Below is the image of a t-shirt from the t-shirt and schwag site Redbubble:
Here’s a closer look at the logo, if you can’t see it:
So, I know that Will Smith (presumably not the black actor), who designed this shirt, probably isn’t trying to declare his allegiance with the Hammerskins or Aryan Nation or whatever pitiful group is flaunting their ignorance this month. It’s a joke about catching white marlins. I get it.
But this is one of those cases where the original intent isn’t the point. It doesn’t matter what he meant. To get the “white marlin” joke, you have to be able to see the shirt in detail; even looking at it on a screen while sitting in a chair, it took me a good thirty seconds to figure it out. To even do that, you have to know that there’s such a thing as a white marlin.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s fuckup about how “those Second Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees, former NSA Directory Michael Hayden said something very smart on CNN that applies here as well: “you get to a certain point in this business, you’re not just responsible for what you say, you are responsible for what people hear.”
That’s especially true when you’re speaking from a position of privilege, whether it’s being a presidential candidate or simply having white skin in our society. We are responsible for what people hear. We are responsible not only for what we mean to say, but what our words actually say in the context of the times and place that we live in.
What this shirt says is WHITE LIVES MATTER, with just enough of an asterisk and footnote to give white people who wear it some legalistic pretext to cover their asses. It gives them just enough deniability to look at themselves in the mirror and still think “I am not a racist,” even with a racist message scrawled across their nipples and bellybutton.
Even more importantly, white people need to stop acting like Black Lives Matter is nothing more than fodder for memes and t-shirts. It’s not an abstraction, or a fashion statement, or a trend: It’s three words that became a movement because Black people can be murdered by white people without consequence. If we’re tired of being accused of racism, let’s stop acting like racists.