I just read a NY Times article about a new law being enforced, primarily in the south, to outlaw sagging pants. Sagging is a style adopted primarily by young Black men who identify with Hip-Hop culture. Apparently there is nothing more terrifying to policymakers than a young man with his drawers out.
An intensifying push by lawmakers has determined pants worn low enough to expose underwear poses a threat to the public, and they have enacted indecency ordinances to stop it… Since June 11, sagging pants have been against the law in Delcambre, La., a town of 2,231 that is 80 miles southwest of Baton Rouge. The style carries a fine of as much as $500 or up to a six-month sentence.
Peep the testimony from this disgusted citizen:
I think it crosses the line when a person shows their backside, Ms. Lartigue said. You can’t legislate how people dress, but you can legislate when people begin to become indecent by exposing their body parts.
Come on Ms. Lartigue, how often do you actually see a brother’s backside? Rarely, if ever! Sagging is a style, just like wearing a spaghetti strap tank top that exposes the sliver of a bra-strap. If they want to outlaw saggy pants, what’s next – are women going to be restricted to turtle necks? Of course not, because sorority girls with parts of their underwear exposed are not seen as a threat to society, the way Black men are. But perhaps they were at one point. You might be surprised to know that many of the current styles that we take for granted today were once illegal. These new laws in Louisiana are not so different from laws that have restricted other historically underprivileged groups.
It is hard to believe that as recently as a century ago it was a misdemeanor for a person to wear clothes not “of their sex.” California did not make it legal for women to wear pants to the work place until 1995! (from The History of Pants and Women Wearing Them)
This is not the first time young people of color have been penalized for embracing something that emerged out of Black culture. Drumming was illegalized amongst the enslaved, and discouraged elsewhere. Under Colonialism, growing (dread) locks was outlawed in some regions. Today, cornrows are discouraged in the workplace because it is seen as “unprofessional”. I know sisters that get relaxers or wear wigs to job interviews, to appear more acceptable. These are all examples of mainstream rejection of Black culture. But this legislation was not implemented by the mainstream. Most of the anti-sagging laws have been pushed by Black people. Atlanta Councilman C. T. Martin, for example, who called sagging an epidemic;
“We are trying to craft a remedy,” said Mr. Martin, who sees the problem as “a prison mentality.”
Does illegalizing sagging pants create a remedy? Restrictions only breed distrust, alienation and antagonism across generations. If Martin really wanted to breach the gap, he should focus more time and energy engaging the kids, mentoring them, providing after school and arts programming for them getting them involved in sprots and camps, not fining them for expressing themselves through Hip-Hop culture. Or am I wrong? Perhaps, making sagging illegal will help breed develop a more responsible, classy individual. What do you think?
*Good looking Gris’ and Salaam, for putting me on to this article