Dear Honorable Kofi Annan

By Tinbete Ermyas

Dear Honorable Kofi Annan,

I know you are a very busy man. Attempting to solve the ills of the world one problem at a time is a hard task and one that I think only very few are qualified to do. However, Mr. Annan, there is an issue that has been plaguing my mind seriously as of late and I think you are one of the few people in the world who can address my concerns. The problem I am talking about is t-shirts.

Yes, you read correctly, t-shirts.

But my concerns don’t lie with just any t-shirts, just a particular “genre” if you will. And the kind I’m talking about is the t-shirt that proclaims, “Everybody loves a ___.”

I’m sure you’ve seen them. They appear at the most unsuspecting of moments: on subways; while walking down the street; and, most commonly, in clubs and social gatherings. And believe me, when someone is sporting a garment this attractive, all the world stops to read, ponder, and nod their heads at what seems to be a true statement.

But I stop for a minute and wonder: are these statements true?

I really want to believe that at any given moment everybody does love a “Latin boy,” or “Jewish girl,” but are there deeper messages that these shirts are sending? Perhaps. Or maybe I am just reading into things too deeply, and I am sure that most of the Macalester community would believe the latter to be true. They seem to do that a lot.

Whenever I think of the topic of these t-shirts I am brought back to a conversation that I had with a cousin of mine. I stated that I was kind of upset that they didn’t have an “Everybody loves a black boy” shirt (and really, there isn’t one, you can even Google it!). And in response to my frustration, my cousin simply stated, “Well, that’s because not everyone loves black boys.”

How true, I thought.

But what concerned me more than the fact that there was no shirt for us black boys was the fact that maybe these shirts (or lack thereof) have some truth to them. I mean let’s be honest here, black men are much more likely to be racially profiled living their daily lives than the average American would like to admit. And the prison rates for young black men are astronomical compared to those of other races/genders/ethnicities. Statistics support time and again that society isn’t ready for an “Everybody loves a black boy shirt.”

But who cares, right? So there isn’t an “Everybody loves a black boy” shirt. Get over it, right? Maybe, but I think it’s interesting to view the lack of a “black boy” shirt within a larger framework of how black people are viewed on other shirts.

What I find most problematic is that while the whole “everybody loves a” craze was gaining popularity, so was the emergence of the genre of shirts that suggested that black babies be arrested before they could become a menace to society.

And the same could be said for black girls. So there is an “Everybody loves a black girl” (again, Google proves this.) But it’s so interesting to see the type of love that black girls get in the face of recent events involving the Duke University Lacrosse Team.

I can’t help but wonder just where the point of reality and fun is drawn. So we have black boys who get no love in reality and on t-shirts. That’s fine. But where is the analysis of that when shirts suggesting the arrest of black babies are being produced. Or what about when black girls finally do get some love but are allegedly raped by white lacrosse players?

Seems blurry to me and I think I need your help, Mr. Annan, in attempting to solve this problem.

I suggest that you and your colleagues at the UN have a conference on the state of t-shirts and reality in the world. I think a lot could get done.

And if you get laughed at, simply give your colleagues at the UN a smirk that lets them know that you know that at that moment, a black boy is receiving no love.

Just try it and see what happens. I’m sure you’ll be surprised.

I am through with my rant. After all, you are a busy man, and if you are still reading this, I would like to thank you for taking my thoughts into consideration and for showing me some love. It’s about time someone started.

Patiently waiting, in solidarity, for some love,

Tinbete Ermyas

Tinbete Ermyas ’08 is the main contributor to the “From the Margin to the Center” Column for The Mac Weekly Opinion Section. Contact him at [email protected]