LMNOP: Why I Don’t Give A Damn About “Ab-city” and Her Mama

This is going to be short because it’s ridiculous and I’m trying to not spend too much time on ridiculous topics or people these days.

Recently, a tragic white woman has made the news alleging that a Southwest Airlines employee made fun of her child’s name.

The name?

Abcde, pronounced “Ab-city.”

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I first heard of the issue before it was a story. I read the mother’s account of what happened along with her posting photos from the employee’s Facebook page. There was a photo of the daughter’s boarding pass with her name “ABCDE” and the employee’s Facebook friends were chiming in about how pitiful a name it is. The mother also posted photos where the employee had taken secret pics of travelers, including one with a white woman in pink Ugg-looking boots that would make Miranda Priestly spaz and captioned it something like, “Snow Bunnies starting early” (paraphrase).

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Listen, I stand by a parent’s right to name their progeny whatever they’d like; even if it sounds like a garage gym where they focus on crunches and core strength moves or a fitness-inspired remix to “Rack City.” But, Abcde’s mama chose the wrong hill to die on if you ask me.

Here’s why I don’t give a damn.

I recall sitting in my AP English class in 12th grade next to a student named Yajira. From the first day, she told the teacher that the pronunciation of her name was “Ya-HI-ra” with the “r” said Spanish-style. I also recall my white teacher calling her “Ya-Jerry” (as in McGuire) all year long such that it became the running joke. Yajira managed to laugh it off. Yajira was Mexican.

Black people have been scrutinized for their names for decades. We now know, empirically, that employers regularly decline to interview applicants who are qualified but have “ethnic-sounding” names. We know that white teachers often don’t even make an effort to pronounce the non-European names of their students, no matter how young they are. This serves to diminish their self-esteem and sense of personhood because, as we all know, your name is a big part of who you are.

Until the national media starts running stories about every little JaQuesha, LaKeisha, and Deja who has been taunted by peers and adults because of their name, I don’t want to hear about Abcde’s hard time, day,  5 minutes. Until we start having to sift through myriad write-ups in major publications about how LaQuetta has an MBA but still can’t find a professional job that does her intelligence and qualifications justice because the white manager decided her value based on how he/she felt about her name, I want Abcde’s mama to go sit down in the lobby and wait her turn. I’m sure there’s an oppression that fits her but I’ve determined this isn’t it.

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The silver lining to this all is that in her attempt to…actually, I don’t know what the fuck her purpose was…all Abcde’s mother did was let us all know that she (the mom) may be functionally illiterate because I can come up with at least 3 ways to construct “Ab-city” without basically reciting the opening to the ABCs. At least JaQuesha and LaKeisha’s mothers know phonics.

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2520s: The Scourge

Scourge

[skurj]

noun

1.

a whip or lash, especially for the infliction of punishment or torture.

2.

a person or thing that applies or administers punishment or severe criticism.

3.

a cause of affliction or calamity:

Disease and famine are scourges of humanity.

 

I don’t have a clever entrée for this piece so I’m just going to go for it. White people are a scourge upon humanity. I know it. You know it. They know it. As addiction science teaches us, the first step is admitting the problem. I’m naming the problem: white people.

In the last two weeks or so, those of us who read have read several accounts of white people calling the police on Black people for doing innocuous things from napping in a college common area, to barbecuing, to not waving and smiling at them (if that’s not some early 19th century “yessa’ master” racist bullshit, I don’t know what is). These incidents are not only infuriating because they are clearly raced-based, but they demonstrate that the dark underbelly of white racism is alive, well, and going nowhere. Further, white people apparently relish in it.

 

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Sarah Braasch: the woman who called the police on fellow Black yale classmate for sleeping in a common area.

 

Most Black people can relay at least one experience of white people being hall monitors, getting into their business, and turning a benign situation into something way more serious than it needed to be. These white people didn’t do it because they really cared, but because, just as in the days of slavery, they felt the need to flex their muscle and show the power they have as white people (this is why any white person who says they don’t understand that racism = prejudice + power is lying).

