It appears that we in America are in a war of symbols with large-scale street gangs.
According to the Appeal-Democrat, 12-year-old Dustin Cole was hit with that reality when he was told to turn his shirt inside out because it violated the school's anti-gang dress code.
This shirt he was wearing? The California state flag silhouetted on an American flag.
His mother had recently purchased the shirt for the Yuba Gardens Intermediate School 7th grader at Kohl's and was outraged that her son was accused of wearing gang attire.
The school said its strict dress code policy is intended not only to help prevent conflicts between gang members at the school but also to protect innocent students who don't realize that they're communicating gang messages by what they're wearing.
So why did the school and the Yuba City Police Department's gang task force deem this shirt to be affiliated with gangs?
According to Principal Kari Ylst, the red star — which also appears on the California state flag — is the biggest problems. Red is the color used by the northern California prison-associated Norteño gang. The five points on the star represent "1+4" and the letter N is the 14th letter of the alphabet. The 31 inside the star represents California as the 31st state, but in gang symbolism, the 31 is the reverse of 13, which is a symbol used by the Norteño gang's rival, the Mexican Mafia-associated southern California Sureño gang.
As bizarre as that sounds, it's true that gangs have co-opted many symbols we would consider normal. For instance, San Francisco Giants and 49ers gear is being used as gang attire, making it difficult to know if someone is promoting their favorite sports team or a gang.
So do you think we should play it safe like some schools and gang tasks forces do and ban this attire? Or should we refuse to let gangs co-opt our symbols by continuing to use them ourselves?