Another Law Targets Saggy Pants

Published July 22, 2008

Posted July 22, 2008 – The crusade against sagging continues as the Chicago suburb of Lynwood has become the latest community to slap a fine on young folks who think it’s hip to show their underwear in public.

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Eugene Williams, mayor of Lynwood , led the campaign to impose $25 fines against anyone who reveals three inches or more of their drawers. However, Lynwood’s new law is not the first of its kind. Just a week or so ago, Flint , Mich. , showing its utter disdain for the fashion trend, says it will throw offenders in jail. Leading that city’s crusade is the new chief of police, David Dicks, who calls sagging “immoral self-expression,” reports Mary Chapman and Jessica Bennett of Newsweek magazine.

Their article suggests that Dicks, like officials in other cities with anti-sagging laws, are at least partially angered over the roots of the hip-hop clothing trend – prison, where inmates’ pants often hang off their butts because they don’t get belts. For others, like 81-year-old Minnie Boyd, it’s just plain disrespectful, because "who in the world wants to see a butt in public?" she told Newsweek. However, critics say there’s enough to worry about – particularly in poor, Black neighborhoods where sagging is most prevalent – without going after young people who decide to wear baggy pants.

"Under no stretch of the imagination does wearing saggy pants that reveal the top of one's boxer shorts violate the Flint disorderly conduct ordinance," attorney Greg Gibbs, the president of the Flint chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU, told Newsweek.

"This man has basically taken his personal dislike of a style of dress and made it a violation of criminal law."

The ACLU also contends that there is a racial element to the new laws. In recent years, laws illegalizing low-riding pants have been passed in numerous states, including Georgia , Virginia , Louisiana and Pennsylvania .

In March, however, the Florida NAACP and other groups joined forces to oppose a bill authored by Orlando Sen. Gary Siplin, arguing that it is discriminatory and would lead to more legal trouble for Black males. Speaking to The Orlando Sentinel, NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze called it a "clearly discriminatory bill. …In essence, it will criminalize the wearing of saggy pants and thereby provide a new avenue of interaction between young people and the criminal justice system," Nweze said.

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Written by BET-Staff

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