Morrissey apparently likes James Baldwin. It’s for this reason, perhaps, that he was briefly selling a t-shirt on his website that featured Baldwin’s face and the lyric “I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside” from The Smiths’ “Unloveable.” It was presumably some sort of ill-advised tribute? I guess? The thing is, though, that even as a “tribute,” the idea makes no fucking sense: the lyric uses black as a timeworn metaphor for sadness, darkness, and suffering, all of which are entirely negative connotations. Associating that idea of blackness with real-life dark skin, then, is both a terrible idea and tone-deaf in the extreme.
The reaction yesterday to someone noticing the t-shirt was swift and merciless — Spin, Pitchfork and various others lambasted him for his insensitivity, and the shirt was quickly removed from his site. As far as a headline for this goes, though, we doff our hats to FACT’s excellent Clare Lobenfeld, whose brief piece on this subject is entitled “Morrissey is selling racist t-shirts because he is a fucking idiot.” Quite.