A T-shirt reading, “Save a dog, eat a Chinese” is receiving backlash for a very obvious reason: it’s racist.
The graphic tee is being sold on Spreadshirt, a German retailer that allows its customers to create their own designs and sell them on the website. As a result, “Save a dog, eat a Chinese,” created by user Quentin1984, is not the only racist T-shirt featured on the site. The retailer is also selling a shirt with the slogan, “Save a shark, eat a Chinese,” created by user Monigote.
On social media, many were appalled by the racist slogans featured on these tees and criticized the retailer for selling them.
— Clint Cheng (@cheng_clint) March 3, 2017
@Spreadshirt Really disgusted with the racism your company allows. That "Save a shark, Eat a Chinese" shirt is still up on your website FYI.
— Meghan (@xxeerryyaa) March 4, 2017
Despite the backlash, Spreadshirt announced on Friday that it will continue selling the T-shirts online.
“After close examination and careful consideration, we have decided, based on our open platform principle, to keep the 2 designs in question,” the site wrote on Facebook.
Spreadshirt’s decision did not sit well with the Chinese Embassy in Berlin. According to the Toronto Sun, the embassy – which believes the T-shirts are “insulting to China” – has complained to the German government and is seeking an apology. They are also trying to get the offensive T-shirts pulled.
While Spreadshirt will not remove the designs, CEO Philip Rooke said in a statement: “I apologize to anyone who takes any offence from the two designs in question.”
He also offered further explanation as to why the T-shirts will not be removed. “We do not judge or censor designs based on their phrasing, social or political leanings,” he said in a written statement, adding he had “no intention of causing anyone offence.”
Global Times reports that the racist tees were removed from Spreadshirt’s English sites as of March 9, however, they are still available on the German-language site. Sadly, other racist tees are also still available on the English sites, including one that reads “Engrish Teacher” and “Vely funny.”
On Facebook, user Sam Liu made a public post to Spreadshirt highlighting why the racist T-shirts are so problematic. “To me, it is not funny, I feel being stereotyped and offended,” he wrote. “This design is typical racist and discrimination I would never agree, nor other Chinese people. Such message serves nothing but promoting hatred rather than saving shark.”
Liu is right. The T-shirts are spreading hate rather than promoting animal advocacy. They are also perpetuating negative stereotypes.
While shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in China, a 2014 report by WildAid states that the sale of shark fins has dramatically decreased by up to 70 per cent. A wholesaler quoted in the report also deemed shark fin as “a dying business.”
Additionally, the practice of eating dog meat is not national in China. In fact, according to a 2016 Humane Society International poll, nearly 70 per cent of people in China have never eaten dog meat and 62 per cent believe the practice damages the country’s reputation.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Spreadshirt has been under fire for its offensive T-shirts. In 2015, a user created a shirt on the site that read “Pussys & Beer Thank God I Ain’t Queer!” Luckily, the company quickly removed the design, calling it “ethically questionable.”
— Gayist magazine (@GayistMag) March 17, 2015
At the time, Spreadshirt released a statement to The Huffington Post stating that they “don’t want to support [content that] unacceptably offends or disrespect against persons because of gender, religious affiliation, political opinion or similar characteristics.”
Too bad the company isn’t upholding this belief across all their sites regarding racism.