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Droopy Drawers: Is a Ban on Baggy Pants Racism in Disguise?

Like your pants with a little extra room? If you live in Flint, MI, you better hitch up your britches; the city's new police chief announced yesterday that he's going to start arresting people wearing baggy pants. Oh yeah, you heard correctly. No more low-hanging pantaloons — the chief says people are showing off altogether too much of their derrières and it's creating a problem. He says, "this immoral self-expression goes beyond free speech. It rises to the crime of indecent exposure/disorderly persons." The pants punishment? $500 and up to three months in jail.

While it's true that many don't understand the need to sag one's pants, and may rather not see someone's underduds, can a person's pants lead to arrest? It's a case the ACLU is quite interested in. Curious in not only how the law will be enforced, but also how it will disproportionately target young African-American men. A local ACLU attorney says, that a person's right to choose their clothing is an issue of freedom of expression, though he cautions that not all expression is protected by the Constitution. The local NAACP president expressed her concern that the new law has racial implications this way, "I'm not interested in looking at anyone's underwear. My concern is how (the policy) will be applied equitably."

At the moment, the police aren't entirely sure either. Is it possible that dealing with a small societal issue like indecent saggy pants, could have larger benefits over time? Is this a racially motivated move costumed by concern for decency?


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