Morrissey is heading out on a North American tour shortly, and fans will be able to buy a very... well, a very weird piece of merchandise at the shows. A t-shirt depicting the writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin is going on sale with the words “I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside” printed around it. In the bottom corner is Morrissey’s name.
The lyrics are taken from The Smiths’ “Unloveable”, with ‘black on the inside’ having a slightly different meaning in the context of the song. But when superimposed over the face of a black man, things are on somewhat dodgier ground – especially given it’s being used to sell a product. To Morrissey’s credit, he’s an enormous fan of Baldwin (he’s written about him in his autobiography, he’s used projections of his image in his live shows, and has described how he almost met him face-to-face in a hotel in Barcelona), so it’s probably just a very hamfisted attempt to pay tribute.
Admittedly this isn’t nearly as questionable as some of Morrissey’s past comments – from the time that he was reported as saying “you can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies” (for context, he was referring to the state’s treatment of animals, but seriously, come on) to his various rows with the NME including their famous ‘Flirting With Disaster’ cover and, later, a court case over comments about immigration – but given that context, it’s understandably drawn a lot of criticism online. More to the point though, it’s just a bad t-shirt.
As fansite True To You highlight, if you want to buy it for whatever reason, you can either get it at his US shows or on his webstore.