Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My brother got shot and all I got was this lousy t-shirt

I know, it's a lewd title. My school, celebrating basketball school spirit, hosted a blanket and stuffed animal day this week. The first image I saw when I arrived, was the face of a dead student embroidered onto a lap blanket and draped over the shoulders of his little brother.

Immediately my mind took me back to the day this student passed away. We received a call through the emergency phone chain the night before. A student had been shot and was in critical condition. On my way into the building the next morning, a colleague broke the news that the students did not make it through the night. The details of the crime are not horrific. It was a little of being at the wrong place at the wrong time and a little of the status quo for some of my more difficult students. The days following were tragic and relentless. Students roamed the halls moaning and crying. Classes ceased. Counselors were working overtime. Students were looking for ways to memorialize the student's life. His name was carved into desks, his locker decorated with notes, his initials were inked into any surface that would hold the ink. It was terrible. It is terrible.

Every year, I see about two dozen students wearing white t-shirts with images of young teenagers airbrushed or ironed on to the shirt. There is usually a date 1989-2007...or something like that. And then, on the back, in what seems to be spray paint are the words "RIP Big T," or "RIP Little Snazzy." There is a place at the local mall which specializes in these tees and hoodies. Apparently they sell blankets too.

Here's the point. I'm all for memorializing those we lose in life. I just think that making a t-shirt or sweatshirt for a victim of violence glorifies the violent acts through which they leave this world. I'm sure there are some solid exceptions but the t-shirts really bother me. I think some of my students have drawers filled to the top of t-shirts with young faces on them. Faces that should be in graduation gowns, in tuxedos for prom, and in line at the student union at universities. Instead, they are plastered on someone's t-shirt, hoodie, or blanket. And it makes me sick.

No comments: