By NICK CHILES
The New York City Schools Chancellor is considering whether he will accede to a state senator’s wish to ban saggy pants in the nation’s largest school system. It would add the New York City schools to a growing list of municipalities that have decided to turn the infuriating fashion statement of too many young black males into a crime or a violation. While I can certainly understand the sentiment, I can’t help but to feel that veering into this territory—at a time when a third of black men in this country are ensnared in the criminal justice system—is taking things a step too far.
After all, what we’re talking about is something as simple as asking boys to pull up their pants. Leaning on the legal system or the police to do it just feels so weak, so…powerless. As the father of a black male teenager, I can’t expect the courts to do something that’s supposed to be my job.
According to a column he wrote in the New York Post, New York State Senator Eric Adams of Brooklyn has been lobbying New York Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott to institute a ban on saggy pants for the one million students in the city school system. The column says Walcott told Adams that he would look into the legalities to see if a ban could be imposed. Adams, a former New York City police officer, called his Brooklyn district “ground zero” for saggy pants.
Florida and Arkansas both have statewide bans against saggy pants for students, while two towns in Louisiana passed laws to put saggy pants offenders in jail and force them to pay fines of up to $500.
I must confess that the sight of a man or boy wearing pants so far down his ass that the entirety of his drawers is visible gives me such a strong, viscerally disgusted reaction that when I see it I have to stop myself from slamming on the brakes, stepping out of my car and plucking the idiot upside his head so many times that he won’t remember his name. When my son went through the saggy pants stage, we fought about it on an almost daily basis—and his pants weren’t even sagging very far. But he was not going to cross the threshold of my household—either coming or going—with his underwear visible. Under no circumstances was that acceptable to me. Eventually he pulled his pants up—probably a combination of maturity and wanting to shut up his dad.
(I understand that if nearly 70 percent of black children are being raised in households without a father, most boys won’t have the luxury of an authoritative dad laying down a saggy pants ban. That leaves the job to Mom, and to the boy’s extended family, and to the males and authority figures in his community, coming together to let him know that so much more is expected of him than showing his ass to the world.)
But saggy pants are not matters for the criminal justice system to adjudicate, or for the schools to criminalize. Black boys already have too many strikes against them. Let’s not put a crime or ban on the books targeted specifically at them, tracing yet another bulls-eye on their backs, when their main problem is the failure of the grown men in their lives to step up and do their jobs.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.