You can say plenty of terrible things about Negan (played by Jeffery Dean Morgan) on The Walking Dead: He’s a murderer, a plunderer, and a dictator; he’s arrogant, manipulative, and clearly delights in the sufferings of others. He’s a misogynist, a lowlife, and the worst kind of bully. All of this is certain. But is he racist?
Remember this nerve-shredding scene (below) at the climax of Season 6?
Negan’s “Eeny Meeny Miny Moe” rhyme came word for word from a corresponding scene from The Walking Dead comic book series. Check it out:
It’s such a chilling scene for the way it demonstrates Negan’s casual attitude towards assassination, choosing a victim the way children choose who’s “It” in a game of tag. The moment went on to be immortalized in an officially licensed t-shirt sold at Primark outlets in the UK—at least it was until the shirt was pulled recently over perceived racist implications.
“We were shocked when we came face to face with a new t-shirt with a racially explicit graphic and text,”[Primark shopper Ian] Lucraft told the Warwick Courier. “It was fantastically offensive and I can only assume that no one in the process of ordering it knew what they were doing or were aware of its subliminal messages.”
Lucraft, who said he saw the shirt while visiting Primark’s branch in Sheffield, England, with his wife, added, “It is directly threatening of a racist assault, and if I were black and were faced by a wearer I would know just where I stood.”
After Lucraft returned home, he said, he fired off a letter to Primark chief executive Paul Marchant, stating, “Mr Lucraft send a stinging letter, headed “Shocking Racist t-shirt in Primark” to the firm’s Chief Executive Paul Marchant at his offices in London. He wrote: “I assume that with some past incidents that I see have happened with Primark goods, you are anxious to prevent further bad publicity, and do not want to offend other shoppers.”
The complicated racist past of Eeny Meeny Miny Moe can’t be denied. While Negan uses the word “tiger” Lucraft was obviously offended by a version popularized in the early 1900s in America, where the animal is replaced by the N-word. The offensive term completely changes the implications of the rhyme, making the counting game appear like a random way of choosing someone to lynch.
Of course, deeper research proves that Eeny Meeny Miny Moe originated as an ancient Celtic children’s rhyme, completely devoid of any racial implications. The most common variation was penned by Richard Kipling in the late 19th Century:
Eenie, Meenie, Tipsy, toe;
Olla bolla Domino,
Okka, Pokka dominocha,
Hy! Pon! Tush!
So what’s your opinion about the Negan Eeny Meeny Miny Moe shirt? Feel free to express your opinion in the Comments section.
And don’t forget to check out a new episode of The Walking Dead this Sunday at 9 PM on FX; peep the preview below.