 

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Jemma Beale: woman who lied about 15 rapes over the course of 3 years. k

 

These days it’s worse, as, in the last 6 years or so, there has been a barrage of unjust police killings of African-Americans and even white citizens exacting their racism on Black citizens; even children like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. With the acquittal of the murderer of Trayvon Martin and the judicial system’s failure to prosecute police officers who killed people (children included) for literally doing nothing wrong at all, white people have received a contract renewal to continue terrorizing Black people at whim.

 

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Ronald Ritchie: man who called the police on John Crawford and lied; leading to Crawford’s execution by police. 

 

I think we all knew that white people are crazy; and by crazy, I don’t mean mentally ill but more like a general malevolence that’s so pervasive that it’s almost undetectable. It’s a depravity so ancient that it has masks, and costumes, and is able to bend and shift better than any CGI sci-fi creature.

This wickedness walks amongst us every single day in the form of those whom we are taught to trust like teachers, firefighters, police officers, doctors and nurses, and even clergy.

But that’s not all.

This brand of atrociousness is so treacherous, scornful and arrogant that it will work its barbarity and then turn around cry that it has been harmed.

 

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The racist white woman who called the police on Black people barbecuing and then started crying that SHE was the one being harassed. 

 

Over the past few days, there have been think pieces written about why white people call the police on Black people for any damn reason. Some suggest that it’s white people’s fear of Black people that cause them to run to the police. Some suggest that as gentrification becomes more and more the order of the day, whites see calling the police on Blacks as a way to lower crime and protect their newly Columbused neighborhoods. There’s also been a suggestion that it’s merely a way to preserve the racial hierarchy.

First of all, why would whites fear Blacks unless whites had done something to Blacks that would merit Black people’s disdain of white people? According to white people, all their bullshit is “in the past” and we should “get over it.” So, why be afraid?

Gentrification? They could just go back to where they came from (advice they like to give Black people all the time) instead of threatening the people who were there before they even thought about coming or stay out in the first place. I mean, if the place is so crime-ridden, why’d they come? Seems like a simple enough solution to me.

As for preserving racial hierarchy…I thought racism was dead and a figment of Black people’s imagination because we don’t want to work hard and want to play the race card and blame white people for all of our problems, que no?

I have another theory. White people are just no good. En masse, collectively, in sum, no good. Their affinity for unabashedly causing problems wherever they go and then feigning ignorance, heroism, or good intention when called on it reeks of an arrogance that’s annoying at best and dangerous at worst. Their ability to lie so smoothly, without so much as a blink of their eyelash, is the stuff of any Black person’s worst nightmare.

 

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Carolyn Bryant: the woman who lied on 14-year-old Emmett Till and caused his death at the hands of a white male lynch mob.

 

What to do? They aren’t going anywhere and even though their reproductive numbers are declining, I don’t foresee them not existing any time soon.

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I support what I’ve seen a few tweets propose. Black people should start randomly calling the police on white people. Little Emily standing in the booth behind you at Chili’s and staring at you? Call the police. Who knows what she’s plotting? If 12-year-old Tamir Rice can be killed by the police for playing with a toy gun after one of them called the police on him, little Emily needs to be taken in for questioning at the least. Susan holding up the line at Bath & Body Works because she can’t combine coupons? Call the police. She’s being disruptive and trying to commit coupon fraud. Chad, Jr. having a tantrum at Kroger? Call the police. He’s disturbing the peace and his parents are accessories to his crime for not putting his ass in check. White waitress at Waffle House taking too long to serve your food? Call the police. It’s attempted murder because you’re starving and she doesn’t seem to care.

Call the police and then walk away as if what you’ve done has no consequence just like they do.

