September 17, 2007

Wearing baggy Pants below the waste, Criminal or not?

It has been said that the road to hell was paved with good intentions. Our intent can sometime account for something but often it accounts for nothing more than seeking to lesson the impact of our actions. I think back to the crack epidemic that destroyed our communities all across this country from the early to mid 1980’s through the 1990’s. In an effort to stop drug dealers from practicing their genocidal hustle of selling crack cocaine in our communities we sought out police and judicial support in helping ensure that those who were caught selling this poison spent sometime in jail versus being arrested and right back on the streets a few days later selling crack again. So through protest and tirades this government was more than happy to come up with mandatory sentencing which sounded good and from the perspective of many of those who seen drug dealing as the root of many problems in our community, it was the answer to their prayers. To the credit of many of our conscious brothers and sisters they were opposed to these sentencing guidelines from the start, however their objections fell on deaf ears and in 1986 the evil one Ronald Regan signed into law one of the most egregious and racist laws enacted in the last 25 years. All of us are familiar with or should be familiar with “The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986” that made being caught with 5 grams of crack (the drug of choice for black folk) a guaranteed five year sentence while it took 500 grams of powder cocaine (the drug of choice for white folk) to get the same sentence. Mind you, 500 grams of powder cocaine when cooked and turned into crack can make well over 80 packages of 5 grams of crack cocaine.

To understand why this law was enacted you have to understand what was happening across America during this time. Len Bias had recently died from drug use and the Democrats who controlled congress was being accused of being soft on crime thus they moved to prove they were not soft on crime at all by passing this legislation and of course we can not forget that Tip O’Neil the speaker of the house at the time was from Boston where Len Bias had recently been drafted to play. So in the mist of all of this and complaints from the Black community about rising murder and crime The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was passed without debate, without any experts being called in to testify, without the consultation of judges or the bureau of Prisons. The sentencing guidelines enacted by this law were sold as a way of going after the big drug traffickers but it was known that traffickers do not deal in such small amounts of drugs, further more traffickers did not traffic crack; they trafficked powder cocaine. Due mostly to these laws and other drug laws the incarcerations of Black folk in America increased from 288,800 in 1984 to 635,000 in 1994.

So today we are bombarded with reports and statistics that tells us one in three black males are some how involved in the justice system, be it in jail, on parole or simply Black in America. The lessons are clear and one would think we would be too smart and too sophisticated to make similar mistakes today by supporting laws, legislation and ideas that only seeks to inject more of our youth into the Criminals’ Criminal Justice System. Unfortunately I come today with bad news, we are not that smart, and we are not that sophisticated because we are buying into the lie that somehow baggy pants worn below the waste is criminal

The similarity in the hysteria surrounding the wearing of baggy pants below the waste is ominously similar to the hysteria surrounding drug use and selling in the 1980’s. The difference of course being that wearing baggy pants below the waste is not a violent act, but when you link it to rap music that degrades women, celebrate criminality, refer to black folk as niggers, promote no snitching and have very little redeeming qualities about it, you have the makings of hysteria that can convince the smartest amongst us that wearing of baggy pants below the waste is criminal and somehow speaks to the intelligence of our youth and by proxy links them to crime. Simply put, if your pants are hanging below your waste, you are more than likely to degrade women, call black folk niggers, celebrate criminality and promote no snitching which makes you a criminal worthy of being locked up; does that make sense to you? Me neither! However, it is believed apparently in some circles that the solution to the aforementioned pathologies is of course to have young men to pull their pants up and since they are unwilling to do it when asked, laws must be passed to protect the men and women in this great and decent society from these young men with saggy pants that on occasion shows their underwear.

We can not drop the ball on this issue nor can we sit passively by as laws are passed that seeks to inject more of our youth into the criminal justice system by criminalizing their style of dress. When the wearing of baggy pants below the waste can be reason enough to lock a young man up for 60 days and fine him five hundred dollars, I can say without question or contradiction, reason has been abandoned. If we fail to see that these laws are racist and that they will only lead to that stat about one and three to jump to two in three, then when the smoke clears blame will be placed and rightfully so, at our feet because we know better today and should be immune to white folk trickery and money making schemes to lock more of our youth up to support their stock marketed prison industrial complex.

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