The Perceived Racism of the US Airways Dress Code

The Perceived Racism of the US Airways Dress Code

A young Black man was kicked off a US Airways flight for sagging his pants while a white man in panties got to fly. What gives?

Published June 23, 2011

An unnamed male passenger dressed in underpants at a Florida airport (left) and DeShon Marmon.  (Photos: AP Photo/Jill Tarlow; AP Photo/University of New Mexico)

Chances are you’ve heard about DeShon Marman, the 20-year-old University of New Mexico football player who was arrested at the San Francisco airport last week. Before boarding his flight back to New Mexico—he’d been in San Francisco to attend a funeral—Marman was surrounded by three US Airways employees who told him to pull up his pants. When he didn’t, he was arrested.


The entire case sounds a bit ridiculous on its face. But new information about US Airways’ “dress-code policy” makes things sound even more insane. For instance, in the wake of the Marman fiasco US Airways has admitted that it doesn’t have a formal dress code, meaning that employees are allowed to arbitrarily pick and choose who they’re going to harass about dressing “appropriately.” Which is perhaps how, in the days before Marman being arrested, a man in Florida wearing only women’s underwear was allowed to board a US Airways flight and fly to Phoenix. The main difference (besides the panties) is that that man was white.


To be sure, the US Airways staffers in San Francisco are obviously different from those in Ft. Lauderdale, where they let the nearly nude man board. But the fact that Marman, a young Black man, gets arrested for showing a few inches of his boxers while a white man in almost nothing gets to fly makes US Airways look at least a little bit racist.


Hopefully the airline will offer Marman an apology and ask the San Francisco police to drop the charges, which are threatening his college scholarship. The company also needs to enact a distinct and transparent dress code for situations exactly like this. If they’d like to say that people who sag their pants can’t fly on their planes, that’s fine. But there needs to be some consistency. If Marman can’t fly, neither should a naked man. Anything else is bogus and, as I said before, dangerously close to bigotry.

Written by Cord Jefferson


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