What began more than 20 years ago as an online bookstore has morphed into one of the largest retailers in the world, offering third party sellers easy access to billions of customers. Now, those customers are questioning how much oversight such sellers are subject to, after Amazon removed children's clothing with racist "slavery" slogans following internet backlash. Until earlier this week, the site carried mugs, shirts, bags, and even babies' bibs bearing the slogan "Slavery Gets Sh*t Done," according to Reuters, but thanks to an outpouring of complaints on social media, the products have since been taken off of the site. "All Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who don't will be subject to action including potential removal of their account," an Amazon spokesperson told the outlet. "The products in question are no longer available." Amazon has not returned Romper's request for comment.
In a twist of disturbing irony, many of the products were advertised by crudely superimposing the slogan on photos of baby and child models. International Justice Mission Chief Executive David Westlake told Reuters, "Children the same age as those modeling the T-shirts will be forced to work long hours for no pay in desperate conditions where starvation, beatings and sleep deprivation are common." Today, 40 million people around the world are enslaved, with women and girls accounting for 71 percent of victims, according to Time. An additional 152 million children — nearly one in 10 kids worldwide — are currently victims of child labor.
The products were not offered by Amazon itself; orders were fulfilled by a third-party seller. Amazon allows these entities to market products through its site for a $39.99 monthly fee, but the retailer's contract guidelines prohibit products that are "deemed to be Offensive and Controversial Materials."
Among the list of banned merchandise are goods that "explicitly promote, glorify, or incite hatred, intolerance or exploitation of a group or individual based upon any of the following protected traits: race, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability." The site also bars the sale of human remains and fidget spinners fashioned to resemble throwing stars.
It's unclear how — or even if — Amazon vets its third-party merchandise before allowing it to go live on the site. According to People, the slavery-themed products were offered by the Lithuania-based retailer Styleart, which still has a handful of questionable products listed on Amazon, like an unlicensed "Megan Fox Hot Babe Tote Bag," and a "Naked Sexy Hot Girl Smokes Joint Mens T-shirt" with the equally disturbing review "My son loves 100%," among others. Styleart did not immediately respond to Romper's request for comment.
Styleart's website and social media accounts were abandoned nearly two years ago, but a cached version of the site implies that in addition to creating original designs, it printed and sold user-submitted designs for commission. The company's guidelines explicitly stated that it would not print "hate material" or designs that "slander, offend, disrespect or ridicule others."
A shirt bearing the same design is still available on the site for "T-Shirt Hell," a company with an "about us" section that reads, "It's comedy. We hope you enjoy it. If you don't, you can go f*ck yourself." Billing a tasteless and offensive slogan as "comedy" does not excuse its horrific implications, though. T-Shirt Hell did not immediately respond to Romper's request for comment.
Although the specific design makes a clueless reference to the false narrative of the Egyptian pyramids being built by slaves, slavery is a real and abhorrent practice that's been around throughout recorded history, and is still around today. There's absolutely no excuse for making light of it, and it's unclear how the merchandise made it on Amazon's site.