Two fourth grade twin boys Jacen and Jorden Edwards were suspended from school recently because of their haircuts. They both have a line shaved into their heads, which their parents identify as a part, but Randolph Howell Elementary School in Tennessee considered the line a gang symbol.
In different cities across the country, specifically Mansfield and Decambre, Louisiana, the first state to enact the law, you can now be fined, and/or arrested for sagging pants.
A seventeen-year-old boy in San Francisco was shot and killed after he was mistaken for a rival gang member because of his blue clothing and tattoo.
We live in a society where we should all be able to express ourselves through the way that we conduct ourselves and the way we dress. We are allowed, by law, to have our own beliefs, opinions, and values. These things shape the people that we are.
But is there such a thing as crossing the line?
Should we be surprised if we are treated a certain way based on the way we choose to express ourselves?
If a young man chooses to walk down the street with baggy jeans, tattoos artfully plastered across his chest, arms, back, and face, a blue bandana, and British Knights on his feet, is he not at all responsible for the Bloods who might chase him into a dark alley and beat him senseless, or worse?
Does he still have the right to be pissed that the LAPD picked him up on one of those all too familiar mistaken identity mix-ups?
Does the girl walking down the street with a skirt so short there is no mystery left to her, thigh-high leather boots and a sheer halter top have the right to be upset about the men hanging out of their car windows, whistling, cat-calling and yelling obscene and disrespectful comments to her?
Can you fault the men for having no respect for the woman who “seems” not to respect herself?
Some would say absolutely.
Just because an individual chooses to express themselves a certain way doesn’t give anyone the right to disrespect, harm, discriminate against, or assume anything negative about them.
On the other hand, some people may say that although their dress doesn’t warrant personal attack, they should expect that they will be perceived a certain way and that sometimes negative perceptions can lead to negative treatment, ostracization, and discrimination.
Most people straddle the line between both opinions.
When asked those questions, respondents unanimously identified the woman as a prostitute and the man as a member of the Crip gang without any prompt other than a description of their attire.
So if the “average Joe” views them as such, why do we get so upset at police officers for “so-called” racial profiling?
Obviously, we have the same views that the officer does.
By all means do like Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band and “Express Yourself,” but ladies the next time you are walking down the street or dancing in the club and men are grabbing at you and saying nasty comments to you, before you get mad, take a second look at yourself … maybe it’s because they think you’re a whore.
Men, next time you are handcuffed in the back seat of a patrol car before you scream “it’s cuz I’m Black” and call the NAACP, take a second look at yourself … maybe it’s because you really do fit the description of the gang member they are looking for.