As a child, Alex Pierce was not allowed to play with toy guns or anything that looked like them. same Nerf guns were off limits.
“My mom was very strict about it,” recalls Pierce, associate creative director at Hawkeye, a Dallas-based agency. “At the time, I was so upset about it. As an adult, I understood what she was doing.
Pierce is one of the creators of “Unwritten Rules”, a online encyclopedia of the 12 ways racism manifests itself in the lives of black people, often requiring them to adhere to an unspoken code of conduct.
“Black lives are controlled by an unwritten rulebook,” the site read. Rule # 1? Do not play with toy guns. Others include “never leave without ID”, “always have a receipt and bag when you leave a store” and “don’t wear a name that’s too dark”.
Each rule has a brief explanatory note that summarizes its impact on black people, along with links to real life examples. All 12 have links that take visitors to articles, petitions, podcasts, and other ways to learn more or take action.
Find a point of sale
According to Pierce, the project was born last year following the On May 25, police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. Pierce called this a “tipping point” for him.
“No one deserves to die like this,” he said. “It was very painful.”
Soon after, Pierce spoke with his band’s Creative Director, his team members and his friends what they could do to express their frustration and “find an outlet to really represent what we were feeling.” .
As they reflected, they kept coming back to the Green Book, a travel guide published between the 1930s and 1960s that listed which hotels, restaurants and businesses would welcome blacks.
The Green Book inspired them to create their own guide, a guide that would describe the many unofficial – but very real – rules that blacks take into account every day in their lives.
“Personally, I live my whole life prescribed by a certain set of rules that were rooted in me by my mother and my family at a young age,” he explained. “These are our rules, and they are not necessarily formalized. It’s not like there is a black textbook that you get when you are born.
Pierce considers himself a “very pragmatic man”. Thus, he wanted the project to highlight the problem and provide people with ways to “erase” the aforementioned rules.
“I don’t just want to tell people how I feel about something,” he says. “I want to help correct the behavior. Generating empathy was one of the goals, but we also wanted to take the plunge and make sure that we asked the person to do something about it.
This is why each rule listed on the site includes several ways in which visitors can learn or help. For example, rule # 2 – “Make sure your hair always looks professional” – has links to articles, books, and podcasts on black hair and its history of stigma.
Additionally, each rule directs visitors to various petitions, charities, and resources related to the topic in question. Rule # 2 directs people to dozens of options, like a petition to “end hair discrimination against blacks across the country.”
The site also includes a Shared Stories section, giving black people the opportunity to submit an anonymous story highlighting a rule they have been “unfairly invited to live”. The selected articles will be published on the site “Unwritten rules”, its Instagram and in an upcoming book.