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Op Eds

Bstroy Chooses Disrespect, We Still Choose Love

By Chloe A. Shawah
Chloe A. Shawah ’22, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Cabot House.

News of school shootings pierce in a uniquely nauseating way. Parents send their children, teens, and young adults off to school so that they can grow and learn for their bright futures — flawlessly innocent, perfectly defenseless. The act of robbing children of those futures, destroying that innocence, and taking advantage of such defenselessness is too evil and sickening to convey with words.

Also sickening are those who make any attempt to profit off of or sensationalize such a tragedy.

On September 15, a clothing brand named Bstroy released Instagram posts from a fashion show in New York launching some of their new items. Among the newly debuted items are four sweatshirts: one green with “Sandy Hook” written across the front, one light blue with the words “Stoneman Douglas,” one faded red with “Virginia Tech,” and one gray with “Columbine” in light blue letters.

All four sweatshirts are riddled with bullet holes.

I cannot fathom why the designers of those sweatshirts and the owners of the company, Dieter Grams and Brick Owens, thought that this stunt would be anything other than insensitive and disgusting.

Survivors and victims’ families were justifiably outraged by the sweatshirts. I cannot even imagine how appalling it must be for those affected by the tragedies to see their pain being marketed as a fashion statement. Beloved daughters, sons, siblings, and friends lost their lives to real-life bullet holes through their real-life clothing. For entire communities, these shootings were not a movie scene or a distant news peg; they are a reality that people must continue to grapple with today. To even create, much less market, these sweatshirts is disrespectful to the victims and to all who loved them. Even if Bstroy did not intend to sell the sweatshirts as they so claim, attempting to gain publicity or notoriety at the expense of others’ loss is despicable nonetheless.

I want to see the images taken off of Bstroy’s and Brick Owens’ Instagrams and I never want so much as a thread of one of those sweatshirts to be produced again. I want consumers to boycott Bstroy so they can never sell another article of clothing. In my rage and in my anger, I want the producers of these sweatshirts to know even just one ounce of the pain that those affected by the tragedies have to carry with them every day of their lives.

But then I take a step back and I remember the lessons I learned growing up in the town neighboring Sandy Hook. Their message is this: “We are Sandy Hook, We Choose Love.”

For Sandy Hook, the emphasis has never been on vengefulness, hatred, or bitterness. The community has preached, and continues to preach, kindness and empathy above all. Kindness and empathy, even in the face of evil and hatred.

For the one green sweatshirt on Bstroy’s Instagram, there are hundreds and hundreds of “Be Kind” necklaces worn around the country as a reminder to treat others with kindness. While Bstroy might be seeking to make a profit, there are charities and funds such as the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund, the CMAK Foundation, the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation, and dozens of others dedicated to spreading kindness and combating violence in memory of the Sandy Hook angels. Sandy Hook is not alone in their resilience, as the communities surrounding Columbine, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and Virginia Tech also preach messages of kindness and love despite the suffering that they too have experienced.

I urge you, the reader, to honor the victims of these tragedies by doing as their families ask: spread kindness. Spread kindness here at Harvard, spread it in your hometowns. Wear it on your sleeve, and take it with you everywhere you go. Use instances like Bstroy’s insensitivity to remind you of the work that needs to be done and how little acts of kindness by you and I can help move us in that direction.

Of course I still want the images of the sweatshirts to be taken down. But more than that, I want the voices preaching kindness and empathy to be heard far louder than the voices preaching disrespect and insensitivity.

Choose love.

Chloe A. Shawah ’22, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Cabot House.

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