Racist T-shirts

Morrissey’s merchandise is created by Sandbag Limited, a global merchandising company.

https://www.sandbagheadquarters.com/

Morrissey isn’t involved in the design.

But that didn’t stop the press yet again attacking him for racism – and yet again bringing up the fact that he, a “poofy bastard”, touched a Union Jack – after an image of James Baldwin was paired with a Smiths lyric ‘I wear black on the outside cause black is how I feel on the inside‘.

The Manchester-born singer has found himself at the centre of a number of rows since the early 90s, after an incident when he wrapped himself in the Union Jack at a concert in Finsbury Park. (Danuta Keen, the Guardian, March 2017)

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/20/bigmouth-strikes-again-row-morrissey-james-baldwin-t-shirt-the-smiths

https://folk-devil.com/2021/09/05/sexually-ambiguous/

Baldwin would probably have understood the pairing though since both of them struggled with the gap between their self-perception and the way society perceived them esp in relation to their sexuality, ethnicity, and desire to be writers. And both have been denounced as inflammatory and excluded by supposed progressives – Baldwin was sidelined by the Civil Rights movement because he was gay, Morrissey has been excluded from his own work.

In America, the color of my skin stood between myself and me; in Europe, that barrier was down. Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch. It turned out that the question of who I was was not solved because I had removed myself from the social forces which menaced me – anyway, these forces had become interior, and I had dragged them across the ocean with me… (James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son, 1961)

https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/02/24/james-baldwin-the-last-interviews/

A fan, Angie Cooke, defended the t-shirt: “Many thanks to the very kind and generous Priyank Patel for sending me this frankly fantastic tee, which I love and adore! Just to make a point here now, James Baldwin wasn’t merely the hue of his skin and neither am I! We’re not a colour, we’re PEOPLE! Heed the message y’all!”

And on Twitter, two music journalists, decided the font and layout of a t-shirt was a homage to neo-Nazi band Skrewdriver.

Skrewdriver’s roadie, Nicky Crane, came out as gay a month before the Finsbury Park gig where Morrissey was attacked by far right homophobes and the NME accused him of inciting it because he was attracted to skinheads.

Nicky Crane had left the National Front because it was violently homophobic and Skrewdriver disowned him.

The far right were also violently opposed to Irish Catholics and Irish Republicans. Morrissey is an Irish Catholic and an Irish Republican.

It seems to me that most of the people that want to destroy the Royal family are either Irish or commies. (Ian Stuart Donaldson, lead singer of Skrewdriver)

Smash The IRA – Skrewdriver:

On the streets of Ulster, the battle rages on
British people fighting for their land
Fought in two world wars for us, fought and died for Britain
Gotta help them, support the Red Hand

Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Remember the victims of their bombs

Gotta change our policies and hang the IRA
Let the Army deal with them their way
Corrupt politicians and sniveling left-wing scum
Are quite content to let them get away
Come on Ulster!

Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Remember the victims of their bombs


Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Remember the victims of their bombs

IRA supporters are marching on our streets
Are we gonna let them spread their lies?
Are we gonna let them march or are we gonna smash them?
Laughing while the British people die
Come on Ulster!

Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Smash! Smash! The IRA!
Remember the victims of their bombs

Asian Rut

Asian Rut regularly turns up in the list of Moz crimes, though no one explains why.

Maybe they think the word Asian in the title is racist.

Or that Rut makes it racist. Rut can mean aggressive male sexual excitement, so could be connected to the idea that violence is a form of sexual rivalry. It might even make you wonder how very was the best friend. Or he’s stuck in a rut, a cycle of retribution that will lead to nothing but destruction.

The album it comes from, Kill Uncle, has an air of sardonic ennui, so as with Mute Witness, you could suspect that he was mocking the distress of the song’s protagonist, in this case the boy trying & failing to get revenge. But in context it’s more about the way fate mocks us.

The Asian boy is the hero so he gets the title.

& we don’t know if the narrator will get home, or if, having witnessed the crime, the English boys will get him next, or if he’s somewhere safe repeating a story he heard about that violent place that no one does anything about.

Another objection could be that the Asian boy is English too, but it’s a fight centred around group identity & it’s a drama, not a lecture.

Morrissey has described himself as both English & Irish Catholic, so he knows the way labels move around regardless of citizenship.

The family is young and amused and all Irish-born but for my sister and I… we Irish Catholics know very well how raucous happiness displeases God, so there is much evidence of guilt in all we say and do, but nonetheless it is said and done… The Irish banter is lyrical against the Manchester blank astonishment. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

Or they could demand that art should be morally clear and respectable when dealing with a sensitive subject – but Morrissey felt he was battling against the class system, and heteronormativity to become a writer and a singer. He had no reason to credit society with making the right things taboo.

I pin so much prestige on James Baldwin that to risk approach places my life on the line: I’d hang myself at any glimmer of a rejection. History books overlook James Baldwin because he presented an unvarnished view of the American essence – as blunt and rousing as print would allow… His liking for male flesh gave the world a perfect excuse to brush him aside as a social danger, and he was erased away as someone who used his blackness as an excuse for everything. In fact, his purity scared them off, and his honesty ignited irrational fear in an America where men were draped in medals for killing other men yet imprisoned for loving one another. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

The essence of… (Moz Art)… came from an idea I had to take images that were the opposite of glamour and to pump enough heart and desire into them to show ordinaryness as a instrument of power – or possibly, glamour… to present cheerless and cluttered bed-sitter art in a beautiful and proudly frank way… Rules in all things, are simply laid down so that someone might break them. I had learned to guard my secrets carefully…. it would be the ache of love sought, but not found; buttoning your overcoat as you stand before an ash-slag fire as you ponder years of wasted devotion amid the endless complaint of boredom. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

He was also a punk fan, with its ironic subversion of pop culture – The Ramones singing a teenage tragedy song about the KKK, exposing the bad taste behind the clean-cut beehives.

https://www.legacyrecordings.co.uk/news/death-disc-phenomenon

But then Morrissey tends to put more agony into a song, life is ridiculous AND painful.

I am shocked, but then I fold into convulsive laughter. Some terrible moments are funny. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

Lyrics:

Day oh so late
Strangely the sun still shone
Ooh Asian boy
What are you on?
Day oh so late
Strangely the sun still shone
Oh Asian boy
What are drugs are you on?Oh… strange
Tooled-up Asian boy
Has come to take revenge
For the cruel, cold killing
Of his very best friend
Tooled-up Asian boy
Has come to avenge
The cruel, cold killing
Of his only friend

There’s peace through our school
It’s so quiet in the hall
It’s a strange sign for one
Of what’s to come
Tough and cold and pale
Oh, they may just impale you on railings
Oh, English boys
It must be wrong
Three against one

Oh …
Brakes slammed and
His gun jammed
And as far as I could tell
Brave Asian boy
Was dealt a blow and fell
I’m just passing through here
On my way to somewhere civilized
And maybe I’ll even arrive
Maybe I’ll even arrive