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An Argentina fashion brand's use of the Confederate flag on its products has prompted outrage — and confusion — overseas.
American shoppers were shocked to discover that John L. Cook, based in Buenos Aires, splashes the Stars and Bars on its bags, sweatshirts, swimsuits and more. The distinctive logo appears on stickers and other promotional materials, sometimes alongside quotes from Maya Angelou, John F. Kennedy or Thomas Jefferson, among others.
Stateside shoppers have blasted the company's logo on social media as "disturbing" and "problematic," and at least one Argentina resident is fed up with the brand's message. Elena Morin launched a Change.org petition urging John L. Cook to remove the flag from its products. She told TODAY.com that while the brand is popular among Argentinian teenagers, many of the young people wearing its clothes are unfamiliar with the flag's history.
"Cook's Argentinian customers really have no idea what the logo represents," said Morin, who grew up in New York. "'The Dukes of Hazzard' was popular on TV in Argentina in the '80s, so I'm sure a lot of older people recognize the flag from that, but they don't recognize its meaning in the larger context of U.S. racial politics, or how it's been used as a racist symbol."
"People are shocked when they find out what the flag really means," she added. "It's just a huge betrayal of their customers' trust. Imagine going to the States for the first time and wearing your John L. Cook Confederate flag T-shirt!"
The controversial flag was recently removed from the grounds of the South Carolina State House.
John L. Cook has not yet responded to TODAY.com's request for comment, but in a recent interview with Al Jazeera America, the company's president, Emiliano Fita, brushed off the flag's meaning as irrelevant. He explained that his father discovered the flag in Baltimore, and when he returned home to his wife in Argentina, the pair decided to launch a fashion brand inspired by American culture.
"It's just the brand's logo," Fita said. "It symbolizes the history of self-improvement and love in the lives of my parents."