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Is a Florida Town’s Saggy Pants Ban Just an Excuse for Racial Profiling?

A Florida town has banned saggy pants.

Ocala City Council has made it a crime to don underwear-revealing baggy bottoms on sidewalks, streets, parks, sports, recreation and public transportation facilities, and threatens to fine offenders $500 or six-months in jail for anyone refusing to wear better fitting duds.

The councilwoman behind the measure said that she just wants to make her town look nicer and spare people from seeing other people’s undies on the street.

“I just think it’s disgraceful to show your underwear. We try to be a nice, clean city.  I think it’ll help clean it up some,” she said.

Critics, however, are quick to point out that the ban is very specific and targets dress common but not exclusive to African-American males while staying mum on other underwear-revealing garb, like hip-hugging jeans or tank tops that allow bra straps to show.

They also point out that the ability to stop people just on the basis of what they are wearing can lead to police harassment and unnecessary arrests.

“I think this is a form of harassment. It gets you pulled to the side, (so they can) harass you, search you and have a right to do whatever they want to,” resident Curt Brown told the local news, adding that he thinks that it is just an excuse to profile young African-American men.

Resident Adia Crumley said she thinks that the saggy pants ban is about money. “It just makes no sense whatsoever. It’s another way to lock people up and put them in jail so the city can make money off of that.”

Rich, however, counters that when she proposed the bill she was not thinking of the color of the people’s skin, but the offensiveness of their visible underwear.

“It doesn’t matter what color they are, they all wear their pants down,” she said in defense of the now on-the-books saggy pants ban in her town.

Photo Credit: Malingering

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.