Black Lawmaker Says Wearing ‘Coat and Tie’ is Racist

Dress codes are racist, the newest member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. 

State Rep. Justin Pearson is a radical black activist from Memphis. And he’s facing criticism from his fellow lawmakers over his wardrobe. 

The other day, Mr. Pearson showed up on the House floor in a combed-out afro and wearing a black dashiki. The blouse is associated with West African culture.

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Mr. Pearson told radio station WPLN that the blouse and necklace symbolize resistance. 

“This dress is resistance. This afro is resistance. What we are doing here is subversive to the status quo, and I think that’s going to continue to make people uncomfortable,” he told the radio station. 

Are coats and ties racist?

Republican lawmaker David Hawk blasted Mr. Pearson – accusing him of violating decorum. 

It’s been a long-standing practice for men to wear a suit and tie and women to wear formal business attire. 

Mr. Hawk recounted the time he was banned from entering the House chamber because he was not wearing a tie. 

The person who gave that order was Lois DeBerry – then serving in House leadership — a black woman.

“I showed up one Monday night on two wheels trying to get in here, and I did not have a tie on. And she reminded me that ‘Rep. Hawk, if you don’t have a tie on, you don’t get to walk in that door,’” the lawmaker said. 

Mr. Pearson remains defiant and accused his fashion critics of being white supremacists. 

“We literally just got on the State House floor and already a white supremacist has attacked my wearing of my Dashiki. Resistance and subversion to the status quo ought to make some people uncomfortable,” he wrote on Twitter. “Thank you to every Black Ancestor who made this opportunity possible.”

The Tennessee House Republicans said the rules governing decorum and dress were approved with bipartisan support. 

“If you don’t like rules, perhaps you should explore a different career opportunity,” the Republicans wrote on Twitter. 

But Mr. Pearson told WPLN that being forced to wear a coat and tie is a form of white supremacy.

“What’s happening here is you have discriminatory practices and policies to help homogenize this community to look like a cis white older man — which is westernized European culture, which is in and of itself its own expression,” he said. 

The problem is there’s no official rules on what a lawmaker is supposed to wear inside the House chamber. 

So, there’s a very good chance someone might show up wearing a kilt, pantaloons, or heaven forbid – a loincloth. 

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