UN-WOKE: Why “When Will Black Lives Matter To Black People” Is A Terrible Message To Send With A T-Shirt

I had to take a beat when I noticed the above shirt in my Instagram feed. I made an active decision to ignore both it and the very disturbing comments section under it. The issuer then reposted the shirt with the following message regarding the previous post:

In the details section of the item page, the company has written the following:

“Designed in response to the senseless killings of people of color BY people of color.” – @ServedFreshLive

I came across Served Fresh on Instagram and originally loved their Sade and Claire Huxtable T-shirts. Its other designs tend more toward a confrontational tone. I’m not a big fan of confrontational T-shirts or shirts with messages of any kind that basically say “hey, ask me what I mean by this” or “hey, let’s argue”. Maybe that’s part of the disconnect here, but I don’t think so. Their latest shirt is decidedly less artistic than the others – it’s a plain black T-shirt with “When Will Black Lives Matter To Black People” written in white on the front.

There’s always something that can be said about Black-on-Black crime, but acting as if we can put it all to an end at the next annual Black Folk Association meeting is quite daft and says whoever thought this idea up is incredibly out of touch. Anyone who’s lived in the ‘hood or even adjacent to it via family or proximity knows there are certainly hard-working people there who only want positive things for their families, their community and themselves. Even if there were some way to guarantee that no Black-on-Black crime would ever be committed again, what would it even matter if our boys and girls still aren’t safe from the police? You see, these are two separate arguments. Smart people don’t need to diss one message to convey another – find your own slogan and maybe think a little harder about coming up with something that undermines the system (if you want to be so revolutionary) instead of just undermining those who are actually putting feet to concrete to fight that system.

It would be interesting to see how the people behind this shirt would react to seeing this shirt where it belongs – at a FOX News team-building weekend or paired with a “Make America Great Again” dad hat. The thing about making a T-shirt with such a message is that once it’s out in the world, you as the creator can’t then say “wear it in this spirit or for this purpose”. It’s simply out there. I’m probably greatly overestimating the wit of your garden variety Trump supporter here, but you catch my drift. This is an irresponsible message (as it has been since the inception of “Black Lives Matter”) and wearing it on a T-shirt is the laziest way to make a half-assed point about crime in the Black community. What are YOU DOING about it, though?

I’m not saying anyone should boycott this company or fly into a rage, but we really need to look at ourselves and who/what we support. We have to be less content with letting our T-shirts speak for us and actually start saying something that’s from both the brain and the heart, because these sassy T-shirts aren’t getting it. Trying to shock people is not getting it, though responding to outrage on Instagram posts might feel like activism to some. It isn’t. Though I’m sure there are some stories that could be told to the contrary, I don’t think many constructive conversations about race, violence, etc. start with a shirt designed to belittle and undermine a cause people feel this strongly about. Granted, I’m also not the guy to cop a BLM shirt, but I don’t in any way question their existence, other people wearing them, or the meaning of the phrase. To me, “When Will Black Lives Matter To Black People” is really no different than “Blue Lives Matter” in terms of trying to champion one cause while shitting on another.

At the time I’m writing this, I can’t find the Served Fresh Instagram account and its Twitter went private, which I can only assume is in response to their notifications getting flamed over this (and yet, the shirt is still available on their website and apparently still being sold, as per a handy popup on their site which informs viewers when someone else has purchased an item; this particular shirt “ships in 7-21 days due to extremely high demand”). Just before their abrupt social media blackout, I asked in their IG comments (and via their site’s contact form) who owned the company because frankly, this is something you hope to at minimum see a Black face behind, albeit a short-sighted one. I also asked something along the lines of “Since the loss of Black lives is so important to ServedFresh, what percentages of the proceeds from sales of this shirt will go to which specific organizations, families or estates?” I didn’t have a response to either of my questions at press time and that Sade T-shirt has been permanently removed from my cart, unfortunately. Hopefully, whoever made this shirt can sleep on their decision and at least consider the idea that they’re alienating more people than they’re educating.

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