Â Â The city fathers and mothers of Long Beach, CA, have taken it upon themselves to neaten up certain young Long Beach residents by insisting that they “pick â€˜em up and keep â€˜em up,” (“em” being their pants.)Â
More precisely, “Bishop William Ervin along with Carson City Councilman Mike Gipson are calling on black children and teens to ‘pull up their pants on their waist’ as a sign of respect during Black History Month.”Â As a white elder, that insistence is asÂ perplexing as Black History Month.Â
What Bishop Ervin and Councilman Gipson seem to be implying is that young black boys and men–young black girls and women seem to know where their waistlines are–are somehow demeaning black history by exhibiting their underwear.Â That fashion statement, whateverÂ the nature of that statementÂ is, and that concern, areÂ baffling since there are so many other blackÂ issues the bishop and councilman could be addressing.Â
Other words of wisdom offered for black youths by the Long Beach community include, â€œYou can have the swag without the sagâ€ and a reminder that “the [pants-uplifting] plan is not just for cultural purposes, but may have legal benefits as well: sagging pants are often used for profiling purposes by law enforcement agencies:”Â http://tiny.cc/xllysÂ
The “cultural purposes” reference eludes me but the lesson is thatÂ you can swagger without the sagger and if you insist on the sag look, you risk being arrested during, before, and after Black History Month.Â
I doubt many black youths are being arrested forÂ saggy pants but untold numbers are being arrested for burglaries, robberies, aggravated assaults, rapes, motor vehicle thefts, gun possession, etc.Â
It’sÂ unfortunate thatÂ Ervin, Gipson, and the other community leaders didn’t see fit to caution them on that aspect of life since, at the risk of being labeled a bigot for re-stating the obvious,Â young blacks representÂ a wildly disproportionate number of America’s criminals: http://tiny.cc/2ha77
And their incarceration has nothing to do with how they wear their pants.Â
Black History Month, aka African-American Month, was instituted in 1976 and is attended by ceremonies, speeches, school projects and, according to the Library of Congress,Â pays “tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society,”Â an admirable goal, indeed.Â
However, the question arises as to the necessity as well as the proprietyÂ of devoting any month to any particular race to the exclusion of other, month-less, races.Â That exclusion is rendered all the more absurdÂ byÂ complaints voiced by some black groups and individuals that dedicating FebruaryÂ to commemorate blackÂ achievement is discriminatory because it’sÂ the shortest month of the year.Â
Considering, but perhaps assuming too much, that African-Americans are interested in integration rather than segregation, the whole concept of a Black History Month seems more than a tad exclusionary and divisive in a nation and society committed, rightly or wrongly, to multiculturalism.Â “Multicultural” implies a diverse blending of disparate demographics, not a singling out of one race from another.Â Â
I understand the thinking of some blacks that the rest of the year is focused on white history, a view that had validity prior to the Civil Rights Movement but which is as incongruous and anachronistic today asÂ Jim Crow laws are today.
Blacks have made enormous strides in our society in a wide variety of fields andÂ have already been honored by having the only national holiday set aside for any American, Martin Luther King Day, not to mention a black president.Â To say in 2011 that they haven’t been fully incorporated in that society and still require the distinction of a Black History Month is not only an insult to King’s memory and to their president but logically suggests the other eleven months be designated White History Months.Â
That’s about as goofy an idea as Black History Month, or saggy pants.