“You’re so articulate” is not a Compliment to a Woman of Color

“You’re so articulate” is not a Compliment to a Woman of Color

As I watched the #BlackWomenAtWork trend on Twitter, I was given life and inspiration. African-American women from all over the country, and arguably women of color all over the world, shared examples of times that they were belittled, insulted, or otherwise demeaned for being who they are. This hashtag was in response to Representative Maxine Waters being insulted by Fox news host Bill O’Reilly as well as Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s degrading treatment of correspondent April Ryan at a White House press briefing. Both are women of color, well accomplished in their fields. 

I shared my experiences on Twitter– which were previously shared on this blog (see here) — under this hashtag,

A conservative female attorney I am acquainted with responded to my thread, saying “well, maybe it was just a compliment; you really are articulate“. Her statement is symptomatic of the deeper problem of when something is brought to the attention of some in the mainstream, often folks feel the need to dismiss it, refusing to look at the deeper issue. In my response, I encouraged her to read through the hashtag, and understand the context in which this was being shared. I noted that one of her followers indicated “Some people have a chip on their shoulder and can’t accept a compliment“.

Here’s the deal. As the saying goes, don’t urinate on me and tell me it’s raining. Human beings are intelligent enough to know when they are being complimented, and when they’re being insulted. You will never see one white attorney compliment another white attorney and say “wow, you are so articulate”. That comment is rooted in a stereotype and surprise. The stereotype is that African-Americans are uneducated, live in the hood, and cannot form complete sentences. Mainstream media and BET have not helped that cause. And certainly the demise of the Cosby show didn’t help in that either. But be that as it may, that is the stereotype. The surprise comes in “oh wow you’ve beat the odds to actually be able to speak in full sentences“. That is not a compliment. A compliment would be “wow I really liked your presentation” or even “you really articulated that point very well“. But to tell a professional woman or man of color that they are articulate is at best a backhanded compliment. Wow, people that look like you never sound that way.  It assumes of course as all stereotypes do, that you were poor, in the hood, and was never going to have a chance to succeed. That is simply not the case. If a similarly situated White person rose from poverty and made it, nobody turns to them and says oh you’re so articulate. They actually assume that the individual came from a privileged background.

The entire context of the hashtag represents the assumptions and stereotypes that are made of women of color in the workforce. Here are a couple I found telling:

These assumptions and stereotypes can be based in racism, but others can be based in implicit bias. It is the unconscious bias that one may have towards a group of people. We all have a biases; it is how we act is a different story. The key is to be aware and if someone says “this is offensive to me” don’t tell them that they have no right to be offended. You learn from the experience, and move forward as a better person. I expect someone to correct me if I did something offensive, endeavoring never to repeat that mistake again. But it is the tone deafness, or simply the lack of care for your fellow person, that makes these hashtags necessary.

At times, I wonder if it serves more of a supportive dialogue  within races rather than a dialogue between races. Only time will tell.

I would also like to take you back to some articles that highlight this issue that I’ve written in the past. Both have to do with judges of color in different parts of the country, and the bias they encountered on the street. Take a look: A Teaching Moment About Racism: The Judge and the Candidate and Racism: In Case You Weren’t Sure — Judge Attacked in Chicago

It is said never to judge a book by its cover. Everyone would be served well to follow that mantra.

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#TBT: Best of 2016

#TBT: Best of 2016

voting 2016

 

 

Hi RLD Family,

As we bring 2016 to a close, I wanted to share the stories on the blog that were the most popular this year. I’ve put the link to the post in the title, so go ahead and click to read it again…or for the first time if you missed it.

Let’s begin the countdown!

 

 

#5. Don’t Leave America, Fight For It!

This Presidential election definitely brought out some strong feelings — and the outcome came as a surprise to many. I shared my thoughts as to “where from here” and my resolve to fight for what is rightfully mine as an American. My forefathers planted trees on this land, and I intend to stay and enjoy the fruit of their labor.

