Clothing Company Strikes Up Controversy with Arabic Dearborn Shirt

A shirt made by the company Down with Detroit features a screenprint of "Dearborn" written in Arabic.

A T-shirt design released Wednesday by local clothing company Down with Detroit has stirred up conversation that the design is racist.

The design shows the word "Dearborn" written in Arabic.

Posted on the company's Facebook page Wednesday evening, the photo immediately sparked debate over whether the design is offensive.

"Maybe not racist ... maybe tasteless," wrote fan Dion Pallone. "Not a fan of it."

"Well, never bought a DWD shirt, and unless this ridiculous shirt is removed, I will never endorse it," added Jillian Christine.

"Dearborn is the largest Islamic area in the U.S.," contested fan Jeremy Welker. "If this is racist then so is having a brew on an Irish shirt, or having a rapper on a Detroit shirt."

As of Thursday morning, the post had more than 300 comments, 200 likes, and 32 shares.

Down with Detroit responded to many of the comments, but did not remove the shirt, contesting that it was no different than other shirts they had made about the heritage of some Michigan residents.

"This has nothing to do with politics," the company said. "Dearborn has the nation's largest Arab population. This design was made by an Iraqi-American who is Catholic."

Founded in 2006, Down with Detroit is a clothing company known for original designs that promote Detroit, surrounding suburbs and Michigan, as well as local sports teams. It has been named in HOUR Media's Best of Detroit.

The Dearborn shirt is not the only edgy design the company offers. One shirt displays "Taylortucky," a nickname given to the city of Taylor; another shirt for Mexicantown shows a cactus wearing a sombrero.

"To say it mildly, we were totally taken aback by the comments," the company posted Thursday morning. "We didn't view this design any differently than our Corktown, Hamtramck and Mexicantown shirts, but it sure was received differently!"

Access Down with Detroit online at http://downwithdetroit.spreadshirt.com.

POWDERBURNER April 01, 2012 at 01:07 AM
I have a t-shirt with INFIDEL printed in both arabic gobbledegook and English on it. It gets a lot of looks when I wear it around town, mostly looks that could kill. So much for freedom of expression, it obviously isn't a 2 way street with them.
AC April 01, 2012 at 06:41 PM
FYI, in the middle east, no one uses this term 'infidel.' It is a western construct projected on to to Arabs.
Bob April 01, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Ac, you need to read the quaran.
Leslie April 02, 2012 at 12:50 AM
It's just the word Dearborn written in Arabic! Amazing how much conversation and controversy it's generated! It would be fun to have a shirt with Dearborn written in the many languages of the people that have lived in Dearborn over the years (including Norwegian). Like the old AAA stickers that said "Bring 'em back alive!" in many languages -- we collected them as kids.
Julia April 21, 2012 at 09:04 PM
In an effort to defend this shirt, I think it is a good idea for Down With Detroit to highlight the fact that their intention was not to offend people. It would be different if the text on the shirt said something negative about Dearborn or Arabs, but it does not. Having one word, the name of a city, in a different translation than English is nothing compared to real issues of racism. The bigger, more substantiated racial threats deserve the energy and attention rather than the way a city name is written. The company has produced items with very similar images on them in the past, and yet those items did not have this kind of controversy surrounding them. Obviously if those other products continued to sell and did not lose consumers, it is understandable that the company would see this shirt as not being a big deal as well. Down With Detroit hasn't shown any signs of cultural, religious, or racial hatred in its existence and so it is important for the public to view this product in relation to the entire image of the company rather than a single representation of racism. Down With Detroit should display the facts to the public, regarding both the company's intentions and history, so that people can put this individual shirt in context with the many other products this company offers.


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