There’s a new offensive T-shirt in town and this time there are no girls standing up to challenge it.
This shirt showcases a snowman with a sneer. It looks innocuous, but it’s not. The snowman is the symbol of drug-dealer-turned-rapper Young Jeezy whose songs extol the virtues of selling cocaine (street name: snow).
We parents need to take our lead from kids and get this shirt off the shelves—and off our kids’ backs.
When retailer Abercrombie & Fitch crossed the boundaries of good taste with a line of T-shirts demeaning to women and girls, some girls in southwestern Pennsylvania stood up and launched a girlcott. (Get it? Not a boycott, but a girlcott—we love it.)
The girls said T-shirts with sayings printed across the chest such as "Who needs brains when you have these" or "I had a nightmare I was a brunette" were demeaning. The girlcott worked. Abercrombie & Fitch—no stranger to testing the limits of good taste—pulled the T-shirt line.
Those wonderful, beautiful, bright and brave girls did it. And now we parents need to do the same.
We’ve got to say "no" to the snowman and to other unseemly shirts that put drug use on the same polycotton promotional track as mainstream pastimes such as baseball.
The problem is, how do we know?
Take another popular T-shirt that bears a drawing of a molecule. It makes the wearer look like a science brainiac. But unless you’re a science brainiac yourself, chances are you wouldn’t know the molecules are those of addictive drugs, such as caffeine and LSD.
As drugs seep into popular culture more and more, it seems almost impossible to keep up with the hidden messages.
True, there are some tools: Web sites that offer the latest translations for drug slang (www.addictions.org/slang.htm), 24-hour hotlines that answer questions and sites that offer advice on talking to kids about drugs (www.prevention.org and www.theantidrug.com). But there doesn’t seem to be a go-to source to help us navigate the fast moving drug scene and its intersection with pop culture.
Often, it’s not until a symbol gets very popular and merits media attention that we even discover the meaning. That’s what happened with the snowman T-shirt—sales soared and the popular press took notice.
But here’s the really scary part: While we parents and other adults might not have been aware of the snowman, chances are our kids knew him. Statistics show that kids are aware of the drug scene by about age 9, but we parents don’t realize they are aware of it until they’re about 11.
So the key here is to know your child and to ask questions. If he says he wants the new must-have T-shirt, ask why everyone thinks it’s cool. Ask what the snowman symbolizes or what the molecule represents.
Maybe you’ll find out the T-shirt is an advertisement for a drug before you buy it for your son to wear.
And maybe you won’t find out until after he’s worn it for weeks. But once you do find out, consider it a teachable moment. Use that knowledge as a reason to have a very serious conversation with your child about the dangers of drugs and the perils of promoting a drug culture.
This is one of those times when the village is not on our side helping us to raise our children. We don’t even have a bunch of girls from Pennsylvania helping us out. So we have to help one another. When you find out something other parents need to know, send us a note. We promise to pass along the information you share and any that we find ourselves. Working together is the only way we can keep our kids safe from the culture that threatens them.