 

#4. An Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly on Slavery

My response to the crazy and factually incorrect comments regarding slavery made by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly appeared in the Huffington Post. It remains the most commented on and liked piece that I have done so far.  We must be vigilant to make sure that those who wish to revise history, whitewashing it and trying to minimize the effect it had on this nation, are held to task.

 

#3. My Take on Police Shootings

This piece was published in the Huffington post as well. It was in response to some of the horrific shootings by police that we saw this year. Not every case merits an arrest;  if an officer can articulate legitimate reasons for being in fear, then the shooting is justified.  The focus must remain on deescalation tactics  to reduce the number of fatal shootings, and shining a light on those shootings that are not justified to ensure that everyone is equal under the law — facing consequences when the law is broken.

 

#2. #LoveWins: Interracial Relationship Realities

An innocent and sweet Old Navy ad featuring an interracial family drew the ire of Internet trolls. As a result of the racist backlash, many families started to post pictures showing what love is. I was no different;  not only did I post pictures of my husband and I, but I penned a piece to discuss some of the challenges that we face as a couple. At the end of the day, as long as you have a love and communication, you can overcome anything!

 

And the number one post of 2016 on the Resident Legal Diva is:

#1. Goodbye My Dear Friend…

This was one of the toughest pieces for me to write. Actually, writing it wasn’t that hard; reading and sharing it was the difficult part. My friend suddenly passed away earlier this year, and left a hole in my heart that can never be filled. This was a tough year for me with regards to friends and family transitioning to the next life. All we can do is cherish those we love while we have them, mourn those we have lost, and keep them alive in our hearts through our beautiful memories.

This year I also took a gander at vlogging! I did three videos — check out the links below.

 

So for 2017, what do you want to see on the blog? Do you want to see more articles? More Diva Talks videos? More Diva Reads where I discuss articles of interest that I have been reading?  I’d love to hear from you, sound off in the comments below.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, prosperous, and amazing New Year. I’ll see you on the flipside!

M.

 

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courtesy CreateHerStock

 

Diva Reads: The Casual Racism Edition

Diva Reads: The Casual Racism Edition

diva-readsHi RLD Family, I hope everyone had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. I’ve rounded up interesting pieces that I have been reading from around the web.  Give them a read, and share your thoughts! The links are in the heading titles.

Senator Jeff Sessions

Senator Sessions is the new President’s pick for Attorney General.  If confirmed by the Senate, he will replace Loretta Lynch. What disturbs me is the casual racism that was seen in some of his comments while serving as a United States Attorney in Alabama. As a USA, how can you even fathom that joking about the KKK is ok, even as you are prosecuting them? I get that as prosecutors/law enforcement, we often have a dark sense of humour to deal with the horrors we see regularly. But this comment shows a lack of judgment.

If he truly made the comment of calling a grown African American man “boy” — this hearkens back to the old days of Jim Crow and the 60’s– a reminder to “stay in your lane”.

Lastly, if he truly believes that the ACLU & NAACP force civil rights down the throat of others — how will that affect civil rights issues that are brought before him, possibly by these organizations, as Attorney General? The Attorney General runs the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Will they lay idle for the next four years?

A racist doesn’t necessarily say racist things daily. Some do. One can hold racist views and be polite. The true measure of a person is seen when the person is tested. A senate committee found his judgment too lacking to be a federal judge. In many ways, Attorney General is an even more critical position. Attorney General Lynch was more than qualified, but went through what can only be described as a hellified confirmation process.  I hope that the Senate will do their job and seriously scrutinize Senator Sessions to determine if he is fit for this role.

Lawsuit by Police Officer in California

In another example of casual racism — an African American police officer retired, and decided to join a new department. He found casual racism in this new assignment — such as officers referring to an area as the “n-word hill”, and using racial slurs in conversation, without even thinking it would be offensive.  When the officer sought to make it a teaching moment by challenging the norm, he lost his position.

