Why I Wear This Shirt: Maya

mayablm

By Maya Nichols

A shirt is a powerful thing. We wear it with us all day projecting messages to not only friends but strangers as well. With a shirt you can’t hide behind a screen. You are right there and you have to be accountable to whatever you are putting out. Colors, patterns, words, all representing your preferences, favorites, personality, or just what makes you happy. Now I’m not talking about your wardrobe. Your wardrobe is mainly for your eyes and nobody has to see that sweater you wished you hadn’t gotten. But the clothes you actually wear, those are the ones that can make a difference.

A few months ago my aunt got me a Black Lives Matter shirt. I wore the shirt to a march and then to an event at school honoring black students, but wearing the shirt casually was harder. Being white, I wondered how appropriate it was for me to wear the shirt. As I said before, a shirt can convey a lot of meaning and I did not know how people would react. It took me a month before I could wear it comfortably and I was really surprised at how positive the feedback was every time. When I wore it to my summer camp, I had many people, black and white, coming up to me and thanking me for wearing the shirt. It made me feel good that such a seemingly small action could have such a big impact.

Later, while talking with my family and a few friends about the recent shootings of both young black men and police, I shared my experience with them. This sparked the idea of our campaign. A bumper sticker is stuck on a car, a lawn sign planted in a yard, but a t-shirt is worn by a living, thinking and talking human being who can engage in conversation with other human beings. Just by wearing a shirt, you can let people know that they have an ally looking out for them. If someone sees you wearing the shirt, it may inspire them to find their own voice in fighting for racial justice.

5 Comments

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  1. Maya, you are a good person. Thank you for your courage!

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  2. This is great for sparking engagement. I do think it feels like there is a barrier of sorts.

    As a white person, I’m definitely up for wearing a shirt like this, bumper stickers, etc. I believe white disconnection from black life, resistance, love, experience, is deep rooted and we need to use any tool that works to build systems and connections that make things much better right now.

    But I do feel a bit stuck in wanting to square the performative aspect of this against a concern that it is co-opting, asking for pats on the back, gets me out of doing the powerful systemic work that needs to be done.

    I also don’t want to go to black folks and expect them to do the work of explaining why this is or isn’t ok because, well, they may not have an opinion or may need that energy to focus elsewhere.

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    • Hi JDK, thanks for your comment. I understand your concerns about white folks getting/needing pats on the back for doing this work or just for wearing a t-shirt. We see wearing the shirt as just a first step towards engaging in
      conversations about race and systemic inequities with other white folks, something we have been explicitly asked to do as a way to support the broader movement for black lives. Our hope is to connect with white folks through conversations and ultimately move them into action in more meaningful ways. Accountability is very important to us and before planning this campaign sought feedback and support from people of color and movement leaders about the use of the phrase “Black Lives Matter” in a campaign aimed in part, at white people. Please check out our conversation suggestions page for more info on how we are framing this work.

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  3. Thank you for your authentic words, and for finding a simple and powerful way to join the fight for racial justice and inspire others to do so too. May many more of us step up, speak out, and wear out the silence!

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  4. You are an inspiration! I share your passion for doing the right thing and haved shared this on my facebook page.

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