By Keonte R. Turner
All my life I thought clothes were the cheat code to garner respect from white people
Especially as a black boy
I thought that if I just dressed the way they wanted me to, I would not be feared
That they would not see me as a menace, or a threat
So I saved up all my pennies for short-term liberation and bought the golden standard of gentlemen clothier
And to my detriment, every day I wore a brand of clothing whose origins rubbed me the wrong way.
Founded in Manhattan, New York City …Year, 1818.
This brand got their big break making clothes for slaves out of potato sacks
Yes , you heard me correctly. Cut three slits in a potato sack and you have got a shirt or a dress
Slave masters would frequently buy clothes from this brand to garb their African slaves on the plantations.
The history of the brand is one of great significance in American history, but its beginnings feel like a punch handed to me by Mike Tyson
I used to think the overwhelming “Can I help you sir” every few seconds was great customer service…Now I know It was because I was out of place, and that I didn’t belong.
I don’t think my ancestors would have liked me wearing the Brooks Brothers brand.
If they didn’t cost so much I’d tear and burn them.
My brothers and sisters wore ‘Brooks’ while being beat, and hung.
My brothers and sisters wore ‘Brooks’ sold like packaged meat at a public market.
My brothers and sisters wore Brooks as free men and women…THEN on the plantations as they were kidnapped from free land to work the fields down south.
With a tie so long it touched my belly button and slacks so creased you could cut fruit across my pant leg …I was nothing more than a well dressed slave
Brooks are not for my brothers.
Keonte R. Turner is the founder of the youth group RISE, a member of B.L.A.C.K., and a member of the School District of La Crosse Board of Education.
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