Tesco has stopped selling a children’s T-shirt following customer complaints that the design was “racist”.
The T-shirt featured a drawing of a black mermaid next to the caption: “That’s not my mermaid, her hair is too fluffy”.
The image and phrase come from the children’s book That’s Not My Mermaid..., unsold copies of which are also being shredded by publisher Usbourne.
The decision to remove the T-shirt from Tesco stores came after a mum from Dover, Kent, complained about it.
Katie Wells told Kent Live that when she first saw the T-shirt she felt excited “because diversity in clothing is particularly rare”. But when she read the text she was shocked.
“It’s not something any child should read on a T-shirt, and it perpetuates a stereotype – it’s racism,” she said.
Pictures of the mermaid have since sparked hundreds of similar comments on social media, leading both Tesco and Usbourne to make statements.
One Twitter post read: “Words have impact. As a black child I would have squealed in delight to see a pic that looked like me. Then reading the words would have reinforced my hatred of my unruly hair.”
Words have impact. As a black child I would have squealed in delight to see a pic that looked like me. Then reading the words would have reinforced my hatred of my unruly hair. #blackhair #naturalhair
“That's not my mermaid...” https://t.co/3LvisuERxC pic.twitter.com/fckuYN0b7N
— Sethina Watson (@morefluids) August 10, 2020
Tesco originally apologised and committed to not buying the T-shirt again, but has since gone one step further and removed the T-shirts from its stores.
In a statement, a spokesperson from the supermarket chain told Yahoo UK: “This T-shirt replicates the cover of a popular range of children’s books but following feedback from customers we have decided to remove one of the designs from sale.
“Tesco is a place where everyone is welcome – we are sorry if anyone was offended by the T-shirt and we thank the customers who brought this to our attention.”
That’s Not My Mermaid... is one of many children’s books in the popular That’s Not My... range, written by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Rachel Wells.
The books are particularly popular with toddlers because you can feel certain parts of the pages, providing a great sensory experience.
In the case of the mermaid pictured on the cover, children were able to feel her hair.
The book’s publisher Usbourne has said it had already taken the decision to re-address the contents of the book before the public backlash took place.
“We decided, some time ago already, to make changes to our book That’s Not My Mermaid... Whilst we had included a mermaid of colour with the intention of being more inclusive, we recognised that referencing the mermaid’s hair – calling it “fluffy”, and the concept of touching the hair itself – was problematic,” a statement from the publisher read.
“We stopped printings whilst we have been working to change the book, and have also already decided to pulp all stock remaining in our warehouse.
“The clothing based on this book is produced by a licensee and was created before we decided to change the book. We are speaking to them about this.
“We very much apologise for any upset caused by this earlier edition of this book. We are committed to diverse and inclusive publishing, and take our responsibility to do this appropriately, and sensitively, very seriously.”