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People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.” – James Baldwin

 

Checking My Privilege: ‘Cause I Ain’t Got Shit Else To Do

I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that at 5’10.5”, I have tall privilege. I know that the ability to reach the top shelf at Tom Thumb has put me in a position of social privilege and that my evil pituitary gland has allowed me to wield power over those who did not have the opportunity to grow as tall as I did. I vow to use my tall privilege to rally for complimentary step stools on all aisles in all grocery stores across the nation.

I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that as a meat-eater, I have diet privilege. I know that not having to explain to people that I only eat nuts, seeds, and pretend cheese puts me in a greater position to enjoy life and through time, I have contributed to the oppression of vegetarians and vegans alike. I am heartily sorry and from now on, any function I attend or throw will adhere to the 3-cup a day recommended minimum of fruits and veggies so that all guests will experience the equality they deserve.

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I’m subscribed to pretty much every streaming service available and therefore, have television viewing privilege. I know that my ability to catch my favorite shows with little or no commercial interruption fuels the 8-station epidemic in less fortunate communities. I realize that many, many, many people have to borrow passwords in order to experience the programming I do with my own account.  I promise to take a moment of silence for all the people relegated to community access television and their local Fox network before every binge session to try to right the wrongs this has caused.

I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I have coupon privilege. I have both a Tom Thumb Reward Card and a Kroger Plus Card….plus the apps on my phone that let me in on special deals. I know that the free vine-ripened tomatoes I got today (with purchase of same, limit 2) is a luxury that many people will never experience. As penance, I will rescue everyone I encounter who still shops at Wal-Mart by showing them the way that they too can shop at Tom Thumb…or anyplace other than Wal-Mart ‘cause…Honey, no.

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that every athletic shoe I own is New Balance. I don’t really know how that’s privilege but I’ve seen memes that mock white people for wearing New Balance and since they have white privilege, I figured I “minus well” throw this in for good measure. *shrug* F*ck it! Y’all don’t know my arches!

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I have big hair privilege. I know that it’s a struggle to find elastics and other hair accessories that are reliable and cost-efficient. With my big hair privilege, I have been oppressive in buying these items three at a time and causing a shortage for the less privileged. I am committed to keeping my hair in goddess braids until women all over the world have elastic equality.

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I have electronic privilege. I counted and I have approximately 8 ways to talk smack on the internet at my immediate disposal. Because of this, I hold an unfair advantage over many people who only have their phone or computer on which to talk smack. AT&T would literally have to chop my wires which, in a war of words, makes me better outfitted than North Korea…and even then, I’d just go up the street to Starbucks and use their Wi-Fi….which I guess is another privilege. Anywho, I resolve to only talk smack from one device per day because I believe in fairness.

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I sincerely hope that by acknowledging and checking my privileges that I’ve helped hasten the day that we are all free. Won’t you join me?

Regards,

The Wayward Daughter

 

Picking Your Battles: In Defense of People Who Just Don’t Give A Damn

I’m a woman. Words like, “nurturing,” “caring,” and “accepting” are all commonly used to describe women. There is an implicit understanding that women are the ones who should bend over backward and support everyone, even when doing so is completely thankless and without benefit. Add Blackness to that same womanhood and you have the expectation that you should go hungry, sleep outside, march, come in early, stay late, and pretty much sacrifice your own standard of living to make sure other people are comfortable. In social media speak, it’s referred to as “muling.”

We can all attest to having that one (or one hundred) social media acquaintance who claims moral superiority because we dare talk about someone’s Oscars gown instead of multiple posts about the newest tragedy complete with footnotes and multiple links. They start hating you when you point out that laws aren’t necessarily based on morality, reparations were never on Obama’s “to-do” list, “just start a business” isn’t a feasible economic plan, weed isn’t a cure-all, and unconscionable decisions are pretty much a part of the presidential job description. Their final straw is when they post about a two-time felon and violent criminal being killed by a prison guard and instead of following their direction to call the governor of that state, you post about the 2 for $24 3-wick candle sale at Bath & Body Works. You are then DELETED!

