Hat Tip: Racewire

A Louisiana town has managed to find another profoundly trivial reason to trample the first amendment.

The new indecent exposure ordinance in this Cajun-country town of about 2,000 carries penalties of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for being caught in pants that show undergarments or, in the mayor’s phrase, “private parts.” “I don’t know if it will do any good, but it won’t hurt,” said Delcambre Councilman Albert Roy, who introduced the ordinance. “It’s obvious, and anybody with common sense can see your parts when you wear sagging pants.”

That’s right, you can be thrown in jail for six months for wearing your pants low. The Mayor argues that the law doesn’t target black folks.

Low-hanging, baggy pants have become a fashion fad, mostly for young men in the hip-hop culture. Several residents objected that the ordinance targeted blacks. Broussard denied any racial motivation. “White people wear sagging pants, too. Anybody who wears these pants should be held responsible.”

Broussard’s point hardly refutes the idea that this law targets blacks, it just also targets in a larger sense, contemporary African-American culture in the form of Hip-hop. The law isn’t simply meant to provide another excuse to throw black people in jail, it also hopes to dissuade white people from participating in or imitating Hip-hop culture.

Could anyone imagine similar laws targeting shirts that say “No Fat Chicks?”

Broussard’s advice for people who like their pants to hang low: “Just wear it properly. Cover your vital parts. I mean, if you expose your private parts, you’ll get a fine. If you walk up and your pants drop, you get a fine. They’re better off taking the pants off and just wearing a dress.”

I’ve never seen anyone sag their pants in order to expose themselves a style choice. How much of this is at the discretion of the arresting officer? And why is the government telling people how to dress?

The fact that another racially motivated law targeting black people and black culture is being passed in the South is profoundly disturbing in the context of Genarlow Wilson, whose 10 year prison sentence for having consensual oral sex with a girl two years his junior was recently overturned after he spent two years in prison.

The case began three years ago when Mr. Wilson was arrested for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party in 2003. Under Georgia law, that offense qualified as aggravated child molestation, a felony charge largely intended for use against adult sexual predators, not teenagers like Mr. Wilson, who was 17 at the time of the incident. He had no prior criminal record and was an honors student and star athlete.

Being a gifted student and talented athelete did not protect Genarlow Wilson from racial descrimination in court, which took away two years of his life. Our current legal system is racially biased enough without laws that so blatantly target black people. What does it say that such laws are once again acceptable in Delacambre, Louisiana?

UPDATE: A little cultural perspective on the hostility to Hip-hop, and charges of “obscenity”.

“A wave of vulgar, filthy and suggestive music has inundated the land with its obscene posturing, its lewd gestures,” spewed one newspaper in 1899 about jazz.

When jazz swept through Chicago, the playing of saxophones and trumpets was banned after dark; “reckless” new jazz dance steps like the bunny hug, the turkey trot and the lame duck were outlawed.

Things, change, stay the same.

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