Dwonna Know What I Think?”
A social/lifestyle advice and commentary column by guest contributor Dr. Dwonna Naomi Goldstone. Dr. Goldstone is a Professor of English and Coordinator of the African American Studies Minor at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Last week, Memphis insurance agent Fred Davis paid to have this billboard hung in the Orange Mound neighborhood. He said he did it because he wanted “to see young people move to a higher level.”
What do you think about this ad?
Dear “Saggy Pants”:
This trend of folks wearing their pants so low that their entire behind is showing is absolutely ridiculous. I see these males (they are not men but males) either walking bowlegged or holding their belt loop that is now in their penis area to keep their pants from falling all the way to the ground, and I often want to ask them if they know just how stupid they look. Why is it more important to these males to wear sagging pants that they have to hope don’t fall to the ground than it is to wear pants that fit or pants with a belt?
Moreover, if it’s true that this “trend” began in American prisons because inmates were not allowed to wear belts, then I am even more confused about why those outside of the prison walls would want to perpetuate something that signifies being locked up. I’ve also read that those who continue this “trend” that was popularized by hip-hop artists are now suggesting that sagging is a “symbol of freedom and cultural awareness” as well as a “rejection of the values of mainstream society.” To that I say, “Child please!!” There are certainly more conducive ways to “reject” the values of mainstream society without looking like a fool, which reminds me of the lyrics from that poorly-sang song that civil rights activist “General” Larry Platt introduced to the world on American Idol on January 13, 2010: “Pants on the ground/pants on the ground/looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.”
In the 1990s, the trend then was for males not to tie up their shoelaces, and although that trend was kind of ridiculous, at least folks were not subjecting the American public to unwillingly viewing their undergarments. When my little brother and his friend Brent came to visit me in Washington, D.C., in 1994, Brent’s dad told them to make sure that their shoelaces were always tied up in case they needed to run from a hoodlum. I often think of his advice when I see these males walking around with their underwear (or as I like to call them, their “Victoria Secret panties”) showing, and I wish I could ask them what I once heard my grandmother naïvely ask a young black male she encountered in Walmart—“Why are you advertising for anal sex in a store?”
As the billboard Fred Davis posted implores, instead of advertising for “Fruit of the Looms,” “Calvin Klein,” or “Polo,” why don’t these young black males (I know that it’s not just a black male thing, but they are the ones who popularized the trend) advertise an intelligent mind, a willful spirit, and a kind heart? Why don’t these young black men reach for success instead of reaching near their penis to keep their pants from falling to the ground?
If nothing else, I wish that young black men would introduce a trend that included pants that fit and ironed collared shirts so that they could promote an image of intelligence and success and not one of foolishness.
*Dr. Goldstone lives in Nashville with her four unruly dogs—Satchel Paige, Butterfly McQueen, Charlie Parker, and Lena Horne. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.