False advertising?

While shopping this week, I happened to spot this little number at H&M. I immediately thought, “wow! How cool!!” Considering that H&M is a major corporation which caters to all men and women, I didn’t think that they would ever sell merchandise that could potentially be political or controversial, or at least about a topic that makes people uncomfortable. I imagined people wearing these shirts in public, spreading ideas of love and equality, and beauty among all people. I guess that sounds a little good to be true. I thought about it a little more, even hesitated to try it on. Is this aversive racism? What do you think? I thought that maybe it was promoting colorblindness, however it says “different colors all beautiful” not “different colors all equal“. Because I do agree that people of different colors can be and are all beautiful, but it feels like the shirt is sending a greater message, like equality, probably because of the “say no to racism” part. As we learned, just “saying no to racism” isn’t that simple, since racism is so heavily embedded in our society and structural systems. So is wearing a phrase so simplistic only further hiding the problem? Like, “Cool! If I wear this then everyone will know I’m not a racist!!” This only leads to further denial that you are, in fact, are racist because of society.

What I do like about this shirt, though, is that it brings attention to racism. Although it may not solve any of the issues behind racism and prejudice, I can imagine that seeing someone wear this shirt in public would definitely spark attention and provoke thinking about it. What do you guys think? Would you wear it?

3 thoughts on “False advertising?”

  1. I personally don’t like this shirt. Or, more specifically, I think this isn’t the time for this shirt. As a society we do not have a strong enough knowledge of the different forms of racism to make this shirt useful. Say no to racism, to the casual wearer of this shirt, probably means say no to calling someone the N-word or joining the KKK (or any other type of overt racism). It doesn’t bring to light any of the deeper issues that we’ve learned about, and, instead, reaffirms the notion that accepting that “all colors are beautiful” or “everyone is just as beautiful as everyone else” or “everyone is equal now” is the end of racism. So really, while it obviously doesn’t intend to do so, shirts like this one could very well perpetuate the problems within our society.

  2. I probably wouldn’t wear it myself, but I do think you bring up a good point, Abbey. How do people (especially White people) address racism? Should we use an all-inclusive celebratory model? Is that enough? Should we aim to look at social injustice as well? If so, is there enough room for that on a shirt? I’m curious to see what such a shirt might say.

    This post also made me think of another interesting phenomena: the desire to appear socially aware. We’ve seen the countless Kony 2012 Facebook posts and the new scapegoating of George Zimmerman. Why do people want to be perceived as socially aware, so much so that they want to wear it on their clothing? It seems as though people are willing to “wear” a social justice cause for only so long before they forget about it and move onto the next one Why don’t these public proclamations of desire for social justice have any permanence? .

  3. It’s a double edged sword in terms of “to wear” or “not to wear” for the very reasons you stated. If I wear it I’m “proving” I’m not a racist even though I still may be. If I don’t wear it then does that make me a racist or simply someone who doesn’t wish to advertise her “acceptance” of others literally on her sleeve?

    I moved here three years ago from Pittsburgh and the first and only time I have spoken to my immediate neighbors to my left was then when they came over to meet the new family. Here is the conversation; “(handing me a bottle of Whiskey) Oh good, you’re white! We thought you might be ‘spics or something because of your last name (at the time I was still going by Alexis Churilla). We don’t like niggers and such so what a relief! Well, welcome to the neighborhood! ” No lie…this was their introductory dialogue to a family they did not know. My poor shocked husband attempted to thank her and get her out of the door before I started on my tirade (my face went from pale to flaming purple in a matter of seconds and the vein in my neck was thudding so he knew time was limited for her) but alas, he failed. I literally backed she, her husband and their 17 year old son out of my door, through my dining room and over boxes as I seethingly depicted for them what my thoughts were on their “welcome wagon”. I have not been spoken to again by anyone in the neighborhood except for the 90 year old across the street and the woman next door to my right who’s daughter is dating a black man. I feel that wearing the shirt would have had less of an impact but probably would have saved me the angry tirade. Either way, much like anything else, actions speak louder than words and clothing is just clothing. Perhaps the shirt would start a dialogue on race between fellow whites…who knows, but then again, anyone can wear a shirt and not everyone will speak up or out.

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