jackson column sagging pants

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 10, 2007

For the last decade I have patiently waited for the sub-cultural phenomenon called “sagging” to end. I prayed that like bell bottom pants, stack shoes, and Gerri-curls, sagging pants would eventually give way to more appropriate attire. Not yet. Not now. Maybe not at all.
Let’s be fair. Every generation has embraced a fad or style that irritated the previous generation to no end. However, the current nemesis is a reflection of 80 years of low self-esteem and negative self expression. We may not want to listen, but when a man wears his pants below his buttocks, he’s trying to say something to society.
Oddly enough, sagging or Herrera (drooping) of pants originated after the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was a sign of poverty, displacement and disenfranchisement.
In the 1950s, the Latino gangs of the greater northeastern United States sagged to distinguish themselves from other gangs.
In the late 1960s and ’70s, prison gangs sagged to conceal their weapons.
In the 1980s, as the prison population swelled with more young men, the older and stronger inmates raped the newcomers. They became suicidal and so prison officials took away their belts to prevent them from hanging themselves. Sagging pants became a symbol of weakness and inferiority in the prison system.
With the release of the hip-hop classics “The Chronic and Doggy Style” in 1994, sagging moved to the general population of America. From Harlem to Hollywood, men sagged, revealing their colorful underwear.
It’s a fad or is it? Many people said rock ‘n’ roll was a fad. Rock ‘n’ rollers said rap was a fad like disco. You be the judge. All I know is, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun,” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
I asked a group of five boys ages 13 to 16 why they wear their pants below their buttocks. After polling the group, the consensus was, “We don’t know” and “It’s what we do.”
So I asked how much longer do you think this style will last? The consensus was, “Not much longer because the schools are banning sagging pants.” One kid said, “I don’t think that’s fair. We should be able to wear our clothes any way we want to.” The oldest boy (who admitted that he was wearing two pair of gym shorts and underwear beneath his jeans) said, “A lot of kids are gonna get sent home behind this.”
There it was, the reason I was looking for. Students get suspended for defying the rules. Sagging graphically defies the rules of society. Sagging says, “You can’t tell me how to dress, who to associate with, what to listen to or what to say.” Don’t make the mistake of stereotyping black kids as the only “saggers.” Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many white, Latino, and Asian boys exposing their bottoms to the world.
There’s a statement being made by a generation we have simply labeled with alphabets X and Y. I think they are saying, “We will not participate in the mainstream, we will not maintain the status quo and here are our behinds to kiss!”
Dr. George B. Jackson is pastor of Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship in Thomasville.