Killer Mike, the rapper who endorsed and campaigned for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary, announced Thursday a new line of anti-Confederacy merchandise.
The T-shirts, sweatshirts and mugs feature a scoreboard set at 18:65 (the year the Civil War ended), with the US flag and a Confederate flag, the score: USA 1, CSA 0.
It’s a play on a meme familiar to conservatives, “Back-to-Back World War Champs,” that shows up on shirts and coozies popular with the type of bros who shop at Vineyard Vines. It’s ‘Merica, for the Patagonia set.
’Merica – taken, perhaps, from George W. Bush’s pronunciation of the word – is patriotism. It’s pronounced in a drawl (maaare-ih-cuhh). It’s screeching eagles and American flag tank tops and explosions and motorcycles and trucks and firearms. It’s Ronald Reagan holding a gun while riding a dinosaur holding an American flag. It is at once both earnest and sarcastic, a way of expressing your love of country while also poking fun at stereotypes.
Killer Mike’s tees aren’t the only ones popping up. Arnold Schwazenegger is promoting his own that say “Terminate hate.”
And on Thursday, Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui posted a photo of herself in a shirt that reads, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic when you could just be quiet?” – a take popularized by Frank Ocean.
But hers is not a shirt you can easily imagine Vineyard Vines and Patagonia bros both wearing, whereas Killer Mike’s is, speaking in the language that crosses a partisan divide.
Conservatives are often the originators of political culture and memes. It was conservatives who first used #thanksObama as a critique of the 44th President and “special snowflakes” to mock liberals who needed their “safe space.” But those memes can mutate, and liberals find ways to co-opt them. #ThanksObama became a way to poke conservatives for blaming Obama for anything and everything under the sun, and later, an earnest way to voice their support for him. And “snowflakes” has increasingly been used against Trump and members of his administration when they seem a little too hurt by criticism.
But Killer Mike’s play on ‘Merica feels different; it’s less about needling the other side, less about settling partisan scores. “Don’t cheer for the team that was trying to break up the country that you’re now in charge of leading,” he says to Trump in an Instagram post.