Tags: rhode island | dress code | race | lawmakers

Rhode Island Senator: New Dress Code Biased Toward White People

Rhode Island Senator: New Dress Code Biased Toward White People
Rhode Island Capitol building. 

By    |   Saturday, 27 March 2021 11:06 AM

A new dress code for members of Rhode Island's Senate imposes guidelines that are biased in white people's favor, a state senator is arguing. 

"Folks use expressions like professional ... presentable, appropriate ... what they mean is white-collar, white western dress," Sen. Jonathan Acosta, D-District, argued during a recent Rules Committee meeting about the changes, held before the full state Senate this week voted to approve the guidelines, reports Fox News. 

"The frame that you bring to decorum might be different than the one that I bring for decorum, but does not make mine any less valuable," said Acosta. 

The approved provision says "the president of the Senate shall preserve decorum and order in the Senate chamber. While in the Senate chamber, members and staff shall be required to dress in proper and appropriate attire, such as blouses, dress slacks, and collared shirts with accompanying jacket."

Acosta argued that his colleagues' backgrounds were affected by an "ethno-racial-class nexus" that informed their decisions on what they consider to be proper attire and that the committee was changing the rules in a way that gave more power to a white Senate president, in this case, Sen. Dominick Ruggerio, a Democrat from North Providence.

It is "super inappropriate" for the Senate president to "bestow a normative judgment" on what people can wear while in the Senate chamber, he said.  

Other senators defended the rule, but Acosta argued that race and class influenced their opinions, and said he wanted to make sure they acknowledged that the chamber is a "white-collar, white western space."

"If that is what is necessary to be in this space, then that is what you are saying ... the only function of this type of norm is to exclude -- it is to say that which does not belong here<' he said. "And in this presentation, or in this explanation of my colleagues, of what does belong here, it is all stuff that connotes white-collar, white people."

Acosta, a teacher, said that he had chosen to "adopt that costume" in his first year of 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 I was teaching, that in order to be successful, you had to try to look and approximate whiteness as much as possible -- and that is the message that you would be forcing down the throat of all the residents of Rhode Island," said Acosta.

Democratic Sen. Louis DiPalma, who chairs the committee, argued that the dress code is broader than what other state legislatures require, and said the provision was not made to judge anyone's looks. 

"A dress code and decorum are about respecting an institution that is 200-plus years old," he said.

Sen. Cynthia Mendes, an East Providence Democrat, however, said the new dress code is more specific than a prior one that required that all people on the Senate floor be "properly dressed," and questioned the timing for the new rule, as it follows an election where more women and people of color were voted into the Senate than at any other time 

"This is colonization language, the need to remind everyone who is in power," she said. "It has always started with what you tell them to do with their bodies. That's not lost on me."

A similar argument has come up in other areas, reports The Associated Press, including in Montana, where female lawmakers say proposed rules concerning skirt lengths and necklines are too sexist. 

Last month, an Iowa state representative wore blue jeans to the House floor to highlight how Republican lawmakers won't mandate face masks, but they ban jeans and casual clothing. 

© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

A new dress code for members of Rhode Island's Senate imposes guidelines that are biased in white people's favor, a state senator is arguing.
rhode island, dress code, race, lawmakers
Saturday, 27 March 2021 11:06 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved