I was disappointed last week when I learned about an initiative from three Charleston City Council members to create an ordinance banning “sagging,” the wearing of pants below the hips and often below the buttocks. Sagging is offensive, but the fact that three elected officials want to create a law against a fashion statement is even more offensive. And I’m insulted that the three council members — Wendell Gilliard, James Lewis, and Robert Mitchell — are African American. These councilmen have more important issues to address.
Thank goodness City Council had the common sense to defer the issue at its August 19 meeting. Sagging, or “busting a sag,” seemingly began as a fashion trend in the black community, but it’s since gone well beyond that. It now permeates the hip-hop culture that transcends race and economic class.
I spoke with Lewis. He said some of his constituents have asked that some sort of ban be imposed to prevent men from wearing their pants so low they expose their butts and underwear. Lewis said he threw his name into the hat for the sake of discussion, to find out how the community wants to address the issue.
Some communities have passed ordinances banning “sagging.” I think they’re nuts too. When government starts to legislate how low a man can wear his pants, it won’t be long before someone tries to legislate how short a woman can wear her skirt.
I’m angry that the three city council representatives chose this fight to come together over. With all the crime, violence, inadequate education, unemployment, and under employment permeating the black community, I don’t think “busting a sag” should be a priority issue for black elected officials.
Councilman Wendell Gilliard went so far as to take a mannequin to the Aug. 19 meeting to emphasize his point. Wendell, whom I’ve known all my life and love dearly, has a flair for the dramatic. But brother, I think you’re way off base on this one.
“Busting a sag” is a problem, but it’s a problem more appropriately addressed at home, in schools, at church, and the community at large.
While my mom didn’t like the afro I wore in the ’70s, she wasn’t offended by it. My mom had rules I had to live by if I wanted to live in her house. And even if I had somehow gotten by my mother, my aunts and uncles always were quick to pull me back in line if they thought I went too far outside the socially acceptable boundaries that were in place. Meanwhile, the elders in the community exercised their rights to chastise young people if they felt they behaved inappropriately, whether the individual knew them personally or not.
The black community already has delegated the authority of raising its children to television and the music industry. Now Gilliard and company want to further pass that task on to local government. I don’t think so.
What the black community needs from its elected representation is to ensure its children get a quality education. Each of the councilmen mentioned have constituents living on the peninsula where only one public school is rated excellent by the state education department and most are low performing.
When children have access to a quality education, they are less likely to indulge in such offensive behavior as busting sags, illegal drug trafficking, gang violence, and criminal activity in general.
Billions of dollars in economic development are coming to the peninsula over the next several years. Black elected officials should spend their time finding ways to help government empower the African-American community to participate in that development.
Education and economics, fellas. Focus on those issues and leave how kids dress up to their parents.