Jefferson County, Louisiana is the latest municipality to enact a measure which makes sagging pants illegal. Such ordinances are not uncommon, with other communities in Louisiana, along with parts of New Jersey and Florida enforcing similar decrees. In Jefferson County, perps will have to pay a $50 fine for the first offense, and $100 for subsequent offenses thereafter.
The sagging pants phenomenon originated in prison. Urban myth claims that incarcerated men who wore their pants below their waste welcomed sexual advances. Later, the style was made popular by hip hop artists, and now it’s common to see among young males.
The response has been mixed. Some praise the measure as a necessary way to combat ignorance, while others believe this is an futile attempt to regulate Black males. I fall within the latter frame of thought.
Government has no business regulating appropriate forms of dress. Although I am frustrated by the prevalence of sagging pants, it is not the government’s place to tackle through legislation. I fear the snowball effect; first it’s sagging pants, and then what? Fines for swearing? Fines for listening to rap music in the comforts of your home?
Personally, I think comprehensive preventative measures should be implemented through the family unit and the school system. It’s important for families to educate their children about how to dress appropriately, while the school system enacts reasonable dress codes. But government fines are not the answer. If anything, I think it’ll further fuel deep-seated mistrust between the authorities and citizens.
And let’s not forget that this fine disproportionately effects poor Black youth. Poor young Black people, who are probably already disadvantaged in this small Deep Southern town, will find difficulty securing financial resources to pay for these relatively steep fines. And, having a record is something that’s hard to shake; it can effect potential job offers, college acceptance, etc.
All this measure is, is yet another way to sanction racial profiling. And it needs to stop.
I understand where the frustration comes from. But as part of living in a free society means that we have to tolerate the choices that people make so long as those choices do not impede in our rights to live in peace. Seeing a young Black male with his pants around his knees will not cause you death….even though you might think so.