Making Others 'Comfortable'


Brad Franklin

Of dreadlocks and MBAs; of fashion trends and government intervention; of earrings and the news. Don't worry; I'm about to make my point. Here it is:

America has become eerily obsessed with what people wear, how they wear their hair and the accessories that they choose to sport. Seemingly, in this day and age, regulating fashion choices has become the go-to solution when school authorities or elected officials feel they have lost control of the people they serve. Suddenly, they cling to outdated standards and overly aggressive "bans" that ultimately do nothing to solve any problems. It just shows how lazy these authority figures are—or how callously out if touch they are with the younger generation.

Recently, Hinds County has been dealing with a proposed ban on saggy pants. Luckily, the ordinance was voted down at a recent Board of Supervisors' meeting, but the hours and manpower lost on this senseless proposal can never be returned.

Like many folks, I have no desire to see someone's backside, but not only is it unconstitutional to suggest laws can regulate fashion, they're unenforceable. Further, such laws try to do what politicians who pander to a political demographic do. They fail to put the bulk of the responsibility where it actually lies—with parents.

I don't want, or need, the government to tell my son to pull his britches up. That's my job.

Politicians, especially those bucking for re-election, are prone to peddling superficial solutions to deep-rooted problems. Saggy pants don't make thugs any more than cornrows and dreadlocks make a young person "unhireable."

But you can't tell that to Hampton University officials. They want to dictate how their post-graduate students wear their hair. Because, apparently, it's hairstyles, not grade-point averages, that make you attractive to employers. Even amidst backlash, the HBCU has maintained its ban on 'rows and 'locks, from what I'm told. Way to help foster self-esteem and independent expression within the black academic community, Hampton.

It seems that black males have been reared to make themselves as non-threatening as possible. No other demographic, to my knowledge, has to do more adjusting and conforming than the black male. We're subjected to doing things to make the dominant culture feel comfortable, because if we make them comfortable, we can be accepted.

In other words: Don't wear dreds; don't sag; don't get tattoos, speak this way or walk that way—talent be damned.

This is always a sensitive subject for me because I've lived it most of my adult life. I've been told to "ditch the 'fro," hide the tattoos, lose the "rap name," get rid of the earring, etc. Why? Just so I can make others feel comfortable.

Ask yourself these questions: Do you think every kid that sags his pants is a criminal? Would you refuse advice from an accountant who wore cornrows?

Is a news talk-show host less credible to you if he wears an earring?

If your short answers to those questions are "yes," then dare I say the problem doesn't necessarily lie with the black males who do those things.

The problem is perhaps with you and your closed mind.

And that's the truth ... shonuff.

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