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Unfortunately, in this era of heightened social consciousness (real or feigned), many of us refuse to deactivate our “Care” lever, and those of us who do, are often lambasted for doing so.  It just isn’t politically correct to not give a damn. If you don’t lie prostrate at the altar of social outrage about pretty much everything, you’re “part of the problem,” “stupid,” “denying your privilege,” “evil/cold-hearted,” an –ist/-phobic or some combination of any of the above. As we progress (technologically), we can be updated within seconds of everything newsworthy that happens almost anywhere in the world. This makes for a constant barrage of natural disasters, war, and bombings. It also means that we get a steady stream of sob stories, over-exaggerated cries for attention, and plain ol’ bad news. At some point, it’s just too much.

Is the IDGAF Club wrong for deciding to divest from this perpetual cycle of acrimony completely and mind their own business? I don’t think so. Further, I don’t believe that one has to throw themselves headlong into every social movement we’re presented with to be empathetic. One of the things that is repeated over and over again by SJWs is the requirement that people feel and be safe. Yet, we don’t think about the fact that for many people, it is safer for them not to invest tons of emotional and mental energy, let alone physical, into problems that are 1) ancient, 2) likely irremediable, or 3) wildly remote. In fact, a lot of the SJWs who want everybody to be concerned about everything and everybody should probably take a care sabbatical themselves (but that’s another blog post). Trying to be a caped crusader for others when you can hardly get your own life in order is imprudent and ultimately harmful.

The IDGAF Club has mastered one of the best life skills there is: picking their battles.

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As a BW, I choose to focus my concern on Black women and girls. I wish everybody well in their respective struggles, but I can’t be bothered with everything that every group deems unfair; especially when those same groups have historically disregarded the struggles of my own group. The rate at which Black women are killed by intimate partners is shameful. The numbers concerning the sexual abuse of Black girls is terrifying. That’s worth my outrage. That’s worth my energy.

The fact that there are kids who can’t afford school lunch is sad. The newest gentrification crises is a bummer. But, you probably won’t see me at a march, not even a town hall; and there usually has to be a dire situation to get me to sign a Change.org petition. It’s not that I don’t care about anything. I’d just rather be selective about the problems that I spend my time, effort, or resources on.

We’re no good to any movement if we keep trying to jump into every movement.

 

Stay Off The Grass! Musings on Respectability Politics

Friday, a movie that was released in 1995, was and still is a favorite of many African-Americans. There are scores of us who can even quote select scenes as if we were cast in the movie because not only was it so entertaining that it was worth a 2nd, 3rd, and 45th viewing at the time, it still plays on select cable television stations to this day. It is chock full of memorable moments: Smokey recalling a bad drug trip, Craig fighting Debo, and Felicia begging for drug money and being hilariously (and now iconically rejected). But one of the scenes that I really like involved their uptight neighbor Stanley.

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Stanley was white collar, drove a fancy car, wore ascots and a smoking jacket, and was very Type-A about people stepping on his grass. I could relate to Stanley because my personality is similar and despite the fact that Friday was a comedy, I felt the depth of Stanley’s pain every time one of his neighbors transgressed his pristine lawn and understood that it was deeper than vegetation, but respect.

The increased visibility of racism on social media and a heightened social awareness has often led to conversations about “respectability politics.” Respectability politics is generally defined as an intra-group behavior that suggests that marginalized groups would fare better if they aligned their behavior more closely to that of the “dominant” culture, in this case, white people. You will often see, however, that the term’s meaning expands at times to include inter-group suggestions of how marginalized groups should adjust their behavior. In fact, late last year, there was one such case of a loud Black neighbor being asked to watch his volume at 2am and being put on notice that the police would be called if he could not comply with the request for less noise. Of course, the open letter era made sure this was a story that lived for at least 3 weeks. People criticized the white neighbors basically for wanting their Black neighbor to acquiesce to whiteness by not being so loud that their sleep was interrupted.

