Last night, Walmart announced that it would no longer be selling sweatshirts and t-shirts with the phrase ‘Bulletproof: Black Lives Matter’ after the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, America’s largest police organization, released a statement urging the company to stop selling ‘Black Lives Matter’ paraphernalia in general.
In a statement, Walmart said, "like other online retailers, we have a marketplace with millions of items offered by third parties that includes Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter merchandise. After hearing concerns from customers, we are removing the specific item with the ‘bulletproof’ reference.” The “bulletproof” shirts say “Bulletproof” with “Black Lives Matter” beneath that line."
Walmart said it will continue to sell other ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and ‘All Lives Matter’ merchandise from Old Glory, the third-party seller which sold the controversial shirt.
Chuck Canterbury, the president of the FOP, told Walmart CEO Doug McMillon that the selling of the “Black Lives Matter” and “Bulletproof” sweatshirts and t-shirts was “offensive” andthat he was concerned that “allowing these articles to be sold in this way will damage your company’s good name amongst FOP members and other active and retired law enforcement officers.”
He continued, “Commercializing our differences will not help our local police and communities to build greater trust and respect for one another.”
Curiously, Canterbury didn’t propose that Walmart stop selling the "Blue Lives Matter" or "All Lives Matter" shirts, even though those phrases have been used to directly undermine the Black Lives Matter movement.
Canterbury’s statement unsurprisingly proves that he and many others don’t understand Black Lives Matter, but he's actually right. Walmart (and Old Glory) shouldn’t be selling ‘Black Lives Matter’ merchandise.
First of all, a Walmart was actually the site of one of the most notorious police killings of a black person in recent years. In 2014, John Crawford, an unarmed 22-year-old, was shot and killed by the police at a Walmart in Ohio for holding a toy BB gun that was sold in the store. The officer was not indicted. Walmart later released a statement sending its condolences to Crawford’s family but insisting that it stood behind the actions of its "associates." Why should Walmart then turn around and sell Black Lives Matter clothes?
Second of all, the third-party seller, Old Glory, is just capitalizing off of current events to make money. While that’s completely fine for things like bands and sports teams, it’s not okay to commercialize social activism if you have no apparent intention of helping a cause. It’s even more insulting to sell shirts with ‘Black Lives Matter’ slogans alongside ones with reactionary phrases like ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and ‘All Lives Matter." The company also sells a t-shirt with a panda on it that reads: “Destroy Racism: Be like a panda. They are black, white, Asian, and chubby," if you needed more evidence of what we're working with.
So, seriously, Walmart (and Old Glory): Please stop selling Black Lives Matter merchandise. It’s clear your only intention is capital gain and not actually starting a conversation to push change.
Tahirah Hairston is a style writer from Detroit who likes Susan Miller, Rihanna's friend's Instagram accounts, ramen and ugly-but cute shoes.