Just the other day a young man wandered up to our office and asked my coworker and myself if he could borrow a phone. Our office is a few blocks from the jail and from time to time we get someone who needs a ride home but doesn’t have the money for the pay phone at the jail. Now this young man, who looked all of eighteen at the most, is screwed. He was wearing a shirt a size too big, pants three sizes too big, the pants were half way down to his knees, and his baseball cap was cocked to one side and up in the air.
My coworker allowed the young man to use his cell phone and the young man called someone named, “Gramma” to come get him. The new releases have been warned not to hang around the area so he started off down the road, holding his pants up with one hand as he walked.
A few minutes later we rode down the road to discover he had not, could not have, made it very far because walking while dressed in that fashion isn’t easy. His pants cuff were getting caught in his shoes, pulling his pants down even further, and I wondered how far it was he had to go dressed like this and why he would.
Of course this set off a conversation about where this young man’s future might lead him. Rightly, my coworker surmised this is someone who is going to go nowhere and he is going to get there much more quickly than he can walk. Worse yet, if this is what young women see has the height of fashion these days, he may very well procreate and a new generation of saggy pants and cocked hat young men will do the same slow walk down the same road.
Get a room full of Southern middle aged whites and start a conversation about someone’s pants down around the ground and you’ll get the standard fare of racist remarks but you’ll also get a few who are genuinely distressed that the saggy pants culture is destroying the futures of people who simply ought to know better than to dress this way if they’re ever going to seek gainful employment or be taken seriously. I will at that point very innocently ask this question, “Why do you think happens when someone within that culture expresses the need for change?”
The conversation turns to the idea there must be someone, or some group of people within a culture who has to speak out, to stand up for what is obviously right, and if only that one voice was raised then others might also be raised and yea! The whole nation of Saggy Pants Young Men would gather to burn their blasphemous britches and be fitted for some nice beige kakis.
Then I ask them what their reaction was the last time we spoke of language skills in The South and how they reacted when I suggested that “We ain’t going nowhere” might actually be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as it were.
It seems perfectly fine to criticize someone for the way they dress when it would appear that manner of dress reveals that person is ignorant, but at the same time when the person doing the criticizing couldn’t pass a fourth grade English test, well, that’s just the way we all talk down here.
So the next question seems to be one of those Titanic heading towards the iceberg questions, “What happens when the saggy pants boys become saggy pants adults and the next generation seems to think this is perfectly normal?”
Why, then they are just doomed, I tell you!
So because your father and mother, both sets of grandparents, and everyone else you ever knew could not or would not use the English language to effect, does this now mean that it’s okay to pass the saggy brain down to the next generation?
The way someone speaks usually reflects something about who they are and how much they know. This can also be said about their manner of dress. This doesn’t mean someone who has their pants hanging down around their knees and uses double negatives is a moron. But it does suggest that the person in question is going to have some problems getting past the image their manner of speech and their pants project. This may not be fair but it is entirely accurate.
The same people who decry the Saggy Pants People are the very same people who are absorbed by NASCAR and Honey Boo Boo. Corporate sponsorship of sporting events has become a form of religion in The South. The mere fact that a sports team play in the same geographic region is enough for some fans to become fanatics. Yet other than a warm fuzzy feeling after a few beers and a victory, there is no gain to this whatsoever. These same people attach themselves to those staged “reality” television shows as if each and every moment brings something wonderful into their lives.
Where is there time for some sort of self-correction in such a culture? Where is there some form of educational device that might lend assistance to a people who, clearly, not only cannot determine the value of language skills, but actually think such things are Anti-Southern?
The same people who would describe someone in saggy pants as “stupid” might do so thusly, “ That boy ain’t going nowhere dressed like that cuz he’s stupid” Far too many people know at some level what language skills are, and what they are supposed to be, but it’s become a cultural phenomenon to flavor every day speech with ignorance.
And some people think it’s cute, or chic, or “country” to do so, as if the very act of behaving ignorant is in and of itself virtuous. The same parents who want their children to grow up more educated than themselves will invest in a four foot wide television and gaming systems that cost thousands of dollars but complain about the price of school books.
The South is being invaded by Asians and by those people from South of our borders. One class of people work harder than we do and the other not only out work us, but they are better educated. While we more and more become caricatures of Southern Culture, with our trailers decked out with satellite dishes, those people who study hard, work hard, and speak better English than we are slowly reinventing what The South will look like.
We will be there to see it. We ain’t going nowhere.