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what not to wear

I just really wanted to wear my chain man. I just really wanted to wear my TDE Compton T-shirt and my Chucks man. I just really wanted to be myself on my terms and not worry about being "too..."

my on-going battle: what not to wear.

There is a time and place for all activities and actions. There is the concept of code-switching and appropriate attire for the workplace, church, bedroom, and Walmart for all of us. We all understand that different sectors allow for different forms of clothing, but what happens on a day when the social norms of the environment change?

Picture this: Decades Day during Spirit Week. I want to pay homage to hip-hop in the 90s. Oddly enough what I wore that day was exactly what I would wear any-day of the year. A You Go Girl crewneck (designed by Jimi Thompson), faded black skinny jeans, dusty green Converse/Chuck Taylors, and a fitted cap, turned backwards. Then I had one final piece I wanted to add. It's a chunky, gold, charm necklace that has a DJ inspiration behind the design. Each charm represents some form of a DJ's life-- boombox, microphone, music notes. It was perfect. Yet when I put it on at home I questioned "Is this too Black?" I was annoyed with the idea of that question, but totally concerned about how it would appear at school. There she goes again was all I could think of. I still to this day carry this concern, and maybe it's an insecurity, about how I appear among my non-Black peers. I am one of five certified teachers on our staff who happen to have brown skin. Another two staff members are aids and assistants. My children love me, totally respect skin tone and identity, as does the school culture. I'm not worried about that so much (anymore), but all I could ask myself while looking in the mirror was "Will this be too much? Will my students look at this as a model of what hip-hop is because I did it? Was this a model to be copied elsewhere?"

I took the chain off. It's still sitting in the cup-holder of my car. I confess that I'm still working on upholding my unmitigated Blackness in the very politically correct world in which I work. I'm still thinking on what WEB DuBois preached on in The Souls of Black Folks. And my veil is becoming heavy again. I still don't know how far is too far. I'm still frustrated that I even need to ask the question of what's appropriate and what's not. And I'm not mad at anyone but myself. I always remind people that they're "never just" when they begin to humble themselves out of accolades they well deserve. I should not have to be concerned with "being too." But when I can see a White male wear his Compton fitted and ride his skateboard through Uptown while I'm nervous about upsetting parents or administration in a similar t-shirt at a school carnival on a Saturday how can I not be too frustrated?

I'm still waiting on my unmitigated to thrive. I just want to be myself man.


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