amazon has taken the listing of racist items down. Reporters also said that eBay is in the process of removing the listings and that it hopes to remove further offensive material as it's identified. Individuals selling racist items may have their accounts suspended.
According to an attorney who specializes in Gypsy Traveller rights, makers and anyone who sells these types of products could theoretically face prosecution of incitement to racial hatred. People wearing these products could also face the same fate.
It's saddening and heartbreaking to see that any kind of racism is still culturally acceptable, but it's also encouraging to see so many companies finally standing up so that they don't lend strength to prejudiced individuals.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters