Letter to Urban Outfitters

Kent State

 

Dear Urban Outfitters:

I was nine years old in 1966 when my father, Staff Sgt. David P. Spears, was killed in Vietnam Ia Drang Valley. I can’t tell you all the ways in which his death altered the course of our lives, individually, and as a family. I tried to sum it up in my memoir AFTER THE FLAG HAS BEEN FOLDED (Wm. Morrow/HarperCollins). Perhaps you and your staff will take the time to read the book because it is clear that you do not have an institutional knowledge of the Vietnam War and its impact upon this nation.
Your Kent State top is done in such poor taste. I am stupefied by the sheer callousness that went into the marketing of such an item. What’s next – sweatshirts depicting the bloodbath of Sandy Hook?
I have taught the history of Kent State to students at university as part of a First Amendment course. Most of the students I’ve taught have no knowledge that protests against the Vietnam War led to deaths at Kent State. I assume this is the demographic you intended to “target” for your marketing campaign.
In so doing, you have taken a very sorrowful part of our nation’s history, and my family’s history, and the history for millions of Americans who served during the Vietnam War and trivialized it. Like a trinket hawker at the county fair, you have taken the bloodshed and turned it into blood money.
I hope you will reconsider your poor decision-making. I hope you will donate those proceeds to the Vietnam Wall Memorial Fund Education Center:http://www.vvmf.org/education-center. For it is clear that we need to teach future generations the history of America’s War in Vietnam so they can avoid the type of embarrassing and hurtful missteps you have just made.

Karen Spears Zacharias
newsite.karenzach.com
author/journalist/speaker Gold Star Daughter. Line 71 Panel 9E

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

5 Comments

AF Roger

about 3 years ago

Seriously? Such a product has actually been manufactured and is being sold in stores? Words fail me. And what does KSU have to say about this? I agree, we do need to teach the history of the war in Vietnam. Even more importantly, we need to be paying attention to our more current history of warfare as it is being made. It would seem obvious that learning from past mistakes so as to avoid repetition would be SOP. Not necessarily so. Gail Collins makes good points here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/opinion/gail-collins-a-man-with-a-plan.html?_r=0

Reply

Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Roger: No not sold in stores. Apparently, they only had ONE. And they sold it online. Then said they didn't understand what all the flap was about, and denied it was a marketing ploy. (Why only have one then?) KSU issued a press release stating that they were indeed upset with Urban Outfitters for using the blood of dead students to make a profit. KSU sent me a note and thanked me for writing UO. I sent this above letter to the CEO.

Reply

AF Roger

about 3 years ago

Wouldn't it be interesting to have a transcript of the entire internal discussion and the potential risk/reward points tossed out by UO marketing people in the lead up to the production of one article? If I were teaching a creative writing class, I think I'd assign my students the task of imagining that discussion, the personalities, and the pro/con issues that made it onto the table in the first place. Nearly 40 years ago, a contributing writer for Car and Driver magazine wrote a piece lamenting that the beauty of race cars was obliterated under the product logos plastered all over the bodies of the cars--and all the jackets and clothing the race fans wore. He drew implications for society and thought we had become people of the logo. Talk about prescience! Yep. That was before the term "branding" came to be used for everything from disposable diapers to the mission statements of churches. And we used to think that branding was something done only to range cattle in the nineteenth century. We humans brand ourselves in far greater numbers than we ever did longhorn cattle. Oh, I forgot... "Longhorn" is now more than a mascot. It's a brand. Today, we will do anything to promote and sell our brands. That includes trampling the sacred because our brands are now sacred to us.

Reply

Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

The brands are only sacred because of the money attached to them. So really it is the money that we are really pursuing.

Reply

AF Roger

about 3 years ago

Of course. Money is everything, right? Why, it's even considered "free" speech according to the highest level judicial decisions.

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