T-Shirts Now Available
It’s a statement. Not a solution. Until we are seen as humans, the unfortunate list of hashtags will continue to grow.
The sound of screeching tires interrupted my evening walk. As I rounded the corner back to my house, two cars aggressively pulled up next to me. I braced myself for the worst. But then my wife, my best friend’s wife and their teenage daughter all jumped out with looks of anger mixed with relief and sadness. The reality was, I’d been walking for the previous 40 minutes or so in our suburban neighborhood with my phone set to do not disturb. I just wanted to walk in peace. I’d taken a different route than my normal.
The looks on all three of their faces carried an emotion and sense of worry that I had didn’t fully understand. Honestly, the abrupt car stop had triggered my fight or flight response. I would quickly understand that they had circled the neighborhood looking for me in a panic, and when they couldn’t find me, became worried that something bad had happened. I was trying to wrap my mind around why they would be so worried that someone my height and size could be taken by anybody. I’m not exactly the kind of person that gets kidnapped, I thought to myself.
But, then it hit me. All of the hashtags, and of the lives that mattered, all of the marches and protests came crashing over me at one time. Maybe someone would mistake my phone for a weapon. Perhaps I fit the description of someone suspected of some petty thefts. They were, and now I was, wrestling with the possibility that someone had criminalized my being – that my very existence in public constituted a felonious act. This was and is our unfortunate reality.
I was grateful to be cared for to the extent that three women of various ages would cruise the neighborhood in pursuit of my safety, but also concerned in a real way. I am a black man in America. I am the father of a boy who will become a black man in America. My, then, infant son was buckled in his car seat in the rear of my wife’s car. I couldn’t help but ponder, “When will they stop seeing us as a threat, my mere presence a crime which necessitates deadly force?”
I should not have to say this, but I am not a threat. I am a father, husband, son, brother, uncle, nephew, grandson, cousin, pastor, worship leader, graphic designer, thinker, strategist, advocate, college graduate and productive citizen. I am ALL of these things, yet none of it matters. I am a person. I have feelings. I am loved. I give love. I should be treated with the dignity of impartiality and graced with the chance to mess up on occasion. I don’t want to feel like an intruder in my own neighborhood.
Let me introduce myself to you. Hello, my name is not a threat!
About the Shirts
Black and brown bodies are being indicted for the high crime of being. Until our personhood is respected, we will continue to have unnecessary and violent interactions with people in authority or overzealous neighbors who fallaciously think they have authority. While we should never have to say this to you, allow us to introduce ourselves.
There was a time when I completely stopped walking at night in my neighborhood at night for fear that someone would assume I was up to no good. Then, I bought a ridiculously bright light to wear around my head at night and carry a bright yellow towel, in hopes that I wouldn’t be mistaken for a criminal. But honestly, there’s no telling what may happen on any given day.
Maybe this shirt could disarm. But my hope is that it would, at least, provoke a thought to help humanize our experience as people of color. Our parents have all had “the talk” with us at some point. It’s time we take that talk public.
Take a stand. Send a message. Pre-order your high quality I’m a Person, Not a Threat™ tee today. orders will begin shipping during the first week of June, 2020. Shirts are limited in quantity.
I chose to use the faces of my living friends and family in the marketing collateral. While I give deference and pay homage to those who have been victims of profiling and racial bias, I want to honor the array of people that comprise the black experience #MyCircle. Pictured here are people who are doing their part to make a difference in the world. I will continue to celebrate the diversity of experiences that make us…us. These are not victims; they are not casualties in an unofficial war, but what’s to stop them from being dragged into a fight older than our great-great-grandparents?
The collage contains a doctor, Purple Heart veteran, epidemiologist, Broadway dancer/choreographer, scholar, barber, lawyer, pastor, assistant principal, entrepreneur, engineer, human resources professional, banker, professional basketball player, and school teacher – all from my immediate circle. These are just their professions; they are also mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, daughters, aunts, sons, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters and the list goes on. Their lives not only matter but are significant. This is only a slice of my friend circle. I take this injustice personally. When any one of us is judged for the color of our skin and not the content of our character our whole society suffers.
Joseph Anthony IV is an ordained minister who works full time as graphic designer and has public health training. He and his wife Talisha, an elementary school teacher, reside in Texas with their energetic son, Zachary.