One lesson I’ve learned in my 30’s is that you have to work with what you’ve got. Had someone sat me down to explain this back in the day, I may have been better equipped to handle the bullying I experienced on a daily basis. In the small town that I grew up in, I did not have the luxury of seeing people who looked like me (outside of my family) that is more common in larger cities. I understand that most people of color, at some point in their lives, will be confronted with blatant or covert racism directed toward them in some manner. In my experience, small-town racism has a unique set of challenges, and concerns. There were just less of us around town, and being of Black and Native descent, people got ugly with me, real talk. They could not ‘place’ me, and I was often asked questions about the ethnicity of my parents, and my people. Yo, if I had a dollar for everytime I heard “Which one of your parents is white?”, “Are you mixed?” or “Why do your eyes ‘slant’?” I would have a nice little stack right about now.
It was not until I got to Antioch for undergrad, when I finally started to love myself better. After all those years of bullying, racism, size-ism, and being called out of my name, it took me a while to undo, and unlearn this form of violence projected onto me. In truth, this process of unpacking has directly informed the evolution of my style, the patterns of which I am starting to see much more clearly these days. I think that is why I so love businesses that promote equality, justice, and sustainable practices. Most of my favorite clothing and accesssory staples are handmade items. I like to mix thrift and vintage with (a few) modern pieces in one outfit. I have a thing for t-shirts with a conscious message, like the one above. This tee was screen-printed by one of my comrades in college. It was used for on-campus demonstrations and organizing efforts geared toward addresseing institutional racism. I feel that t-shirts employ a similar mechansim to street art. They really do have the power to convey messages, a truly wearable work of art.
Style is such an objective thing, though we are literally and metaphorically led to buy into the idea that there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to go about it. It really is a form of bullying. For me, I use style (not fashion, ’cause that shit fades) as a way to push back, to resist, to question, to respond, and to show my solidarity. It is, after all, within my power to do so. Now, I want to hear from you. How do you utilize style? In Solidarity, Christian