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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
US company pulls 'racist' T-shirts
Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirt
Abercrombie apologised for the offence caused
A US clothing company has been forced to pull a line of T-shirts from its shops after they triggered protests from Asians who complained they perpetuated racist caricatures.

We thought they were cheeky, irreverent and funny and everyone would love them

Abercrombie and Fitch spokesman
The T-shirts, some of which show men with slanted eyes in conical hats and poke fun at the stereotypical English pronunciation of East Asians, will be pulled from all of Abercrombie and Fitch's 311 shops in 50 states, said company spokesman Hampton Carney.

But more than 100 Asian-Americans protesting on Thursday outside one of their outlets, in San Francisco, said an apology was not enough.

"This is really blatant. It is just like the 1800s," Reverend Norman Fong, programme director at San Francisco's Chinatown Community Development Center, told Reuters news agency.


One of the T-shirts reads "Wong Brothers Laundry Service - Two Wongs Can Make It White," while another features a smiling Buddha figure with the slogan "Abercrombie and Fitch Buddha Bash - Get Your Buddha on the Floor."

"Wok-N-Bowl - Let the Good Times Roll - Chinese Food & Bowling," is printed on another one.

Protesters outside an Abercrombie and Fitch shop in San Francisco
Asian-Americans are pushing a campaign to boycott the company

Mr Carney said the company received about 60 phone calls on Wednesday about the shirts.

The San Francisco protesters read out a list of demands, including a public apology in four major newspapers, increased financial and philanthropic investment in the Asian community, and the employment of consultants to ensure the company handles Asian issues more sensitively.

"It's unacceptable for them to smear and continue to perpetuate racist stereotypes of Asian-Americans," said Ivy Lee, 30, a lawyer at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach. "They wouldn't do the same for any other ethnic groups."

Bao Phi, 27, in Minneapolis, said she was calling on people to boycott Abercrombie until it promises not to repeat such designs.

"We're very, very, very sorry," said Mr Carney. "It's never been our intention to offend anyone."

"The thought was that everyone would love them, especially the Asian community. We thought they were cheeky, irreverent and funny and everyone would love them. But that has not been the case."

Previous protests

He added that the company has made fun of other groups before, including foreign waitresses, taxi drivers and Britons.

But the company has also been the focus of protests before.

Last year, women's groups and conservative politicians protested against a series of adverts by the company featuring young, nearly-naked models in sexually provocative poses.

And in 1998 Mothers against Drunk Driving complained about an advertising spread entitled "Drinking 101," which contained recipes for potent alcoholic drinks.

See also:

12 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Asian runaway bride story 'not racist'
18 Jun 01 | TV and Radio
Racism 'reinforced' in TV adverts
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