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Maybe it’s just me, but I’m perturbed by Black people who deem themselves knowledgeable about social justice equating good manners with something that white people do and Black people presumably don’t do unless they are “coons” or otherwise in service to the white agenda. First of all, I don’t think they understand the irony in such a suggestion. You can’t bemoan, “Gee, you’re really articulate” as being covertly racist, and then say that the expectation of peace and quiet at 2 AM on a weeknight in consideration of working neighbors is an attempt at erasing your Blackness. I don’t know where these people and their Blackness come from, but Blackness in my world =/= being inconsiderate and/or completely aloof about the fact that other people occupy the world with you.

This leads me to my second point which is that a lot of the behaviors that are labeled as “respectability” or “respectability politics” are traditionally just good manners or standard practice. I’ll use the sagging pants debate as an example. Though I accept that people have the freedom to wear what they want in most places (Google cities that have passed ordinances against sagging pants), it’s a standard part of most people’s upbringing that pants are worn at the waist, a belt or suspenders is used for pants that are too loose, and undergarments aren’t seen (hence, “under”). Good manners dictate that you don’t drive through ANY neighborhood with your music volume on 100, or chat through a movie, or talk loudly on your cellphone in a restaurant. None of these social rules were invented to culturally strip each other, but as an acknowledgment that in shared space in an average setting, everybody is important.

In reference to faring better by playing by the dominant culture’s social rules, that depends. I’ve already noted that I don’t agree with the implication that urbanity or civility is inherently a white trait that Black people betray their race by participating in. I’ll add that I don’t believe someone’s choice of dress or even general comportment, if non-threatening, is a reason for them to be harassed or their civil liberties to be denied. I also understand that there are situations that come down to your skin and nothing more.

The truth is, we are all judged based on how we navigate certain social rules, though. I can speak AAVE but I know that at some point, I have to code switch because when I need important business handled, AAVE likely isn’t going to help me. As a woman, I will be more leery of the guy who thinks we all want to see his boxer shorts. I wouldn’t buy a home in a neighborhood where people are playing their music loud enough to awaken the dead. I don’t care if that guy is a scientist at NASA. I don’t care if that neighborhood’s soundtrack is Beethoven’s 5th. But, the magic is, those guys are hardly ever scientists at NASA and that music is never one of the classical masters; at least not in my experience. Further, those guys aren’t all Black either and sometimes it’s country music.

When it comes to home-training, I’m an equal opportunity Stanley.

Am I saying that you can’t enjoy your life? No. I’m saying that in maneuvering life, we can’t be so deluded as to believe that 1) any expectation of reasonable comportment is an attack on Blackness (or whatever race you may be) and that 2) if we choose to ignore many of these social standards we won’t pay a price, even if it’s merely people not liking you. Be free. Enjoy life. But by all means, don’t let your abandon become everyone else’s dilemma.

“We Are Not Our Grandparents:” Yeah, That’s Pretty Clear

About the last month or so, there has been this theme floating around social media. It has shown up on t-shirts, sweatshirts, caps, mugs and probably underwear too. It has become even more popular in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.“We Are Not Our Grandparents” seems to have become the new rallying cry to tell whites of all ages that the overt racism that has begun to re-rear its ugly head will not be met with chants of “We Shall Overcome” a la 1962.

Before I go on, I want to jump into the “Way Back” machine. My grandparents came up in a harsh era. They came up before DNA evidence was used to exonerate a Black person of a crime they were falsely accused of at the whim of a disgruntled white person. There were no cell phone cameras to record racist encounters which could then be posted on worldwide platforms in the hopes that the racist of record would be shamed into obscurity; or at least a half-hearted apology. The only “safe space” they had might have been a Black church if they were lucky. There were no “trigger warnings” before reading a racist diatribe in the weekly gazette.