We must never stop challenging racism when we see it. Racism must not be the new normal.

New York Governor Cuomo Takes Action

In response to the spike in hate crimes in New York since the election, Governor Cuomo has created a special unit in the police department.  He will also set up a legal defense fund for immigrants who cannot represent themselves but have been harmed.  Finally, he will be meeting with college students to remind them that New York is their home, and it should be a safe place for them.  Governor Cuomo is a major reminder of how local politics matters.  Your state and local officials set the trend; foolishness can be the order of the day in Washington, but at home, our elected officials can choose to set a different standard. I applaud the Governor’s efforts, and challenge others to do the same.

The Re-education of a White Supremacist

In today’s beacon of hope — an avowed white supremacist changed his views as a result of education, and getting to know the people he hated. His family had home schooled him, isolating him so that he can be indoctrinated into their way of life. He was an heir to a racist throne. It was a long process, fueled by his intellectual curiosity while away at college — but he renounced his connection to racism, and publicly stated that he no longer agrees with his family’s views.

I have always believed college and the military are great equalizers in this country. No one is born racist; and with mingling as well as education, the fallacy of race supremacy can fall.

Fidel Castro

Last night saw the passing of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.  Some view him as a tyrant; others view him as a freedom fighter who defied the United States.  I say “it’s complicated”.  I firmly believe in the saying “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter“. He may have started with good intentions — that of liberating his people and bringing about change (sound familiar?) but he got lost along the way.  This could be the ultimate case of “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. There are those that love him, and those that loathe him. Presently, celebrations are being held in the streets of Miami, with no signs of stopping. In the early days, Castro sent troops in an effort to liberate many African nations from colonial rule; but he was supporting Communist insurgents, not democracy. He was close to Nelson Mandela, a man who I greatly admire; but as I reflect on some of the inner turmoil in the African National Congress (ANC) where those who were viewed as traitors had burning tires hung around their necks, it is critical to note that the struggle for freedom is rarely a clean business. The poverty of those who remain in Cuba, as well as those who lost loved ones without so much as a trial is a terrifying part of the story. I know that this is a sensitive topic for my Cuban brethren, so I support whatever emotions they are feeling right now.

An Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly on Slavery: Huff Post

An Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly on Slavery: Huff Post

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – JULY 25: on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Recently, you made comments in an attempt to “fact check” First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. In your comments, you concurred with Mrs. Obama’s statement that the White House was indeed built by slaves, but then you proceeded to state that the slaves were “well fed, and had decent lodging”.

As you purport yourself to be a student of history, it is unfortunate that you did not take the opportunity to educate your viewers on the realities of slavery. You seem, based on your comments, to be implying that slavery really wasn’t that bad, especially if the slave was lucky enough to work at the White House. First off, I am not quite sure where got your facts, because there is no documentation to say that the slaves who performed this task were in fact well fed and housed. There was no “menu” circa 1800 documenting what and how much slaves ate. Additionally, Abigail Adams, who resided in the White House during the latter stages of construction, debunks this assertion in one of her letters, stating “but it is true Republicanism that drive the Slaves half fed, and destitute of cloathing, to labour, whilst the owner waches about Idle, tho his one Slave is all the property he can boast” (emphasis added).

Read the rest here.

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Diversity Discussions: My Interview on Implicit Bias

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I had the honor of appearing on the “Crininal (In)Justice” podcast with University of Pittsburgh Professor David Harris. We had a great time, and really delved into the definition of implicit bias (it’s not your parent’s racism). Give it a listen and share your thoughts!

Listen here.

 

Diversity Discussions…

Diversity Discussions…

I share this post from my friends at News One — diversity should not be feared, it must be embraced! When we have close to 75% of Fortune 500 CEO’s who are white men, in 2015 — there’s a problem. Sam’s Club CEO Roslind Brewer pointed out that she continually walks the walk; she mentors, and she challenged other companies to be diverse. Somehow, there’s a section of society that thought she was racist to do so. Sam’s Club stands behind her, and we should all accept her challenge. 

Dear White People: What’s Your Beef With Corporate Diversity?

[ione_embed src=http://player.theplatform.com/p/BCY3OC/Ha5BggifMuHL/select/media/LhZZk90eSiDD?form=html service=tvone.com width=612 height=467] When Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer discussed corporate diversity during an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow, social media blew up with criticism from White people who believed the Black executive was pushing a racist agenda. We know, however, that a much-needed diversity talk in corporate America will do more good than harm. […]

http://newsone.com/3298062/dear-white-people-whats-your-beef-with-corporate-diversity/

We Don’t Want You Here…

We Don’t Want You Here…

mizzoui boycott
University of Missouri Football Team with Jonathan Butler
Jonathan Butler addresses a crowd following the announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe would resign, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Butler has ended his hunger strike as a result of the resignation. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jonathan Butler addresses a crowd following the announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe would resign, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Butler has ended his hunger strike as a result of the resignation. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In the past week, students University of Missouri have been engaged in an act of protest, showing solidarity in response injustices that are happening in their school. Graduate student Jonathan Butler has been on a week long hunger strike to protest the horrors that he had been dealing with on the University of Missouri campus, and the failure of the administration to act.  Once the football team learned of Butler’s courageous act, they refused to play football until University President Tim Wolfe stepped down.

The issues that Butler and other students have confronted include a swastika scrawled in human excrement; racial slurs, and physical confrontations resulting in an environment of racial tension directed at the African-American students, which was especially heightened around the re-election of President Obama; and cutting of health care services for graduate students. The school seems to have stood silent and done nothing.  One poignant story that Butler recounted on the Tom Joyner Morning Show in an interview yesterday was a how a young lady was raped on campus, and reported the rape to student services. Student services did nothing, and the resulting trauma led to the young lady taking her life.

The tipping point came when Butler engaged in his hunger strike.  Several African American members of the football team approached him, concerned for his life (as reported in the Kansas City Star).  They engaged in a discussion, then approached their teammates — both White and African American, who agreed to refuse to play until the president stepped down. Coach Gary Pinkel, also White, supported them as well.

What has struck me is not only the strength of these young students, but the backlash they have received on social media. It is clear that some of these folks have not bothered to read what their grievances are. Some of the comments read:

“oh, they should be happy to be in that school. Playing football is a privilege.”

The only reason they are there is because they play football. They should starve and be kicked out of school.”

The comments, of course, devolved into a more racist nature from there.  I leave you to use your imagination and fill in the blanks.

The other interesting comment was made by Tom Joyner on his morning show, and by J Anthony Brown, where they said that if the students had went to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), they would not have to confront racism.

My question is this: do we bow to “we don’t want you here?”

What would have happened if Rosa Parks stood silent, and accepted that she was not wanted on the front of the bus? What would have happened if Dr. Martin Luther King had heeded the warnings of others to stay in silent when he saw injustices, and not go where he was not wanted? What if others had decided that segregated schools were just good enough, and not fought for equal opportunities?

The Missouri students learned the priceless lesson of unifying behind the cause of justice, and in their determination, brought many races together, while enlightening others. They would not have learned that in practice at an HBCU; only the theory from the history books. In one climactic day, Jonathan Butler brought together the faculty, who walked out of the classroom to support him, the football team, the Jewish student union and the African-American students in solidarity. To go on a hunger strike is not a trivial matter. Try going without food for a day. Was it easy? Now do it for a week for a cause you believe in. Jonathan Butler was ready to die for his beliefs. The young men of the football team stood up against pressure to play on behalf of the university, and showed courage beyond their years. As a result of the protests, the president and the chancellor resigned.

Their voices were heard, and change resulted. This has always been the catalyst for change in this country — from slavery, to voting, to equal rights for all.

“We don’t want you here” has not worked to keep women out of the workplace, African Americans from succeeding, immigrants from pursuing their dreams, gays from marrying and countless others from finding their purpose. Too many sacrificed their lives for any of us to make choices in the spirit of fear of reprisals due to discrimination, racism, or any other ism/phobia.  The choice is ours and the sky is the limit!!

Keep pushing. Keep fighting. Well done young men, you have made those whose shoulders you have stood upon proud.

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Racist and Proud: Is This What it Means to be Free?

Racist and Proud: Is This What it Means to be Free?

White gunman sought in killing of 9 at black church in South Carolina
RIP Senator Clementa Pinckney — you are truly free

I saw disturbing hashtag on Twitter the other morning.

It said #RacistandProud.

While I applaud the efforts of Governor Haley of South Carolina, the representatives and the legislators such as Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn, who are fighting to take down the Confederate flag, the bottom line is you cannot legislate the hearts of men and women. Try as we might, we cannot make hatred illegal.  Acts of hate, yes.  But we need to do more to change the belief systems that lead to the acts of hate.

President Obama made this very point in a recent radio interview which caused quite a stir. People are very focused on his use of the N-word rather than the point he was making. The point is, it’s not about oh, we no longer can say the N-word in public therefore racism is dead. Everyone can drink from the same water fountain. We can use the same bathrooms. We can all enter the same places. Therefore, racism is no longer a problem.

Many people are afraid to even admit racism still exists, let alone even have the dialogue. How are we even to move forward, if people won’t even sit down at the table to have the discussion and hear opposing points of view?

This is why I was so disturbed by the Rachel Dolezal debacle. As you may recall, she was the White woman who was the President of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, and had held herself out as African American in recent years.  Her lies finally unravelled, resulting in her stepping down from her position in disgrace (but with a few prime time interviews). She, as a White woman, could have been a White female advocate on civil rights and social justice causes.  If she had been authentic, she could have helped facilitate this discussion with White America, potentially in a non-confrontational manner. But, this is a missed opportunity — the ship has sailed. Thank God for Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. Jon Stewart uses comedy as a vehicle to take on serious issues of race, making some salient points.  In the days after the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina Jon Stewart issued a blistering monologue that cut right to the heart of the issue of discussing race in America.

All good people watched in horror as nine innocent people lost their lives while worshiping in Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. The bottom line is, the alleged killer, Dylann Roof was not a lone (although he acted alone), mentally ill, marginalized, sad boy who acted in a random manner. If you examine his manifesto his behavior and the flags he wore on his jacket, he is part of a greater movement.

A movement of #RacistandProud.

These are people who want to “take back the country” from what they feel are African Americans “moving above their station”. We as African Americans are no longer slaves, serving our masters the way they deemed we are supposed to be. We are becoming Presidents, Attorney Generals, Senators, Congresswomen, and having real power with the ability to change the world in a positive way. This idea is so revolting, so abhorrent, that the only way to react is to commit acts of murder and terror.

Think this sounds dramatic? Think back into American history, and how when African Americans protested simply for the right to vote and be treated equally, they were beaten and killed.  Think about how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the proponent of non-violence, met his end.

So forgive me, if I shudder, when I hear certain politicians say “it’s time to take back our country”…because I’ve heard that language before.

I had the distinct honor and pleasure of being present for the historic installation of Loretta Lynch as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States in May. Two points of foreshadowing arose: first, in her speech, she stated “we do not look to the twin pools of revenge and retribution; we look to the law”. And secondly, the DEA Black and Gold Band played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes as they saluted General Lynch and blessed her for her term.

How ironic that within weeks of this incredible moment, we as a nation would see ourselves looking to the law to give us relief after a horrendous terrorist act against innocents; and hear President Obama make very poignant points (as well as sing) Amazing Grace at the funeral of slain South Carolina pastor and State Senator Clementa Pinckney.
President Obama reminded us during Senator Pinckney’s eulogy that we are all born with God’s grace — do we choose to use that grace to shine with positivity? Or do we cover that grace with hatred, racism and anger? Do we stand by while racist comments are made in our presence, ignore the cries and plights of others, saying “it’s not my problem”, or “it’s not so bad, they’re being dramatic”?

My heart goes out to Emmanuel AME church. To the victims, you are gone, not forgotten, and your death will not be in vain. As a country, still we rise. We will overcome this, as we have overcome so much adversity in our history. Together. As one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

People pray and listen to the Sunday service outside of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 21, 2015. Large crowds arrived at Sunday's service at the black church in Charleston where nine African Americans were gunned down, as a chilling website apparently created by the suspected white supremacist shooter emerged. The service will be the first since the bloodbath on Wednesday at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southern state of South Carolina, which has fuelled simmering racial tensions in the United States and reignited impassioned calls for stronger gun-control laws. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
People pray and listen to the Sunday service outside of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 21, 2015 in the first service after the murder of nine victims. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV /Getty Images)
This is the true meaning of freedom and Independence Day.

In case you missed it, see the stirring rendition of Amazing Grace

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A Teaching Moment About Racism: The Judge and the Candidate

A Teaching Moment About Racism: The Judge and the Candidate

Marcia CookeThere are those who say that we are in a post racial society.

There are some folks that claim we keep “stirring up” issues by talking about racism, so stop talking about it (no, really).

I take the tactic that if I provide concrete examples as teaching moments, those who are unaware can change their behavior, or join us in the fight to eradicate racism.

Some people won’t change and don’t care. You can’t win them all.

So today’s teaching moment involves a federal judge in Florida and a local city council candidate. You may remember my prior blog post regarding an incident in Chicago of a man attacking an African American female judge. This is quite disturbing as well.

US District Judge for the Southern District of Florida Marcia Cooke (pictured above), was in the parking lot of her building in the upscale community of Bay Harbor Islands. She was wearing her navy blue power suit, pumps and pearls, and was carrying a briefcase– just as we were all taught to do in law school. Bay Harbor Island City Council candidate Ken Eskin was out campaigning, and approached her.

He greeted her with these words: “What family do you work for?”

She promptly informed him that she has lived in Bay Harbor for twenty years. He had the nerve to still try to give her campaign literature (as if she would vote for him after being called a maid).

Since then, he has apologized, stating that he had no racial intent. He sent her a card personally. His reasoning was that Bay Harbor was 92% white.

That’s lovely. But as a politician, you should know who that 8% consists of, especially if one of that 8% includes a powerful judge who has been on the bench for over a decade.

Even better, how about not making assumptions based on race? Hand out your literature, chat nicely with everyone, and if the person is a maid, they will go back to their employer and say, “wow, I met the nicest man today.”

Racism always gets revealed. It may take some time, but the truth comes to light.

To the people of Bay Harbor, the election is April 21. Of the three candidates, I certainly hope the other two are more viable than the one who has shown himself to be ignorant and insensitive. He would be a poor reflection of your lovely city.

Check out the full story and media coverage from the good folks at bloggingblackmiami.

M.

Fixing What Ails a Community…

Fixing What Ails a Community…

Why don’t you teach your boys not to wear hoodies or pull up their pants?

 
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that statement. 
 
Folks, we’ve got bigger fish to fry than choices in fashion. I’ve addressed this in previous blog posts — wearing the right clothes does not always keep you safe. 
 
And great. My pants are up. Now where are the jobs? Is wearing one’s pants at an appropriate height a guarantee that there will be no racism? (I can point to many a professional African American man that I know who were insulted in some form while wearing a suit and tie).
 
Besides, if a White child decided to be goth or wear biker clothing, are they stopped at the same rate? Is anyone telling White parents to tell their children to stop expressing their choice of fashion (other than the fact as parents, you generally dislike what your kids wear?)
 
Here is a great take from my friend James Swain, a former federal prosecutor in Florida. While we can universally reject the criminal element and lifestyle, that rejection does not apply to our youths’ choices in self expression.

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article4455259.html