WARNING: The following post is not suitable for children, it contains youtube links to 90's punk rock from St. Charles, MO.
When I was in high school, I was heavily into punk. My favorite band was a trio called The Paxidils. I met the drummer in summer school one year and he managed to convinced our summer school teacher to let the band play a short set in our classroom. Seeing a punk band play way too loudly in a classroom with distortion bouncing off the concrete walls is the best way to fall in love with a band.
That love of punk lead to activism when I went to a show put on by two activist organizations (Food Not Bombs and Anti-Racist Action). While I was at that show, I bought this Anti-Racist Action t-shirt — because ya know, FUCK RACISM.
You can learn more about the history of the ARA here: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2013/roots-ara
And more about Food Not Bombs here: http://www.foodnotbombs.net/
I wore it to school a couple times without any issue, no one seemed to care.
Then one day, a hall monitor (these are adults hired to monitor our halls) stopped me and asked me about my shirt. I explain that it’s an anti-racist shirt . She asked if anyone had confronted me about it and I said they hadn’t. The hall monitor sent me on my way.
That day at lunch, I was called over to a principal (An old white dude) who was standing with the hall monitor (young white woman), local police officer (white dude) that worked at our school as security. I was asked change shirts, I told them that I didn’t have another shirt and the principal asked me to never wear the shirt again. I asked and pointed out that the shirt was against racism and was told by the cop, “It’s provocative.” I pointed the hypocrisy of the table of redneck kids wearing shirts that had confederate flags on them and had the words “The south will rise again!” printed on the front.
My argument was meant with a stern, “Don’t wear it again.” I agreed and went back to sit with my friends. I was fuming. Outraged. Full of rage and a need for action, I mobilized my other friends that also had ARA shirts. We were all going to wear them the next day in show of solidarity.
I went home that night, washed the shirt and wore it to school the next day. Only to find out that I was the only one who bothered. They all had excuses, “I can’t get in trouble.” “I have test I have to take today.” “My shirt was dirty.”
So, I stood alone.
I made through 3/4 of my first class before I was summoned to the principals office. We went through the song and dance about the shirt and he told me to turn it inside out or he would suspend me for the rest of the day.
I folded my arms and said, “I guess you’d better call my Dad and have him come pick me up.”
My Dad is deaf. He speaks well since he lost his hearing when he was very young but wears hearing aides and can’t really do phone calls.
So, they manage to get the message to my Dad that. I’m in trouble and he needs to come get me. Now, at the time my Dad was working third shift, so they woke him up and told him he had to come down to pick me up. Dad was pissed.
I saw him walk into the office and he marched right over to me and asked me “What the fuck is going on?” Dad wasn’t one to mince words. I explained the situation to him and at this point the principal came over to try and talk to my Dad. My Dad cuts him off and asks, “You’re sending him home because he’s wearing a t-shirt that’s against racism? The principal said, “Yes but you need to understand that he was warned —"
My Dad cuts him off, points a finger in the principals face and says, “You’re a fucking racist. Let’s go, Sam.”
And that was that. My Dad took me home, he went back to sleep and we didn’t talk much about it beyond that.
Here’s the other thing that I haven’t mentioned. My Dad’s white. I’m not.
There’s a lot of reasons I’ve kept that ARA shirt all these years despite not being able to wear it anymore. But I think the main reason is because that was the first time in my life that my Dad stood up for me as a mixed race person.
I wanted to include this bonus track but it didn't fit in with the narrative above. True story: in high school english class we were once asked to draw our worst fear. I drew a blonde man in a business suit and captioned the drawing "Conservative Cocks." My white teacher was only moderately amused.