We are creating this post for anyone who wants to learn about Battenwear's stance on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Like so many others, we put a black square up on our Instagram the other day. We hesitated before doing it, not because we didn't 100% support the movement, but because it is a bland way to react to such a passionate, important, watershed moment in history.
In the end, we decided to post the black square because to NOT post it felt like we were ignoring an opportunity, even a small one, to support to a movement we believe in. It felt like deciding to hang back, debating and deliberating, instead of simply joining a protest song and marching forward. We believe in this protest. We don't think posting a black square helps anyone, but we believe in this protest and the power of numbers.
We have been watching other brands' feeds and have been in turns intrigued, disgusted, puzzled, and supportive. It's great to see the passion. It's pure consternation to see the passion of this incredible time used for marketing products. Going forward, if we find something of import to say, something that feels like a unique contribution to the moment, we will certainly say it. But our Social Media feed is a platform for us to educate our customers about our clothes and gear and, let's be honest, motivate people to buy them. You don't come to us for opinions on race or politics.
Having said that, we also believe that it's your right to know the core values of the people behind the company that so many of you have gone out of your way to support. We wouldn't have been able to make it through those first two months of pandemic quarantine without your steady orders, your emails, your posts showing us how you relax in Battenwear in your homes. We are the luckiest of brands to have such amazing, funny, compassionate, and good looking customers.
So, for you, if you're interested, here's our personal take (we are a two person team here at Battenwear) on this incredibly important time in our nation's and in our world's history.
SHINYA'S 2 CENTS: When I moved to America almost 20 years ago, I knew about American racism. I had seen it on the news and I had seen movies and TV about it. But knowing about it is different from experiencing it. As I got ready to arrive in the States, I knew I had to prepare myself to experience racism against myself and see racism against others. I moved here anyways because I am fascinated by America, and I wanted to be a part of this country. It's a messy place to be, and there's a lot wrong with it, but there is no other place like it on earth. I am glad I moved here.
In the years that I have lived here, America has had a lot of racial unrest and there have been many times that I have hoped the unrest would be enough to make real change. There has definitely been progress but not enough. I feel that now is a unique opportunity. It feels like now is a time that things have gotten so bad and people are so upset, that it's possible for change to finally start happening.
I have been fortunate in that in the racism I've experienced, I've never felt in danger. In addition, I have the luxury of actually being able to do what racists tell people like me to do: go back to my country. I know that if things get bad, I can take my wife and kids and go live comfortably in the nation of my birth. I have an escape pod.
Black Americans are Americans and they are a fundamental, important part of the American culture. It's unfair that they have to fight so hard for something that should be their given right. But it's important that they do. And its our responsibility, as people who love America, to join that fight in any way we can.
CARRIE'S 2 CENTS: One of my earliest lessons in American race relations came from my father who grew up in Norfolk, Virginia in the 1950's. My dad became an English professor at UCLA and is an incredibly open-minded liberal who taught me that it's bullshit to judge someone based on their skin, when there's so much more of interest and import going on under the skin.
One day, when I was a kid, I found two old Time Magazines at the bottom of a drawer, and I asked my dad about them. I remember the emotion in his voice, the raw anger as he told me the story. As a high school freshman, he had been distraught to see how poorly Virginia was handling school integration. The schools basically shut down rather than allowing black students to attend. My dad was his freshman class's president, and a reporter from Time Magazine asked to interview him about the school district's refusal to integrate. My dad described to the reporter how important he thought it was that everyone of all races be allowed the same access to education and how much he wished his school would integrate. He was a passionate, well spoken young man and remembered being proud of his responses to the reporter.
Flash forward several weeks, and he picks up a hot off the presses copy of the magazine and realizes that the reporter completely misrepresented him. The quote attributed to him was lazy, racist, and sloppy. He didn't know if his name got mixed up with someone else's or if the reporter purposely misquoted him to fit the narrative of white boy vs black menace. My dad's family was very poor and knew they couldn't afford a lawyer to force a retraction. So my dad wrote a letter to the editor, which they did publish in the next magazine but which was ALSO heavily edited to the magazine's advantage.
As we stood over the open magazines so many years later I couldn't help but ask why he kept them. I would have thrown them away or burned them. He said, "I kept them so that I could remember. I would always remember what I actually said, no matter what the reporter said I said. And from that moment on, I also would remember not to blindly trust everything I read in magazines and newspapers." My dad grew up to be a traveler in addition to an English professor. He went all over the world, learning languages and living with different cultures, and most of all, keeping his eyes open to the beauty of a world that is filled with so many different kinds of people.
I think of that conversation about Time Magazine a lot nowadays, because we are living in an era when having a healthy distrust of what we read and see in the news and on Social Media can only help us. I'm not talking about "Fake News." I support journalists and am grateful for the work they do. But the need to read news with an eye to context and contrast has never been more important.
I believe that the one-two punch of the virus and now this social upheaval have opened an incredible opportunity for our nation. This is our chance to change. And while I believe that the change has to be as wide spread and massive as possible, I believe, based on my mistrust of how news is spun to fit a particular narrative, that change absolutely needs to find its roots locally. Change needs to be part of daily life and seen with our own eyes. Change needs to be small as well as big. It has to become an ordinary component of how we live.
As a working mom, responsible for my now elderly parents, my husband, and my two little children as well as our small, finicky business that supports the family, I feel daunted by the idea of the next set of stages we'll need to go through to make the world a fundamentally different place. On the flip side, as a mom doing all the things I mentioned, I'm also in a unique place to enact local change. My kids, little as they are, are going to learn the stark truths of racism, and that's a seed planted which will produce crops for years to come.
My kids will learn what so many kids before them didn't have to because of the privilege of skin color or the agreed upon social embarrassment of discussing race. They will learn what my dad did as a boy and what I did standing over those Time magazines. The world is not fair and probably never will be. But each of us has choices to make and battles to fight. Each of us needs to listen and learn and be ready.
Thanks for reading,
Carrie & Shinya Hasegawa