My grandparents were also hard workers. My mother’s father came from a line of land owners. Post-emancipation, they worked for nobody. My great-great grandfather built one of the first schools for other children of color in the county. They farmed their own land and sold their own yield. My great-grandfather was an acclaimed agriculturalist who somehow managed to transform the soil quality and teach others his techniques. They had 12 children and sent all of the living to college. My grandparents had 8 children and sent all of the living to college as well.

They knew that nothing was free and everything required either money, work, or both. When they or their children needed something that may have been a financial stretch, there was no Go Fund Me; there was Go Get An Extra Job. Sacrifice was not a problem for them because they knew that what they needed outweighed what they wanted and waxing tragic about people who had more than they did and how that wasn’t fair was a waste of time and literally does not pay. They always took care of business and always had more than enough.

I know that many people interpret, “We Are Not Our Grandparents”, to mean that the non-violence angle of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s is no longer an option to which the current generation is willing to subscribe. The truth is that the non-violence stance took a level of maturity, wisdom, and discipline that this generation simply does not have.

This is a generation that shuns wise advice as “shaming.” This is also a generation that will become frustrated because the same people with the wise advice won’t help them. This is a generation that will write 3,000-word “think pieces” on the evils of capitalism in rapid succession and then, after spending their last $10 on a Marvel movie (and you bet’ not say nothing to them about it), will set up a Go Fund Me asking the public to use the money potential donors earned through participating in capitalism to help them pay for anything from rent to a vacation because work is traumatizing.

As an aside, the founders of GFM sold a majority stake in the company for several hundred million dollars. They’re chillin’ off a percentage of the money you had people donate to you for rent in the name of circumventing “the system.” Death to capitalism, right?

I have said and will continue to say that without the election of President Obama, these same people who have become Tumblr scholars would still have been walking around ignorant to how insidious racism is. Our grandparent’s generation had to learn that lesson early and down to their bones. Their life depended on it. Yet, they managed to survive and progress at the same time that their churches were being bombed and the KKK was at their front door. Many of them had to sit vigil with shotguns just to keep their family safe. There was no keyboard behind which they could hide.

Contrary to what Millennials say, previous generations did NOT have it easier. They realized that life is what it is and in the face of that reality continued to work, fight, and push on knowing that standing in one place with their proverbial bottom lip poked out and being mad about their parents and grandparents or even society at large, got them no closer to where they wanted to be in life. As “trigger warnings” go, our parents and grandparents should hardly be able to leave the house let alone have raised us.

Maybe some of the political moves the Boomers made caused economic trouble for Millennials. That happens throughout every generation. In 30 years, people will be pissed at Millennials for the fact that nobody knows the difference between “there”, “their”, and “they’re.”

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Oh, and that non-violence thing? On an almost daily basis, we see and read accounts of this generation coming in contact with overt and even violent racism (and other –isms/-antagonisms) and doing nothing more than posting about it on Facebook and getting their friends and followers, who ain’t gon’ do shit either, emotionally riled up for 20 minutes. This generation, that pats itself on the back for its ability to “drag” people for 90 minutes on Facebook and Twitter, doesn’t have the fortitude to offer the same wisecracks they furiously type out on Facebook when they’re face-to-face. Then, there’s the assertion that “silence is violence” and that someone calling you a name is violence. Yet, a huge part of the “dragging” people luuuuurve to do is…calling names.

With that said, George Zimmerman, the one that you who are not your grandparents guaranteed would be in hell by now, is still alive so I don’t think our generation really wants to have the non-violence discussion with our noses in the air.

Enjoy your caps, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and whatever else while they’re fresh out the box. Just remember that the major reason that you even have the luxury of walking down the street wearing a t-shirt alluding to an (idle) threat of retaliatory violence without having to let everyone know that despite your “dragging,” you ain’t about that life is because of the work of the grandparents whose work you derogate.

We are not our grandparents. We make that clear every single day.