Offended by my T-shirt? Talk to me

THAT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE BLOGS, PART 2

By ONEITA JACKSON
FREE PRESS BLOGGER
June 8, 2009

The young white man at Eastern Market didn’t like my Larry the Cable Guy T-shirt and I didn’t like his attitude.

He is friendly, usually — I know him from my Saturday trips to the market — but he was curt and dismissive as I engaged him in conversation, or tried to, anyway. Finally, I yelled, “Just what is your problem today?!?”

He glared at me, pointed and yelled back, “You’re the one with the Confederate flag on your shirt!” and stood there with a now-explain-that look on his face.

Oh, my.

He’s reacting to my shirt, not to me.

I dropped my head and looked at my shirt. A 4-by-6-inch Dixie flag with the words “Larry the Cable Guy” above it and “Git R Done” across it.

I bought it when my buddy Ted the Redneck and I went to the Larry the Cable Guy show in January.

Yes, I understand the history of the Confederate flag and what it represents, and that it offends some people.

But I bought it because I like Larry the Cable Guy.

So I asked: “What does this say to you?”

“I don’t know,” the young man said. “I could write a whole paper on it.”

I pointed to my shirt. “What does this shirt say about me?” I asked.

“I don’t know — you’re confusing, anyway.”

Oh, there it is: I don’t fit your stereotype. That’s what your problem is.

“Well, I like Larry the Cable Guy,” I said. “And all you can say about me right now is that I’m wearing a T-shirt with a Confederate flag on it. That’s it.”

He was put off, but invited me to walk with him so we could continue the conversation. We walked and talked all over the market, and I got a politically correct lecture along the way. People (read: I) should be mindful about how they (read: I) represent themselves. People should be careful about who is paying attention to them and what messages they’re sending out.

“You never know who is watching you,” he told me. “What if the people make assumptions about the shirt and don’t even bother to ask?”

“I don’t have time for those people or their assumptions,” I said, “if they won’t ask me about my shirt. They can go on with their assumptions and with their closed minds — that’s what’s wrong with people in the first place. They are too afraid to talk to one another.”

“Most people,” he said, “are not going to come up to you and engage you in conversation. They’re going to make assumptions about who you are.”

He might have been confused about me, but I respect that he was open-minded enough to engage.

A stinky attitude, an offensive shirt, an honest conversation.

Explain that.

On The Web:   www.freep.com/article/20090608/BLOG19/90608031/Offended+by+my+T-shirt?++Talk+to+me