Houston activists give thoughts on sagging pants

Local activists Omowale Luthuli-Allen and Deloyd Parker are concerned about the plight of young Black men. They believe that unfortunately, sagging pants can lead to negative stereotypes.

“Most young people who have sagging pants are not a part of the criminal class,” said Luthuli-Allen, co-founder of the Internatioal Youth Friendship and Development Program.

“However, it’s a question of perception. So many youth are engaged in oppositional and defiant behaviors that people who don’t have daily interaction with youth have bought into deep stereotypes about young people.”

Parker, co-founder and executive director of SHAPE Community Center, agrees. He said that bans on sagging pants by certain establishments are another strike against young men.

“By creating that rule, they’re creating another reason to mess with and profile young Black men,” Parker said.

Luthuli-Allen said policies banning customers from wearing sagging pants are “reactive rather than proactive.”

He added that such policies are an attempt to protect companies’ customer bases and their ability to continue to remain profitable. He said that if a part of the customer base is offended by something, for example sagging pants, they will not continue to patronize the establishment.

“They are trying to make sure paying customers are not alienated because of something that is perceived as offensive,” Luthuli-Allen said.

Parker echoed his thoughts. “It has to be addressed in a way that does not turn away people,” he said.

Like Luthuli-Allen, Parker has the opportunity to interact with young people from the surrounding community. He also has rules in place about what to wear at the center. Sagging pants are not allowed and women cannot wear excessively revealing clothing.

“When they come into SHAPE I tell them I don’t want to see their underwear,” Parker said.

Luthuli-Allen said if youth have proper guidance they will understand they can be profiled solely based on their appearance.

“Youth who don’t have the proper guidance from adult mentors may not understand they can be profiled and victimized based on something as simple as sagging pants,” he said.

He added that as they did in the past, institutions of family, church and school should become more active in the lives of young people. If they do, youth would understand the importance of appearances and proper behavior in public.

“Kids are being socialized by popular culture,” Luthuli-Allen said. “They are having to learn what is required to be successful in this culture by trial and error.”

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The above article was published in volume 82, number 50 (October 10, 2013) of the Defender newspaper in Houston, TX.

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