In South America, traces of Americanized ideals and businesses can be spotted in metropolitan areas and are seen as signs of wealth. Unfortunately one fashion merchandiser in Buenos Aires has taken an American symbol for hate and is generating funds by becoming the South American version of Abercrombie and Fitch. Ramiro Fita, founder of John L. Cook, uses the Confederate Flag for his fashion company’s logo.
Interestingly enough, Al-Jazeera reporter Mimi Dwyer revealed Fita learned about the infamous flag while living in Baltimore, Maryland in the 70s. After living in the United States, Fita returned to Argentina and opened John L. Cook in 1975; Fita envisioned the store would sell “cultural products of the U.S.” The name, “John L. Cook” and the Confederate flag were chosen because Fita and his wife believed it sounded and looked authentically American.
Emiliano Fita, Ramiro’s son who serves as the John L. Cook’s president, told Al- Jazeera, the Confederate flag is “just the brand’s logo and symbolizes the history of self-improvement and love in the lives” of his parents. Although the United States is slowly removing the racial remnants of the Confederate flag, the sentiment of white supremacy the flag stood for still reigns strong. Despite this, when Dwyer explained the flag’s history to John L. Cook’s clientele, they believed the flag was nothing but a logo.
While there are clients who don’t know (or care about) what the Confederate flag represents, other consumers who don’t support John L. Cook believe the retailer does a disservice to South American culture. Twenty-eight-year-old Ariadna Dacil told Al-Jazeera when Dylan Roof performed his massacre against members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, she tweeted the company asking them if they were planning on responding to the massacre. Dacil shared, “The company doesn’t explicitly discriminate so much as through symbols, not everybody identifies with. It resorts to North American symbols. Its models are blonde and tall, just like other brands, but it combines them with Mickey Mouse figures on its garments or the US flag directly.” Huh?
It’s not hard to understand why John L. Cook’s clientele is not deeply affected by its logo: they weren’t affected by its history. But I’m sure if John L. Cook used the swastika, the reactions from consumers would be different. Especially since the majority of Argentina’s population descended from World War II Holocaust survivors or exiled European Jews. Though one should not compare tragedy, this conscious use of the confederate flag further shows the lack of empathy and respect for the history of slavery and its descendants.