published Monday, April 9th, 2012

Cook: Keep your laws off my underwear!

David Cook

It's like we've elected Tommy Hilfiger.

The politics of fashion have entered the state House, where Nashville legislators passed with little dissent the "We Don't Want To See Your Underwear" bill, outlawing sagging pants and visible sports bras in schools.

The governor -- presumably wearing a coat and tie -- will probably sign the bill in the weeks to come.

Sagging -- the odd teenage practice of wearing pants on the latitude somewhere between groin and ankle -- has its history in prison culture, where belts are contraband and thus, prison pants sagged.

At some point, the practice hopped the jailhouse walls and entered pop culture, where it largely exists practiced by black male teenagers.

Of course it's crude. Parts of the body that belong in the bathroom don't belong in public.

That's why we have public indecency laws. Already on the books.

That's why schools can craft their own dress codes. Already doing that.

So why did legislators -- isn't this Big Government intruding? -- seem so convinced they need to legislate how students -- mainly black males -- can dress?

Why not outlaw the suit and tie, the dress of choice for most people who commit the largest crimes in our country? Like declaring war. Blowing off mountaintops. Enron. The banking bubble.

It's the Hoodification of Politics, where the big and important issues are covered up by superficial ones.

The hoodie -- a traditionally blue-collar coat with hood and drawstrings used for protection from weather or to hide your face for various reasons -- has become center of political discourse, a symbol emerging from the death of Trayvon Martin.

Hoods have been used in the not-so-distant past as well. White hoods, pointed at the top, burning cross in the background. Terror suspects overseas. All hooded.

The head gets covered, which represents identity (face) and intelligence (brain). The Hoodification of Politics is about paying attention to the surface -- the outside -- and covering up what really matters.

Consider: We criminalize sports bras, while legalizing the blowing up of mountains for coal.

Nashville legislators are also working to encourage science teachers to teach the weaknesses of such things as biological evolution and climate change.

I imagine they'll do this between tornado drills, as the 18 zillion tornadoes that seem to be descending on our state have nothing to do with a changing climate, right?

In Chattanooga, the Occupy protesters were tossed from the county courthouse. Why? Lawn maintenance. The lawn was getting mussed up, and clearly the lawn -- the green surface of things -- matters more than the First Amendment. Or corporate control over democracy, which was what Occupy was mainly protesting.

Look, it's not just politics. The media are guilty, too.

It's been three weeks since Keoshia Ford was shot in the head. Thirteen years old. Playing in the yard. Drive-by madness.

She's gotten a millisecond of attention compared to Gail Palmgren, the Signal Mountain housewife who went missing and dominated headlines for months in this city.

Keoshia, in a coma and fighting for her precious life, matters. Every bit as much as Palmgren.

That's why Mayor Ron Littlefield deserves applause.

Running on empty at the end of a battered political year, the mayor made one of the most unpopular decisions imaginable: Move the Bessie Smith Strut away from M.L. King Boulevard to a sanitized and safer Riverbend.

The police have warned him of all that could go wrong if gun violence showed up among the tall-boy beers, barbecue and blues. Keoshia times 10.

In the interest of public safety, he made a tough decision, one that valued the depth of human life.

I wonder what lawmakers in Nashville would say. Based on the way they've made an idol of the Second Amendment, they'd probably recommend arming everybody at the Strut.

It's like we've elected Ted Nugent. Well dressed, of course.

David Cook can be reached at

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jjmez said...

Not to worry, Mr. Cook. Just sit back and wait. Three to five years down the road, the same people who begged for this law will be screaming about the prison system locking up so many of its young black males. The very same ones who begged for stiffer crack cocaine laws who later cried that America was targeting its black population to fill jail and prison cells. My dad always said black people in power will work themselves back into bondage.

Anything one can be fined for one will eventually be jailed for. *Too bad black leaders still just don't seem to get it* and black voters still keep voting them into office because they're black.

April 9, 2012 at 9:17 p.m.
chatt_man said...

It really is sad that some of the youth of today have no more respect for themselves or others than to dress the way some do (black and white) with this "sagging", what a stupid term. Thank goodness it's only some of them. Kudos to the ones with better sense and self respect.

I'm not all that old, but when I was growing up my dad taught me NOT to show my a$$, and for the last couple years now we've all been told that... crack kills!

My theory is, those that go around and have to use one hand to keep their pants up, must not have much down there to hang them on.

April 10, 2012 at 1:40 p.m.
Lr103 said...

chatt_man if adults, especially those from the black community, hadn't thrown such a hissy fit over the fad, it would have cooled down and eventually died out on its own like the gothic look did. It's the fuss over the style that made the teens defiant. Same goes with the gangs hysteria.

April 10, 2012 at 5:02 p.m.

He's saying the law is unnecessary, which it is, because every school I've been to has rules against sagging, sports bras, spaghetti straps, and short shorts. I don't see the state legislature passing laws about short shorts, which was just as much a problem as sagging in my high school. Mr Cook is one of the only writers to draw the connections between these ridiculous laws being passed. That is, our representatives are ignoring the real cause of all these problems.
We're not going to solve the "gang problem" by arresting every black person we see wearing a red or blue shirt (current gang laws legalize racial profiling, in my opinion. Anyone who 'looks like they're affiliated with a gang' is subject to this.). One way to actually help is programs like the Taft center. Other programs are also disappearing. After school programs, like music and the arts, are being cut every year. Most communities where this is a problem have nothing in them for kids to do besides hustle and do drugs. You wonder why we have a "gang problem"? Look to your representatives: they've been taking away what little the black community had without even asking the community how they think the problems can be solved. It's ridiculous that people think they can solve someone else's problems without even talking to them. I talk to people in the projects almost every day. They have ideas, they have solutions, but they do not have the resources to put these into place.

April 11, 2012 at 4:42 p.m.
pNc said...

Just goes to show not everyone freed from bondage has a desire to remain free.

dinodestroyerdanny You do know don't you that it's a black guy that's pushing this sagging law, don't you? His name is Joe Towns. Some state rep or something out of Memphis. He tried this law a few years back and the whites thank GOD for white people actually sort of tried to delay it. Now he's at it again, and this time it looks like he might get his way. Not a very bright individual when it comes to historical realities.

April 11, 2012 at 6:41 p.m.
ceeweed said...

Holy plumber's crack, Batman! Were there ever any dinosaurs in Tennessee?...No Robin, seems the dinosaurs boycotted the Volunteer State...Wow Batman! Have you ever seen a Sports' Bra? No Robin, but I've seen plenty of fat girls in sleep pants and house shoes at the Wal-Marts. Holy shake-n-quake Batman! What's happening in Tennessee? I don't know Robin, but we should both be O.K. just as long as we "Don't say gay"...

April 15, 2012 at 9:22 p.m.
timbo said...

You people just don't get it...blacks can do whatever they want and to a liberal that is just fine.

April 16, 2012 at 12:57 p.m.
jjmez said...

It'll take some progressive thinking white man to come rescue the black man again who keeps digging holes for himself and his people. Unfortunately.

April 16, 2012 at 5:43 p.m.
TOES02800 said...

Will someone please give me one liberal policy that has ever worked?

April 17, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.
please login to post a comment

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »


Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.