*Every person who was in college during the 90’s will remember a t-shirt that said, “It’s a Black Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand.” This t-shirt had become a symbol of pride for the Black community and had actually become banned at some schools. The same was seen on some essential oils, black soaps, mixtapes and Africa medallions.
Since then, we have seen a lot of selections for the wardrobe which boasted a similar message. These messages included “Black Nerds Unite” and “Unapologetically Black” among many others. Each of these messages recognized a facet of the identity of the Black community and was worn happily.
This culture dates back to the 60’s, where creativity had a vital part to play in setting the barometer for racism. Black luminaries were seen wearing shirts that said “Black is Beautiful” and this was considered the rebuttal for anti-black violence at the time.
Tanisha C. Ford is a historian and professor at the University of Delaware and wrote a book for black people’s clothing as a subject of derision and coercion. She explained in the book that clothing had been very restricted in the time of slavery, and since then clothing options have been seen as a sign of willful rebellion. Black women were seen wearing silk hats and stockings where were reserved for white women at the time.
Fashion has since then become a terrain for self-representation and struggle. Even sagging jeans and hoods were once a facet of freedom for the black community before they became hip-hop culture. Ford, in her book, has asked readers to ‘buy black’ and induce racial pride. She is of the opinion that wearing sentiments across your chest isn’t politics and doesn’t call for any action.
Ford was inspired by her godmother’s t-shirt which read “The revolution will not be televised”, and on the back said, “No Justice, No Peace”. She then realized that in today’s fashion, these messages mean something different as racial injustice isn’t the same anymore. Now, these slogans are used to break stereotypes and perceptions like Black beauty and positioning a celebration of their skin tone.
Such apparel allows us to be bold and loud about our community without uttering a single word. When people look at us in these shirts, they have heard and understood the history of our beauty.