Saggy Pants Serve as Cultural Wedge

Published February 11, 2008

Posted Oct. 23, 2007 – When cities and towns issue laws banning low-riding pants, they often do so at the risk of widening a gap that already exists between Blacks and Whites and teens and adults, say some experts on race and culture.

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A growing number of communities, from New York to Florida have outlawed slacks that hang so low you can see one’s drawers, saying their offensive and disrespectful. And, despite the fact that laws tend to target Black youths, many African Americans support them, believing that such attire is demeaning to the culture because it is derived from prison.

Agence France-Press spoke recently to Yonkers, N.Y., Councilwoman Patricia McDow, who drafted a resolution to ban saggy pants in her town.

"I drafted the resolution at the request of a community anti-gang coalition ... and because we want young adults to understand the history of this attire," McDow told AFP. "Saggy pants came from the prison system. We want to teach our children to shun that culture and be proud of the rich history that they have."

She’s not alone.

Several cities in Louisiana alone have passed local laws against low-riders, and so have many more towns and cities across America. But Wilhelmina Leigh, a senior researcher at the African-American think-tank known as the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, says that such edicts affect “a certain population that always gets picked on. Even if they weren't wearing saggy pants, the same group of African-American males standing around would be subject to more scrutiny than any other group of young people," she told the news agency.

"Tattoos, body-piercing and punk hairstyles are part of the youth culture, too, but no one is legislating against them. Singling out baggy pants is clearly singling out a group that people have issues with anyway."

Chad Dion Lassiter, a University of Pennsylvania sociology professor, said legislating against the fashion "pushes the already rebellious youths” further away.

“Black males scare some White people, and sometimes even Black people, whether they have their pants hanging off or a shirt and tie on," Lassiter said.

What do you think? Should saggy pants be banned, or are lawmakers being silly?  Click “Discuss Now,” to the right, to post your comment.

Written by BET-Staff

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