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Rhode Island Democrats complain senate dress code is biased towards white people

Several young lawmakers in Rhode Island have complained that the state’s senate dress code is ‘oppressive’ and biased towards white people. 

The Rhode Island Senate approved a dress code in a 29-7 vote on Tuesday, mandating that elected officials wear ‘proper and appropriate attire, such as blouses, dress slacks and collared shirts with an accompanying jacket’.

And while most Democrats voted to pass the measure, seven left-wing senators dissented, including newly-elected Sen. Jonathan Acosta, 31. 

Speaking on the floor during a debate on the issue, Acosta claimed it was ‘super inappropriate’ for a white, male senate president to ‘bestow a normative judgment’ on what people were able to wear.  

‘These rules make it okay for us to judge people based on the way they dress or how they look, and I just feel that’s super problematic,’ Acosta stated. 

He called the dress code ‘oppressive’ and added: ‘Folks use expressions like “professional”, “presentable”, and “appropriate”. What they mean is white-collar, White western dress.’

Several young lawmakers in Rhode Island have complained that the state senate dress code is ‘oppressive’ and biased towards white people. Nnewly-elected Sen. Jonathan Acosta, 31, slammed the code in a debate on Tuesday 

Acosta claimed that the senate dress code has not been widely enforced, and said that he has been wearing cardigans, joggers and Air Jordan sneakers for weeks

Acosta claimed that the senate dress code has not been widely enforced, and said that he has been wearing cardigans, joggers and Air Jordan sneakers for weeks

Acosta is pictured casually as he holds up a Green New Deal Pledge

Acosta is pictured casually as he holds up a Green New Deal Pledge 

During the debate, Acosta purposefully donning a black guayabera – a traditional Caribbean dress shirt that does not have a collar.  

Acosta claimed that the senate dress code has not been widely enforced, and said that he has been wearing cardigans, joggers and Air Jordan sneakers for weeks. 

‘I assure you that what I wear does not influence the quality of the work I produce,’ he stated.   

The former teacher went on to state: ‘In my first year teaching, I wore a shirt and tie every day and I came to realize that what I was doing was reaffirming to all the black and brown poor kids that in order to be successful, you had to try to look and approximate whiteness as much as possible.’

‘That is the message that you would be forcing down the throat of all the residents of Rhode Island [with the dress code],’ Acosta added.  

He was supported by several other newly-elected Democrat senators, among them Sen. Cynthia Mendes. 

'I assure you that what I wear does not influence the quality of the work I produce,' Acosta stated

‘I assure you that what I wear does not influence the quality of the work I produce,’ Acosta stated

Sen. Cynthia Mendes stated: 'hen powerful men dictate decorum and make demands over our bodies and our dress, it translates to ... colonization language'

Sen. Cynthia Mendes stated: ‘hen powerful men dictate decorum and make demands over our bodies and our dress, it translates to … colonization language’

Newly-elected Sen. Tiara Mack concurred, stating: 'It is not lost on me that respectability politics is often something that is used to control black and brown bodies and female bodies'

Newly-elected Sen. Tiara Mack concurred, stating: ‘It is not lost on me that respectability politics is often something that is used to control black and brown bodies and female bodies’

‘When powerful men dictate decorum and make demands over our bodies and our dress, it translates to … colonization language,’ she stated. 

‘The need to remind everyone who is in power – it has always started with what you tell them to do with their bodies You know it when you see it.’ 

Newly-elected Sen. Tiara Mack concurred, stating: ‘It is not lost on me that respectability politics is often something that is used to control black and brown bodies and female bodies’. 

However, some Democrats disagreed. 

Sen. Louis DiPalma argued that the dress provision was about showing respect.

‘It’s not about judging how anyone looks. A dress code and decorum are about respecting an institution that is 200-plus years old,’ he staed.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Gordon Rogers, who hails from a rural area, said he supported the attire rules even as he admitted it was difficult to trade in his beloved Chippewa boots for dress shoes and secondhand suits to enter the chamber.

‘It’s not about disenfranchising anybody,’ the businessman and farmer said to some applause. ‘Sometimes you have to force respect.’ 

Republican Sen. Gordon Rogers, who hails from a rural area, said he supported the attire rules even as he admitted it was difficult to trade in his beloved Chippewa boots for dress shoes

Republican Sen. Gordon Rogers, who hails from a rural area, said he supported the attire rules even as he admitted it was difficult to trade in his beloved Chippewa boots for dress shoes

 

 


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