How a T Shirt Created All This Conversation

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - McMahon Stadium


If you’re as devoted to the internet as I am, you’ve been hearing the conversations south of parallel 49 around becoming woke, black lives matter, and the absolute ridiculous racist threats from the Trump campaign. It’s easy for Canadians to laugh at the absurdity and failings of our divided neighbours. But I urge us Canucks to not be so quick to judge. Right here at home we have our own racial issues to work through.

More specifically as a country we have done a total piss poor job of relations with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. The reality of the current situation and the history before us is horrifying. Look no further than the Truth and Reconciliation efforts if you are not familiar. Get familiar.

To promote their latest album We are the Halluci Nation A Tribe Called Red stopped by CTV’s The Social recently. The collective’s website biography describes themselves as…

"Bursting forth from Canada’s capital, native Producer and DJ crew A Tribe Called Red is making an impact on the global electronic scene with a truly unique sound. ATCR is made up of three members – 2oolman, DJ NDN, and Bear Witness...
If you’re an indigenous person living in a country that was forcefully colonized, it’s all too common to find yourself underrepresented and misrepresented if not blatantly and systematically devalued and attacked. Positive role models and a positive self-identity are hard to come by, yet the Canadian DJ collective A Tribe Called Red is a modern gateway into urban and contemporary indigenous culture and experience, celebrating all its layers and complexity."

If that’s not enough to pique your interest know that their album is sensational. In addition to their music, they have spoken out against the use of red face and ceremonial headdresses as costumes at their concerts or music festivals. Ugh. It is simply not OK to wear that. It’s most certainly bad fashion.

Their advocacy has not stopped there. ATCR have received a lot of press coverage for wearing a football team-like t shirt with a Caucasian character with a dollar sign above the head. The fake team was called the “Caucasians”. It’s a satirical response to football teams like Cleveland, Washington, and Edmonton’s deliberate and continued use of racist slurs towards First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples as their team names and mascots. Responses to the fake team shirt ranged from knowing doesn't-feel-good-to-be-targeted chuckles to alleged band boycotts. ATCR DJ NDN has not backed down and took to social media to educate naysayers on the history of the racist team names urging decision makers and fans to #ChangeTheName.

This subject should no longer be up for debate. It’s yet another example of bad fashion as it’s fuelled in ignorance and hate.

I applaud A Tribe Called Red for using their growing platform to create awareness. They continue to have difficult but necessary conversations. They are encouraging us all to talk about it. For that I say thank you.

If you need to hear that message in a song let’s borrow from Beyoncé’s “Formation,” “You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation.I say that with utmost respect and admiration. It takes a big person to talk about tough stuff and take flack for it.

No one has all the *right* solutions. It’s not that simple. But starting with changing the name of obvious racial slurs as sports mascots and names is a no brainer. Again, let’s #ChangeTheName.

I hope that getting rid of this bad sports fashion helps us to have more calm, thoughtful, and solutions focused conversations. The great thing about becoming more aware about past transgressions is that we can, together, figure out a better way forward.