Why I won’t just ‘wear the shirt’

Seniors receive their red T-shirts with sheer excitement; they dart to the bathroom immediately to change; they take photos upon photos together, smiling. Parents look on with pride because, at last, their child has reached Grade 12.

Despite the anticipation, I did not wear my senior shirt at the Pizza Party on Wednesday or at the All-School Assembly. Many have asked why.

At first, the reason was simple: I chose not to. The Commons was too chilly for a short-sleeve. The shirts’ red is brash and bloody: not my favorite color. They were made in Haiti by a company that often chooses profit over concerns of employee welfare.

But the reason I continued to refuse was more than my own preference. I didn’t want to be painted in that broad, red brush along with the senior class. I didn’t like the arbitrary tradition — that everyone must wear a shirt — and all that it represents. I didn’t want to wear a uniform that limited my individuality and my choice. I would prefer to show my seniorship through my words and actions, not the color of my clothing.

When I stood up to join the class photos, I was first barraged with questions: “Where is your shirt?”, “Why aren’t you wearing your shirt?”, as if it was something required of me. Then the demands: “Rohan, just wear the shirt!”, because the issue was so urgent that there was no time for compromise. Then the jeering chant: “ROHAN! ROHAN! ROHAN!”. Eventually I was blocked by a larger boy and parents could, at last, take photos.

What affected me most strongly was the personal hostility. People I have known since kindergarten repeatedly shouted at me to don the red. When posing for a photo with only “Lifers” — students who have been at ASL since Grade 1 — a parent, some 30 years more mature than me, threatened to exclude me from the photo, shrieking “YOU ARE NOT A LIFER!”, all because I did not want to wear a shirt.

Most of Senior Day was spent in advisories and student-run assemblies, discussing what it means to be a Senior and our legacy at the school. We considered how we could enjoy the traditions and power that comes with being a Senior, while still being kind to other grades and being inclusive with our classmates.

At the Pizza Party, where we were handed our shirts, nothing of the such happened. Traditionalism was used to abuse and silence a dissenting voice. It turned into mob-mentality in its rawest form, including its power to oppress. That is a scary thing. I realize that my shirt’s miscoloring may have tarnished some photos, but in the search for the perfect picture, we cannot lose touch with our humanity.

 

Written by Guest Writer Rohan Prasad (’18)

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One Comment

  1. Anne Rees
    September 1, 2017
    Reply

    Good for you! While everyone should be included in traditions and rituals like Senior Shirts, no one should be pressured or forced to participate. Shame on the “adult” who screamed at you.

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