Anyhow, I have to admit that, while horrendously overpriced, I really do love Pilates (mixed feelings about the quinoa). It's one of the few things that's been helpful for my scoliosis and I like the feeling of getting stronger. A couple weeks ago I grabbed a t-shirt out of my dresser and hurried off to my Pilates class without giving things a second thought. When I arrived to the room full up upper middle class white women (because, let's be honest, those are the folks who take Pilates). I realized I was rockin' my racial-justice "Black Tomato" shirt.
The Black Tomato shirt is an awesome shirt a friend from law school designed. Along one side it has word that the media and many Americans use to describe white people and along the other it has words that those same folks use to describe black people in similar situations. It ends with "Tomato, Black Tomato," a play on "to-may-toe/ to-mah-to." You know, same-same, no big deal. Don't worry, no extra charge for the sarcasm.
When I arrived at the class one of the nice white ladies stopped me and said in her sing-song voice, "oh! what does your shirt say!? Let me read it!" I sort of panicked. I don't know this woman's politics (but I've made a couple assumptions based on Pilates) and I wasn't really trying to make it a political space and I definitely wasn't trying to start an argument or justify my stance. But there I was...in the middle of a Pilates class...with an upper class white lady reading my racial justice shirt. Fuck.
As an aside: this isn't the first time this has happened to me. I once went home from college to my republican family's house wearing my trusty "I heart vagina" shirt totally unintentionally. But that's a story for another time.
Anyhow, I realized as I was silently prepping responses in my head that this situation felt uncomfortable to me because I get to choose when I am perceive as radical. I sometimes even get to choose when I'm perceived as an outsider (but that one is a little more complicated).
In some spaces: Fuck Racism shirts. In others: lovely cardigan from Ann Taylor Loft. And I get to choose. Or at least I get to choose some of the first impressions. I identify as Latina but being a monolingual English speaker and fairly light skinned, people don't always immediately know my background. Now don't get me wrong, being mixed is it's own cluster...but it's not the kind of cluster that makes me feel awkward walking into a Pilates class.
The thing is, I sometimes wear t-shirt that call out my politics or one of my identities...but I don't wear it on my skin the way black people or dark skinned Native Americans, Latinos, Asians or Pacific Islanders sometimes do. And I can walk in the world differently because of that. A t-shirt is something I can choose to put on or leave at home (note to self: must figure out where to purchase Lululemon) but it turns out that I'm wearing my privilege whether I choose to wear my noisy t shirts for not.