Morrissey’s latest merch hawk brandishing a Smiths lyric aside an image of civil rights activist James Baldwin; Photo: True-to-You.net (left)/Wendy Redfern (right)
The former The Smiths singer Morrissey has played on the edge of lovably problematic in the past, from saying Obama is too “white inside” to snubbing the late-great David Bowie after his death, and now he’s back with the head-scratchingly troubling shirts that say, “I wear black on the outside/’Cause black is how I feel on the inside.”
The words on the shirt come from The Smiths’ 1986 self-deprecating standard “Unloveable” and border the image of James Baldwin, renowned black writer and civil rights activist. To make matters worse, Morrissey’s name is branded on the left shoulder of Baldwin just in case someone was confused where these words originated from.
Morrissey has long been an admirer of Baldwin and cited him often in his autobiography, which by itself has an interesting history. Pitchfork also points out that images of Baldwin have been used by Morrissey during live shows in the past. However, this raises the question of the purpose of a white man using the image of a black man who actively spoke out against the struggle of blacks in the US.
Does the t-shirt support Baldwin and his memory? Does it support blackness as a whole? Either way, the fact of the matter is that Morrissey is profiting off the image of a black civil rights leader. Let your judgment decide but at the end of the day that seems like a kinda butthead thing to do.
Listen to “Unloveable” below: