The 4th of July snuck up on me this year. Partially because I can’t — quite — make myself care. Amidst a worldwide pandemic and the dawning realization that my schools’ teaching of US history should get a solid ‘F’ in terms of accuracy…yeah.

I do like sparklers, though.

And that’s all I have to say about July 4.

We’re coming to the end of our yearly stay in Avalon. We love this little beach town. My kids spend each morning surfing, it’s sleepy enough that they really can ride their bikes everywhere, and by now, since we’ve been coming for years, we know most of the people at our favorite restaurants/bars/shops.

But it’s a funny place, Avalon. In the midst of second wave of COVID-19 and the growing momentum (realization?) that Black Lives DO Indeed Matter…it’s basically Summer of 2019 over here.

So while my kids are able to surf and be on the beach…this year they have not been allowed to rove around on their bikes, maskless, like all the other kids. And we’ve been cooking in and staying put much more than in years’ past. Granted, we’re FINE — this can hardly be considered a hardship — but it is a decidedly different approach than most have taken.

And Mike is getting twitchy, watching the numbers rise. So there’s that.

I was in Hoy’s the other day, picking up something random (sunscreen? goggles?), when I noticed a bunch of bumper stickers by the checkout register. One of them said, “Cats’ Lives Matter”.

“You know,” I said to the kid working the register, “that bumper sticker over there? The one that says ‘Cats’ Lives Matter’? It’s basically making light of the Black Lives Matter movement. You really shouldn’t sell that in your store.”

He shrugged, and mumbled something about how he didn’t pick it out.

“Can you give your manager that feedback for me?” I asked, fully aware of HOW MUCH I Sound Like A Karen. An older woman walks up — she also works there, and heard my last statement. She wants to know what is going on.

I sigh. “That bumper sticker,” I begin. I repeat my message, then add, “I just find it really offensive. It’s essentially a racist message…you might as well sell some KKK bumper stickers while you’re at it.”

OK. Maybe the KKK reference was too far. But I’m not sure they even heard it, because the second I used the word ‘racist’ they were all up in arms. The woman started flapping her hands and puffing and literally ran (like…actual RUNNING) to get the manager. One of the kids behind the counter tried to posture, ‘Yeah lady, everybody knows it doesn’t mean THAT,’ but since he was, like, 14, he quickly wilted under my stare.

At this point, the futility of my argument was dawning on me. So Mike and I walked out. Hoy’s is a big store, I didn’t have much faith that the woman would actually find the manager in any reasonable amount of time.

Boy, was I wrong.

The manager came flying out of the store, flabbergasted. “Everyone’s upset!” she cried. “I was told to go talk to you!!!”

This whole situation was starting to feel way more dramatic than I intended. And I am starting to be annoyed by the fact that they are acting like I Am The Problem.

I sigh. Smile. And repeat my message, keeping it short. Unsurprisingly, the second I say ‘the racist messaging is offensive’ she does the same sort of hand-flapping her co-worker did. “Everyone has an opinion now! And all opinions are different!!” she screeches. “Why don’t you call the vendor and rant at him??? I’ll get you the number!!”

I look her straight in the eye. “Everyone does have an opinion,” I agree. “But surely you and I can agree that racism is, in fact, bad?”

She stares at me, pale and trembling. “OF COURSE,” she gasps. Again, I am struck by her fear. It is weird. It is making me feel weird. Like I am scary. Like I have two heads.

“Then as the manager, I expect you can choose not to sell racist products in your store.”

This is her final straw. She races back into Hoy’s, claiming she’s going to get the number of the vendor, “you should call them, I don’t get to pick what the store sells, you just rant to them…” her voice trailing off as the door shuts behind her.

We didn’t wait. Shaking, I pushed off on my bike. We biked around the corner to the fish shop, my chest tight, surprisingly upset and stressed by this minor little encounter. I find myself desperately hoping that no other racist bumper stickers will be lurking near the counter of the fish shop. I don’t have the energy for another one.

As we’re biking home, I ask Mike if this is what being anti-racist means now. If this is one of the things we’re supposed to do. Because it feels completely futile, I tell him. No one even pretended to understand what we were saying. I’ll bet they’ll just talk about that ‘crazy person’ complaining about cat bumper stickers.

“Probably” he says. “But still.”


Let’s talk stay-put swim. I’ve been a longtime fan of Maaji swimwear, especially the bikinis. These bad boys hold up during rambunctious pool play, jumping off cliffs, playing in the waves and running on the beach. AND most of the tops have some sort of tie so they actually fit without squeezing my back-fat. I just came across this gorgeous bikini top in brown. Brown is totally my color this summer (especially for swim) — I’m going to pair it with these matching bottoms (more sizes here or here). OR…oh geez…there’s also a brown floral Maaji set (same style, different pattern – top and bottom) and now….shoot. Can’t decide.

Oooo…Voloshin is 20% off this weekend. Small-batch fashion at it’s best, Voloshin is offering 20% off this weekend. While it doesn’t include our collaboration…it does include this dress I’ve been drooling over, so.

Just add apple pie. Turns out I might lean juuuust Americana enough to buy this bandana-print tee. With a pair of super-short cut-offs and flat sandals? Yes?

The spikes are aggressive. I can’t stop thinking about these studded Steve Madden sandals. The taupe color is perfect, the sandals are cushy and the studs are seriously cool…but by “studs” I mean spikes. Which feels rather aggressive….but…it does go with my mood.

Nonchalantly cool. I’m eyeing up these Good American cut-offs. There’s something so slouchy and effortless about them.

J.Crew’s sale is bonkers. I just put in a giant order. Mostly kids’ stuff. HOWEVER: I feel like I need to make a public service announcement because I love my pink J.Crew sweatshirt SO HARD that I’m buying it in another color (and I never do that). I’m getting the white and wearing it with these track shorts (in either navy or white striped). SO EXCITED.

I was sick of staring longingly at Laura’s lips. So I finally ordered Lip Bar’s Miss Independent gloss for myself. And Laura’s right: it’s SO good. On me, the color reads very ’90s brown, but in a fresh, pretty way (it’s softer and just a bit pinker). And I also recommend the Socialite gloss — it’s a freaking fantastic pink that looks so good with a tan and black tank. (Oh HEY – they’re at Target, too.)

Inspired by Vogue UK’s fashion editor…in 1941. I had never heard of Audrey Withers until Lex sent me this article in the NYTimes. It’s a refreshing and inspiring read.

WHICH REMINDS ME….we’re trying to better organize our site, and so we pulled together a Shopping tab at the top. Under this new tab you’ll be able to find things like our Black-Owned Business Directory, the Sustainable Style Guide, Weekly Sales Reports, The Swim Shop, our Voloshin collaboration, etc., But the piece I’m REALLY excited about is the new “Worth It” category. We’ve been blogging for so freaking long at this point (10+ years) that we’ve had the opportunity to come across some really stand-out pieces. These are the pieces that we’ve put through the paces, sometimes over years. So if you are as much into cost-per-wear as I am, or are looking to scale back your closet to only the most-worn pieces…the Worth It page might be a fun browse.

Wise words from Dan. If you haven’t yet read Dan Rather’s essay on the 4th July, in this tumultuous time, it’s totally worth a read. Here’s a small excerpt that I especially liked:

“But here is why July 4 should be especially resonant in these times. It doesn’t signify a victory. Far from it. In 1776, the chances of a republic by and for (some of) the people was far from assured. It doesn’t signify a finish line. We can see in the words of the Decleration of Indpendence tragic irony for a nation of slavery authored by slaveholders. It does signify a beginning. A hope. A journey forward for our nation’s people to plot, generation after generation. It is a journey towards that famous and fraught phrase from the Constitution, “a more perfect union.”

Dan Rather

BTW…we’re fun in email. If you guys haven’t yet signed up for our daily newsletter, we’d love to have you. Not only does it help reduce our alliance on Facebook, but as we get closer to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, we’ll be doing early looks and sneak peeks via the newsletter. And we’ve been working really hard to keep the newsletter interesting and special. Every day we feature something totally unique that caught our eye (often from a Black-owned business or smaller, local business) and every Sunday night we send out a special newsletter that highlights something really well-tested and well-worn (this week, for example, will be our most-worn sundresses to date). We’d love for you to subscribe (here).

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone.

xoxo,

S

45 COMMENTS

  1. Yep. You sounded just like a Karen. This is America – home of the free. If the store chooses to sell a cat bumper sticker, they can sell one. You can choose to shop elsewhere. That’s what is sacred here. You and the manager might agree Racism is bad – but while you think the bumper sticker is racist, another person may not. Open thinking, not righteous indignation that your thinking is clearly correct. I am really surprised at your post today….

  2. No, Sherrie. You cannot justify your disagreement with this as ‘open thinking’. Listen to the voices that need to be heard in this conversation and they will tell you we (ESPECIALLY white people), need to call this stuff out. Black people are TIRED of carrying that burden and it’s our job to call. it. out. “Cat lives matter” very obviously is making a mockery of the Black Lives Matter movement. The store has a choice and the more of us that say ‘don’t sell that’, the less we will see this damaging crap being sold. Please go and seek out some perspective on this, as Shana is totally doing the right thing. It’s a shame the manager probably won’t listen Shana, but over here in NZ your actions are encouraging me and no doubt others to stand up and call it out. Even cat stickers. Like a teeny pebble ruffling the water 👍 We gotta turn it into a wave to knock those bloody Karen’s (et al) off their system built high horses.

  3. “Racism is so American that when you protest it, people think you are protesting America.” The Karen in this story is the woman passing the buck onto the vendor. You were absolutely right, the sticker is racist and offensive.

  4. Uh, no. Shana was being the exact opposite of a Karen. A Karen uses her privilege to get things her way— get a coupon, skirt the rules, etc. Shana was using her privilege to speak up against a clearly racist bumper sticker that was making light of BLM, on behalf of BIPOC who might not be safe doing the same.

  5. Even if it seems futile, if enough people speak up those awful bumper stickers will get pulled.

    Also, I wondered why a banana print shirt was a particular sign of Americana (maybe because Americans are so into eating bananas and because our government has messed around with the regimes of banana-producing nations for our own benefit?) And then I clicked through and saw you meant *bandana* print…

  6. I agree Shana should speak up. If she chooses not to shop there because she saw a racist bumper sticker there, but told no one about it, it doesn’t make a difference. I’m glad she spoke up at the store. I do think eventually it will make a difference.

  7. Good for you, Shana.. Hoy’s absolutely has the right to sell that bumper sticker, but maybe they would reconsider their inventory if enough people have the courage to speak up.
    You’ve inspired me. I was in a store recently that had a t-shirt implying 9/11 was an inside job. My husband and I were shocked, but didn’t say anything because the manager was friendly and engaging.
    Next time, I will speak up.

  8. Speaking up was the right move. Even if the manager is forced to have that inventory, she could just leave it on a shelf in the backroom and not place it by the cash register. And she could complain to her higher ups about it being ordered. Baby steps are better than staying in the same place. Even mild confrontation like this can be so stressful (as you described) so thanks for being a good example!

  9. Calling a woman who asserts herself a “Karen” is a sexist and misogynist term and I refuse to use it. Shana you were sticking up for what is right yet still calling yourself a Karen? So now women aren’t even allowed to ask to speak to a manager? Even for a good reason? What’s the male version? Oh right, there isn’t one. Hmmm.

  10. You were 100% correct to speak up about that sticker, and anyone (ie first commenter) who is unable to see it as a racist sticker needs to go back and read some of your posts about white privilege. Anti racism is hard but so is anything worth doing.

  11. I was in Avalon this past week. I had the same feeling as you, that time hasn’t caught up there, that it was 2019. It was extremely unsettling for me and I did not really enjoy being there in the same way as years past. The groups on bikes, parties, wow! There was a lot to navigate, especially given how isolated my family had been all spring.
    Re: Hoys – if no one ever complains they will never think twice about the merchandise – Complaints have their place in this fight against racism, and saying something absolutely does matter, so thank you for taking the time and speaking up. Change won’t happen if we stay silent.

  12. Thank you for speaking up…even when you knew it would not be well received even after being made uncomfortable as if you were doing something wrong(ridiculous) the shop managers response was shameful
    As an African American women growing up on the mainline these are the unnerving & unwelcoming responses and energy that I’ve had to grow up with for 40+ years
    Change is now! my husband & 2 boys vacation all along the Jersey shore and this response you received is sadly not surprising but it is so so necessary for us ALL to speak out because my 11 & 6 yrs old lives matter and to make a joke of that is disgusting
    Thank you for sharing

  13. Speak up and hope for change. If we don’t speak up nothing will change. You did the right thing. If Hoys continues to display this type of merchandise those that find it offensive (me for one) shouldn’t shop there.

  14. I am so incredibly proud that one of my favorite bloggers is being an advocate for oppressed people. You did exactly the correct thing to be anti-racist and yes, it is uncomfortable. It just imagine how people of color must feel when they see these kinds of thing.

  15. It has already been said by the other commenters, but speaking up is exactly what we need to do. Clearly the bumper sticker was made to be racist. There is no argument against that. While the conversation was uncomfortable, imagine how a Black person feels going into the store and seeing that bumper sticker. As a white person, I can walk easily away and avoid conflict and hurt, others not so much. Thank you for sharing the story. By sharing, maybe some of your readers that visit the Jersey Shore will say something, too.

  16. THANK YOU! Speaking up on these things is exactly the type of action that we need to take. It is not always an easy thing to do. Bravo!!

  17. I want to echo other comments and thank you for your honesty and work to be anti-racist. I’m a long time reader and your effort and response has been so heartening. Thank you for telling your story, admitting the awkwardness of it, describing the unsettling feelings. I’m clumsy and awkward. I always think afterwards of a million different ways I wish I had said the thing I was trying to say or responded to their dismissive response. It’s hard. But you did it!

    Stupid cat bumper stickers that demean and dismiss one of the most important movements in our history. It’s clever because the racists defend it as something small and silly and innocuous, just a “difference of opinion”, but add up all those small, silly things and it’s a whole lot of racism with a whole lot of power.

  18. Chiming in with others to say that bumper sticker was absolutely mocking Black Lives Matter & good for you for speaking up. We white people have got to do more of that. I’m not saying it’s easy because so many of us have been conditioned to “be nice” & keep our mouths shut. And, as you pointed out, we’re made to feel “bad” when we speak up. My gosh, how tired & exhausting must this be for Black people to deal with all the time.

  19. The store has every right to sell that awful bumper sticker but Shana- and any of us- has the right to speak up and then take her business elsewhere. Businesses should be prepared for customer feedback (and honestly should do a better job of receiving that feedback than the manager sounds like she did here).

    Since 2001, the public transit system in Boston (and Probably other cities) has had a “see something, say something” campaign. This was launched in the wake of 9/11 with an emphasis on reporting to suspicious actions or packages, But I have been trying to apply it to areas around privilege, racism, sexism etc. Yes, it can be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. Silence can equal acquiescence and I’m no longer ok being silent. It doesn’t mean every encounter have to be a confrontation but can be an opportunity for a dialogue.

    Remember that part of what we celebrate on the 4th is an overturning of the status quo.

  20. Bravo to you Shana, stepping up to do the hard thing is exactly what we all need to be doing, thanks for sharing and inspiring as usual.

  21. Yes! Anti-racism is uncomfortable. We can speak up calmly as you did. And we can hope someone hears….maybe the teen at the cash register. Shana, you gave them something to think about and that’s a beginning.

  22. Thanks for sharing. It’s hard, stressful and awkward to speak up but this is what being anti racist looks like. We need to be ready and willing to take our money and business elsewhere to get companies big and small to listen to our voices.

  23. Ok…going to weigh in here. Everyone chiming in (for the most part) is assuming that the bumper sticker was created to make a mockery of the BLM movement. The reality is those sayings (cat lives matter and dog lives matter) have been used for years in the rescue industry to call attention to the problems of animal abuse. For the record, that is still a really big problem in the US (hello Michael Vick being recognized and honored recently by the NFL after his horrid treatment of dogs…because we should choose to honor someone who thought it was ok to repeatedly slammed dogs on the ground to kill them because they didn’t die the first time).

  24. I am so glad that you spoke up and shared the experience. We need to see examples of how we can stand up and speak out against racism. A bumper sticker is such a little thing but it is a part of the underlying current of racism that is a huge part of our culture. We have to speak up regardless of how uncomfortable it may seem. Sharing these stories makes it easier and provides an example for others. I will remember your experience and use it to give me courage in my everyday life. The little things make a difference!

  25. You were not being a Karen! You were right. They were wrong. There is absolutely room for different opinions on subjective topics. Different opinions are good on these topics. Giving less value to a human life because of the color of said human’s skin is NOT acceptable. There is no subjectivity in this topic. I’m sorry for what happened to you. I’m afraid it will or happen again. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to be a black person in that setting. Thank you for sharing!

  26. Wow. That opening story made me cry. I am so very sad that so many, many people in our nation think that freedom means putting themselves first over the safety and dignity of others. I hope that is not the kind of freedom all our soldiers are and have been fighting and dying for. You completely did the right and difficult thing by speaking up. Thank you for sharing.

  27. Great work, Shana! This vivid description of what it was like to call out the racist merchandise and receive the clueless response of the store manager can give more people encouragement and confidence to call out other racist actions when they see them.

    Yes, it’s hard. This is a great use of white lady privilege, and those of us who have it should use it for good!

  28. In my family (I’m white, my husband is Native American), speaking up in those situations is my job. The effect is totally different if I speak up or he speaks up. In our experience, he is just seen as whining and complaining about something trivial and it’s usually turned around against him, whereas I can use my white privilege to speak up and I’m usually listened to with a little more respect. Black people and other people of color have been speaking up for hundreds of years and racism is still here. BIPOC are still dying at the hands of police and white supremacists. We white people need to continue to spend our privilege on these issues, and push for change.

    When speaking up seems like it’s accomplishing nothing, I try to remember two things: 1-You speaking up about the sticker might only be a drop in that manager’s bucket, but others that speak up will add their drops to yours until it’s noticed. And 2-There might have been others in the store who knew that sticker was racist also but were afraid to speak up. Hearing you speak up might give them the courage they need for next time.

  29. Unfortunately most if not all beach (and mountain) towns in the south and north east are predominantly Caucasian, lack diversity and have always had racist underpinnings. I have experienced this firsthand in the Outerbanks of NC where I lived every summer in college, and all along the NJ shore. It is unbelievable that anyone would think this “Cat lives matter” nonsense is not racist. It is an awful sticker, that represents those very underpinnings i am talking about. Shana, I am SO PROUD you stood up and called that store out. I definitely will not be going there next time I am in Avalon, which is also one of our favorite beach towns on the NJ shore…..
    you go girl.

  30. Would have to disagree. Racist is racist. Shanna was completely right to suggest that selling this is wildly inappropriate. This wasn’t a cute cat poster- this was directly making fun of a movement which is literally fighting for a faction of our societies right to LIVE here… you know, after already enduring centuries of white supremacy and institutional racism in our country. And yes, she sure can take her dollars elsewhere… but suggesting that hate speech is acceptable because we have free speech is deplorable. In a country that is allegedly based on the notion that all men are created equal, we cannot sit by and allow hate speech.

  31. Good work, Shana! I think many people in their comments expressed the feelings I also had (in support of you). What you did was SO important and necessary. Speaking for myself, I think the more that we all, as white people, speak up when a bumper sticker trivializes Black lives (or other subtle and less subtle ways it happens), we move more and more toward changing the norms. Because to be white and not say something is also an action. What has always been seen as “okay” and made BIPOC uncomfortable may no longer be acceptable thanks to BLM. It’s time for the discomfort to be felt more when going along with the status quo.

  32. Shana, I love you. You so perfectly put into words exactly what I’m feeling. I also struggled with the 4th this year…and I also had an akward (virtual) encounter with a former boyfriend this weekend. He posted a “blue lives matter” with request to support the police. And I stepped in to explain what I thought that was a problematic viewpoint. Ended up in discusisons with a lot of people and it made me dread opening my FB notices…but I think it’s part of what we’re called to do right now. As uncomfortable as it is and as much as it feels like I’m tilting at windmills…

  33. Context is everything. I assume Shana has been shopping there for years, on her trips to this town – and that bumper sticker has never been sold there before. Sudden concern about animal abuse? I doubt it.

  34. Chiming in to say you did the right thing, Shana. I applaud you for speaking up even though it made you uncomfortable.

  35. Thank you, Shana, for speaking up and sharing those awkward feelings. The defensive reactions seem to indicate that your words did make an impact. I have also really enjoyed all the contributors posts covering these difficult topics.

  36. I have no interest in chiming in as to whether you’re right to have spoken up. I want to address something else that no one else mentioned but I can’t be the only one thinking – you should save your commentary on social justice for someplace other than a website that’s dedicated to shopping.

    Am I the only one who thinks this is a completely bizarre combination? I mean seriously… people don’t come to your blog to find out about current events or talk about political philosophies. They come to read about fluffy, unimportant things and frankly that’s what you should stick with. Your website has always been a distraction from the day to day crap. It’s light, it’s fluff and quite frankly it has zero value (sorry but true). So to come here looking for a distraction from the current global shitshow and hear you, super privileged white woman, espousing about racism makes me roll my eyes so hard.

  37. Olive Black, just out of curiosity, when did you decide that The Mom Edit only deals in light and fluffy distraction from day to day crap? Was it the posts on family separation? The posts about depression? The posts about anxiety? Or when the founder of the site chronicled her battle with breast cancer?

    Just trying to really peel the onion that is your argument.

  38. Apart from piling onto the praise for doing the right thing, I wanted to acknowledge the icky feeling afterwards, and the conversation with Mike. This IS what we have to do now. It’s uncomfortable and it sucks. That said, I keep reminding myself (a white woman of privilege) that for as awful as opening my social media notifications to engage in dialogue with peers every day is, I am just now at age 40 really getting a tiny taste of what BIPOC have been dealing with daily from a very young age. That physical unwellness you felt has a term – weathering. it takes a physical toll on your body, this sort of work. It’s our turn to take on some of that weathering, both to take the burden of educating white people off BIPOC and to help bring about the change we want to see in the world. I’m out here in the storm with you from the predominantly white side of one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the country (Chicago).

    • So it’s funny…the whole reason I wrote this piece is because those ‘icky feelings’ you mention are the part I was most surprised by. How crappy this encounter made me feel, for so long. It was eye-opening, for sure.

  39. Yes, the store can choose to sell a bumper sticker that mocks Black Lives Matter, just like Shana can choose to tell them that she finds it offensive. It goes both ways. The manager clearly knows it’s racially insensitive, or she wouldn’t have gotten all up in arms dodging responsibility and telling Shana she should blame the vendor. Good job Shana.

    As a sidenote, I am definitely over women being referred to as “Karens” as a way to dismiss/mock them. I understand that, right now, the term is primarily used to refer to women who are acting in a racist/classist way, and I agree that the behavior needs to be called out. However, it’s only a matter of time until the other side co-opts the term to shut down any woman who speaks up about anything (see: what happened to the term “fake news”). I give it less than a year before Trump and his supporters are referring to Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and any other female who criticizes them as a whiny “Karen.”

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