I am at the end of teaching my 8-week course on information literacy. My students’ last major writing assignment is to summarize all their blog entries into one paper. This is my example for them on my topic of racism.
At 6’4”, I’m hard to miss. Add a white shirt, suspenders, bowtie, and a fedora and I’m even harder to miss. I used to get several comments a day about my style. People would smile, nod, and acknowledge my presence. But not anymore. Not since I added a “White Silence Equals White Consent – Black Lives Matter” t-shirt to my daily ensemble. Now most white people avoid eye contact. I have become visibly invisible.
So what changed? I didn’t change. My views didn’t change. The places I go to didn’t change. The only thing that changed was my outfit expressing my own outrage of three more deaths of black men at the hands of white men. Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. One murdered by white supremacists, one murdered by the knee of a law enforcement officer, and another shot in the back.
Sadly, white outrage at black and brown death is already passing. BLM rallies with white participation are already slowing down. The next big news story is increases in COVID-19 are back.
White immunity and white privilege have reasserted themselves. White community has already diluted the message of “No Justice! No Peace!” into “Know Justice. Know Peace.” in attempt to maintain the status quo of white dominance. This change of is another example of minimizing racism to assuage white consciousness.
But as for me, I will continue to wear my T-shirt to be a visible witness to closed minds. In fact, I think I will go order several more.
Cook-Snell, B. (2020). Self-image [Photograph].
Museum visitors in front of the Martin Niemöller quotation at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (n.d.). [Photograph]. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/martin-niemoeller-first-they-came-for-the-socialists