Urban Outfitters Chain Pulls Racist Costumes

AAA joins groups protesting 'Chinese Man' Halloween costume

A boycott of Urban Outfitters by Asian-American student groups around the country was successful in forcing the chain to pull an offending "Chinese Man" Halloween costume from its shelves.

The costume includes a Fu-Manchu style mustache, a pigtail, glasses and a cap.

The boycott was organized by Richard M. Lee, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Lee sent e-mail messages to Asian-American student groups across the country notifying student leaders of the costume.

"It depicts a whole group (i.e. all Chinese men) as looking like this person and...it is based on a racist image of Asian Americans that dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s," Lee wrote in the message.

Harvard's Asian American Association (AAA) joined the boycott. Members of AAA learned of the boycott last week through the organization's e-mail newsletter.

Jay M. Hammer, director of stores and also a graduate of Harvard Business School, said yesterday that he decided to pull the costumes last Thursday after Lee contacted him.

"Obviously we made a mistake," Hammer said.

"We have a diverse group of people who had seen the merchandise. In this case we think they misjudged the sensitivity of the marketplace and we learned a lesson."

Yesterday, however, about 10 of the costumes were still on the shelf at the Harvard Square store.

Johnny W. Stafford, store manager, said he had "[heard] nothing about the boycott."

After a phone call to the chain's buyer, Stafford told an employee to remove the costumes from display.

The boycott was officially ended with Hammer's decision to pull the offending costume from Urban Outfitter stores.

Still, however, Lee still recommended that "Urban Outfitters invest in diversity training among its employees" in a second e-mail to Asian-American student groups.

Caroline T. Nguyen '00, co-president of AAA, agreed that further action is necessary.

"I am happy about the ultimate decision by the honchos of Urban Out-fitters to get rid of the costume, but I don't think this is enough," said Nguyen, who is a Crimson editor.

The costume demonstrated Urban Outfitters' lack of sensitivity, Nguyen said.

"This ignorance does not get diminished by simply pulling the items off the shelves," she said.