Friday, August 24, 2007

Boy! Pull up those pants!


A close friend told me a sad story a few years back. A teenager ran across the street. He was wearing baggy pants and they fell to the ground as a car approached. The pants fell to his ankles causing him to fall and the car hit and killed him. Upon hearing this tale, I wondered if it was an urban legend, or if it was true.


I’m certain that parents and critics of the baggy pants fad have used this tale to convince young men to pull those pants up, and put on a belt. Nothing else seems to work. Making the connection to jail culture was not enough to convince this youthful generation to design a more suitable way to promote their independence.


Since young folk refuse to listen to grown ups, the old heads down in Atlanta have decided to take matters into their own hands. C.T. Martin, a college recruiting consultant and member of the Atlanta city council, is pushing an amendment to the city’s indecency laws that would make any peep of a bra strap or top of boxer shorts illegal.


Martin says the popular style of boys who wear oversize, baggy pants well below their waists, exposing their underwear, is an “epidemic” that has to stop. “I don’t want young people thinking that half-dressing is the way to go,” Martin told a reporter for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. “I want them to think about their future.”


But do bans against trendy teen styles make kids more respectful or do they just give them a reason to be rebellious? Little children see it and want to adopt it, thinking it's the in thing," Martin said. "I don't want young people thinking that half-dressing is the way to go. I want them to think about their future."


The planned ordinance would also block women from showing the strap of a thong beneath their pants. They would also be prohibited from wearing jogging bras in public or show a bra strap, said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
The proposed ordinance states that "the indecent exposure of his or her undergarments" would be unlawful in a public place. It would go in the same portion of the city code that outlaws sex in public and the exposure or fondling of genitals. The penalty would be a fine in an amount to be determined.


Seagraves said any legislation that creates a dress code would not endure a court challenge. She said the law could not be enforced in a nondiscriminatory way because it targets something that came out of the black youth culture.


"This is a racial profiling bill that promotes and establishes a framework for an additional type of racial profiling," Seagraves told the Atlanta Journal & Constitution.


Atlanta would not be the first city to take on baggy pants. Earlier this year, the town council in Delcambre, La., passed an ordinance that carries a fine of up to $500 or six months in jail for exposing underwear in public. Several other municipalities in Louisiana have enacted similar laws in recent months.


Brace yourself for a national battle between those of divergent generations and cultures. This clash is about defining individual expression as reflected in hip-hop culture. As the nation grapples with the legitimacy of hip-hop, get ready for other battles to alter the impact hip-hop has in molding the minds of youth.


The N.A.A.C.P eulogized the N-word because of the ways it’s used in the music of hip-hop culture. The sisters down in Atlanta at Spellman College attacked Nelly for his music video that likened the female buttocks to an ATM machine. Hip-hop is under attack, and this measure is another example of how the African American community has made a correlation between hip-hop and all that is bad.


This mugging of hip-hip culture goes much deeper than the decisions one makes on what to wear. At the core of this tête-à-tête is defining what it means to be an African American. It is always precarious for those reared in the mores of an elder cohort to impose their values on youth. Martin is making the mistake of correlating fashion with behavior, and the two can’t be approached as Siamese twins.


The modification of conduct can’t be fulfilled through the legislation of fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I hate those baggy pants. With that being said, I would find it insufferable if the city council would get into the business of selecting what belongs in my closet. As much as I loathe catching a glimpse of at a kids “Fruit of the Looms”, I quiver thinking of the consequences that will come once municipalities gets the authority to decide on what is acceptable fashion.


Its best if this matter is left up to the parents. Let the city council deal with infrastructure issues rather than the management of the family. I’m certain that someone on the council will argue they have to step in because the parents aren’t doing their job. Since these kids aren’t being taught, leave it up to the council to lead the way. This analysis is filled with assumptions. Baggy pants don’t make a bad kid, just as a white shirt and silk tie don’t make a person an outstanding citizen.


It’s just clothes. It’s too bad we can’t see past what we wear.

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