State Senator Eric Adams Targets Sagging Pants With Billboard
Major late Pass for him. Targeting sagging pants in 2010 is like targeting segregated water fountains.
Hector Quinones didn’t amount to much in life, but he managed in death to make a powerful fashion statement. The statement boiled down to this: Don’t be a jerk like me.
Not nearly enough people seem to be taking his lesson to heart.
Back in December, Mr. Quinones killed three men in an apartment on the Upper West Side, a bloodbath described by the police as drug-related. Mr. Quinones was intent on shooting more people, they said, only he was forced to flee. He ran to the fire escape. But the low-slung pants he was wearing fell down, the police said. He tripped over them, took a tumble and landed with a thud in the building’s backyard.
There you had it: death by trousers.
Could there be a better argument for hitching up one’s pants? And yet countless young men continue to parade about the streets in their own boxer rebellion, wearing trousers so low that their shorts — and sometimes more than that — are on display.
“I was on a subway train, and there was this young man,” State Senator Eric Adams of Brooklyn said. “His behind was showing, literally. He had underwear, but even the underwear was sagging. All the passengers were looking at each other in disgust, but nobody was saying anything.”
For Mr. Adams, that silence was deafening. Now he is speaking up. He began a campaign this week to do something about the saggy bottom boys and the adults who have “a high tolerance for antisocial behavior,” whether out of indifference or fear.
Under his sponsorship, messages intended principally for young black men went up on several billboards in Brooklyn. Raised trousers mean raised respect, they said. The senator also posted a video on his Web site. To doleful background music, it shows a series of offensive racial stereotypes over the years: minstrel performers, Aunt Jemima, watermelon-loving Negroes — and, the new addition to this sorry lineup, sagging pants on African-American men.
They’re all of a piece, Mr. Adams says in the video. But what’s insidious about the latest degradation is that it is totally self-inflicted. “Let us not be the ones who make our communities seem foolish,” he says. (He himself is impeccably dressed in the video in a gray suit, green tie and white pocket square.)
Actually, the senator said in an interview, his target audience is adults more than youngsters. Grown-ups are supposed to act like grown-ups.
“The children aren’t doing anything different, because children always push the envelope,” he said. “We have abdicated our responsibility of telling them when they’ve gone too far. Even if they don’t follow our advice, the adult is supposed to say, ‘This is not acceptable.’ ”
“Our communities have turned almost into minstrel shows,” he added.
Eye-rolling over what children do has, of course, only been going on for thousands of years. But the droopy pants look that has men shuffling along as if they were Attica inmates has hung around for a surprisingly, and distressingly, long time.
It has prevailed over constitutionally flawed efforts by various municipalities to enact legal bans. It has defied no less than Barack Obama. “Brothers should pull up their pants,” Mr. Obama said in an appearance on MTV just before his election as president. “You are walking by your mother, your grandmother, your underwear is showing. What’s wrong with that? Come on.”
The problem, Mr. Adams said, is an absence of presidential follow-up. Messages require repetition to sink in.
Some people have asked him if he doesn’t have better things to do and bigger problems to address. “I tell them no,” said Mr. Adams, a former police captain.
“In my 22 years of policing, there was a common denominator,” he said. “The first indicator that your child is having problems is the dress code. Prior to the sagging pants, it was the shoestrings out of sneakers. All this is born out of prison. We took the shoestrings and the belts from prisoners.”
“This is probably not a perfect science,” he added, “but if you start looking at how your child is dressing, it is an indicator of who his friends are and what group he’s associated with. It’s all in the clothing.”
Nothing is guaranteed with the senator’s campaign. Should it not do the trick, how about Hector Quinones as a backup? Posters could show him after the fall, with a tag line on the order of, “Sagging pants kill.”
The message isn’t particularly subtle or even tasteful. But it just might work.