NOTE: There was a mix up in which this column was actually published on 7/26/12 and the column I listed here for 7/26 actually ran on 8/9/12.
There have been public indecency laws on the books across the nation for a few centuries now. As time goes by, many things once considered indecent are now societal norms. For instance, it was once considered indecent for a woman to have a bathing suit with exposed knees and arms. Nowadays we can find more cotton inside an aspirin bottle than in some bikini tops. Laws have evolved over time, but the concept that there are some things that are just plain contrary to societal acceptance and tolerance is not.
In one Harnett County town, there is a new ordinance that has been proposed that would ban saggy pants and exposed underwear and fine repeat offenders. I am not talking about the inadvertent “plumber’s crack”, I am talking about the purposeful wearing of pants very low and boxer shorts high. What began as a signal to fellow prison inmates that one was ready to be sodomized has now become a public symbol of defiance and disrespect. Dunn Mayor Pro Tem Carnell Robinson has had enough of the public display of disrespect and has proposed the ordinance that will be up for consideration in August. Robinson was quoted as saying, “I believe this form of dress is totally disrespectful. (This is) just a simple matter of the community re-establishing some standards." He claims that the wearing of sagging britches “is part of a culture that breeds drug sales, drug addictions, crime, and murder. That is not what I want for our community.”
Normally I am very libertarian in my beliefs about personal behavior and choice. However, I rather side with Carnell Robinson on this issue. I try to teach my children modesty and decency. One of the things I love about my bride and attracted me to her is her propensity for modesty in her apparel. I wish to instill that into my three boys. However, I already have one boy who attempts to emulate the trashy dress of exposed undergarments and certain style apparel because he sees it modeled before him in school and on the street.
For years I have lamented the obnoxious behavior of purposely exposed underwear. It is just plain rude and disrespectful. That sort of attitude is prevalent in a particular cultural paradigm and is not necessarily inherent to a particular ethnic group. I do realize, however, that predominantly this behavior is exhibited by young males in the Black community. I am sure that there would be a great outcry in Harnett County if the town ordinance was proposed by a White guy. Carnell Robinson, however, is not Caucasian. He is an articulate, older, Black gentleman who is exercising common sense. If we both support the idea of a standard of public decency and the wearing of exposed underwear is mostly done by young Blacks, does this make us racists, or does it simply mean that we both believe in appropriate public conduct? Robinson and I are probably very opposite in many opinions. I am a big White guy who is extremely conservative. He is chair of the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus, and I am looking at him posing for a picture with President Barack Obama posted on the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus web site right now. Still, we agree on the concept of public decency as pertaining to high riding boxer shorts and low riding denim.
At one time, a local convenience store had a sign posted on their door saying that people with exposed undergarments were not allowed in their store. Last week I wrote about businesses that can attract or drive away patrons by their stances on certain issues. This is one business that I applauded for this stance and I patronize them on a regular basis as a result. Granted, I usually use their gas pumps and car wash, so I don’t know if that sign is still on their door, but they have gotten thousands of dollars of my business over the years as a result.
Considering that there are long standing public indecency laws across the country dealing with such things as public sexual behavior, nudity, and even dress codes, I have no problem with a local community deciding its own standards of reasonable public behavior. However, this particular one is more than just a dress code; it is about showing a little respect for one’s self and the rest of society. I wish that more communities would care about disrespectful and indecent behavior and consider the adoption of similar standards. Until that happens, I have this simple plea. Pull up your pants! You look doggone stupid and show your disdain for everyone around you and the community. The only saving grace to your wearing your pants dragging the ground is that it will be hard to run from the police when your pants are around your ankles.