When Frederick Joseph recently decided to rock a politically-charged t-shirt on a day out in New York City, he knew there was a possibility of it turning heads. After all, the shirt’s logo was a riff on the hotly-debated traditional Washington Redskins logo—with an ingeniously racialized twist: The stereotypical Native American image and slur were replaced with the profile of a white man and the word “Caucasians.”
Ironically, Joseph had seen and purchased the shirt online the day the NFL announced that protests would be subject to fines and other repercussions. But while Joseph expected to get some attention while wearing it, he wasn’t prepared for the depth of hypocrisy he encountered from passerby, ranging from a white man who first yelled “Go Skins!” before doing a double-take and calling Joseph an “asshole,” to an older white woman who asked him why he’d wear something “so disrespectful.” As he told The Glow Up:
I said, “Well, what if it was the actual Redskins apparel, would that be disrespectful?” And she [says] “No, because that’s the logo.” And I’m standing there, just like, this is the dumbest thing that I’ve heard in my entire life ... I’m wearing this realistically non-problematic shirt and you’re mad because it says “Caucasian”—but think it’s perfectly fine that something with an actual racial slur is worn, so long as it’s a logo for a team?
In his travels, Joseph even caught the attention of a group of young white men who seemed to debate having a confrontation with him, a response he found ridiculous, to say the least:
They were actually, like physically ready to come over and say something to me, and one of them stopped them. And I was like, “Wow, this is a thing.” You know, that people would take the time to feel like they have to come say something to me, seemingly about my shirt.
I understood that “white fragility” is definitely a thing. The extent of it being a thing I was not prepared for, especially since the shirt in nature wasn’t derogatory nor disparaging of white people—not that you can necessarily be equally disparaging or derogatory towards them as you could people of color. But it didn’t say “crackers” or “honkeys” or anything like that; it said “Caucasians.” I’m like, aren’t y’all Caucasians?
Since posting about his experiences on social media, Joseph has received a flurry of responses from offended
Caucasians white folk—including threats of violence and death, calls to his workplace and outright denials that any of the encounters he detailed ever occurred.
“And I’m like, we’re living in a country where people are getting the police called on them for barbecuing, but I’m lying about this? That’s funny,” he laughs.
Thankfully, Joseph understands better than most the power of a well-placed message—and of a well-timed focus group. He is the founder and CEO of the creative marketing agency We Have Stories, which he created to “specifically focus on projects working with marginalized communities and on projects that can make an impact.”
“We don’t actually work with any straight, white males,” he says, noting that a portion of the agency’s profits is donated to causes that encourage diversity and representation.
Joseph is also the originator of the #BlackPantherChallenge, which earlier this year brought 75,000 kids to see Black Panther in theaters, free of charge, and raised closed to $1,000,000 in the process. In fact, Joseph was recently named Humanitarian of Year at Comic-Con 2018 for his efforts.
So, those who think Joseph just wanted to garner a little attention should think again; he’s already well-established in the game. He also plans to continue wearing his shirt—and will be in good company, since vendors tell him sales of the tee have escalated into the thousands since his posts went viral. Can we expect a #CaucasianTShirtChallenge next?
Joseph’s got his hands full at the moment, orchestrating the #CaptainMarvelChallenge. But he tells us he’ll happily pass the baton:
“If somebody wanted to do something where they maybe went to the opening Redskins game [wearing the shirts] and wanted to buy out a section, I’d be down to support that.”
The Glow Up tip: Want to get in on this action? You can cop “Caucasians” tees for the entire family here.