A Lethbridge clothing company has been accused of promoting themes of white supremacy and racism.
‘White and Privileged’ is under fire for its brand and online content. Owner, Boe Zahorejko said the company launched a month ago, and he is now getting death threats.
He said he never intended to promote racist messages.
“I am sorry that it hurts so many people and you guys feel so strongly about this,” Zahorejko said Friday. “I’m actually in the process now of figuring out how to shut down the shop.”
Zahorejko said he created the TikTok videos and much of the content that includes messages like “it’s great to be white” and “let’s stand together.”
“It was never about a white supremacy thing ever at any point,” he said.
“I never grew up privileged. Maybe I don’t know what it is because I don’t live in other people’s lifestyles and all that. But you know they don’t walk through my shoes either.
“To me, calling me privileged was actually an insult. I slept actually just down in these Coulees many months when I was younger.”
Lethbridge Black Lives Matter said it’s disappointed, but not surprised by the clothing line and on-line campaign.
Activist Victor Iyilade Jr. said the term ‘white privilege’ is often misconstrued.
“We’re not trying to be dismissive of your hard work,” he said. “We know you’re hard working. We know you went through a lot and pulled up the proverbial ‘boot straps.’ We understand that. But when we’re talking about privilege. We’re talking about how there’s some factors that were not in place as a hindrance.”
He also said it’s an opportunity for allies to speak up and continue the conversation about racial inequality and anti-racism.
“Here’s a chance — here’s your chance. Here’s an opportunity for you to actually do something and make some change,” Iyilade said. “[It stops] when a market like that stops existing. For that to happen, it has to be the community that has to step up and say, ‘No, there’s no space for this over here.’”
A promotional photo of the White and Privileged company was taken at The Canadian Brewhouse in Lethbridge. But a company spokesperson said the brand is not something the Brewhouse wants to be associated with.
“We certainly never gave permission for our brand to be used in any of their advertising, nor would we. Bottom line, it’s in very poor taste,” the spokesperson said.
Zahorejko said others involved in the company have abandoned ship. One person involved in the promotional photos has apologized for taking part. Zahorejko said he has removed the Facebook page and website permanently.
I sincerely apologize in regards to the photos taken of me representing a friend/guys clothing line. I didn’t realize…
Zahorejko said he is grateful for those who have reached out with compassion to discuss white privilege with him.