Editor’s note: Mary Carey’s column “Saggy Pants,” in which she expresses fears for her black son’s safety based on the way he dresses, continues to generate discussion. Carey wrote in part that when her son leaves for college she will tell him: “If your pants sag and your hat is crooked on your head, people will judge you harshly. They want a simple world where bad people dress a certain way and they don’t have to consider each person as an individual. If the police pull you over, turn the car off, take your hat and sunglasses off, and put your hands on the door. Say “yes sir” and “no sir.” Stay quiet and do what he says. If he hits you, do not hit back. When you get to the police station you will call us and we will take it from there. We will take care of it.”
Column touches maternal heart
I know Mary Carey and her amazing Saggy Pants son – and I worry about his safety too (DN, bit.ly/1yoCEIa).
I am ashamed to say that it has taken a white mother I know of a black young man I care about to really bring this deep and profound issue of human rights home to me – and it has hit me right in the middle of my maternal heart.
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Lately there is so much in the news about the impact of not enough female voices being heard – in the NFL, Congress and campus sexual assaults to mention just a few. The safety of all mothers’ sons is an issue I hope we can rally round.
Thank you, Mary Carey, for your beautiful and thought-filled essay. It is a real wake-up call for the mother in us all.
I read Mary Carey’s article, “Saggy Pants,” over the weekend. It touched me so that I decided I needed to write this letter and perhaps change the perception so many have when they see a young black man with saggy pants!
Mary has a firsthand experience of what it means to be the mother of a young black man – she also has a white son just a year younger – and the observations made about the difference in perception of these two brothers must be startling and heartbreaking!
There is much in the media about profiling, and for the “white suburban mom,sipping her latte at Starbucks,” I am not sure there is ever malicious intent when judging a “saggy pants” kid – it is this profile that we are used to seeing and reading about. It is often not until after a tragic death-that we realize the young man was a good student, loving thoughtful son – and more!
I have more questions than answers about this situation, but I am hopeful that Mary’s article made us more aware that we should NOT be so quick to judge every book by its cover!
Profiling’s pluses and minuses
Profiling is a way of life. As much as liberal idealism preaches it is “bad,” it has a place to put to good use.
Profiling is math, it's statistics ... and both can be used for good and bad. Unfortunately the profile the writer’s son chooses to associate his appearance with has a long negative record. I did not create it.
We profile and make assumptions nearly every five minutes when we are out of our houses. It generally keeps us out of trouble, but not always. It is statistics ... and there are always exceptions and outliers.
I learned the hard way whom not to hang out with growing up. I learned to profile ... then I learned that profiling does not always work as the “good” had some bad in it as well. But for the most part the paradigm I created (we all create) does a great job of keeping us out of trouble in social settings, on the highway, walking down the street.
The worst thing we can do as a society is to act as if this technique wrong; the second worst thing is to teach that it is wrong. Bad people with bad habits and particular patterns will always be with us.
If “good” citizens of society embrace a characteristic that makes them outwardly indistinguishable from the “bad” or “could be bad,” that is their choice. But they better be ready for the choices others make on account of historical perception.
It is what keeps us safe, and no one needs to be chastised for trying to do that.
Who is more dangerous?
I believe the investment bankers that gutted the economy of our nation all had their shirts tucked in, and their ties on straight. Dressing neatly hides the sociopaths quite well. So, who is actually more dangerous to our country – the street corner kid in slouchy pants smoking a joint ... or the BP oil executive?
I think the point I am making is that one can’t judge a book by its cover, and even if profiling exists, the consequences of this profiling has proven to be a disaster for young black males. It has been statistically proven that blacks and whites use illicit drugs at about the same rate, but far more young black men end up in prison than young white men. In light of the multiple police shootings of black youth in many states, isn't it time we stopped, and thought about the consequences of our actions?
New project, code will add vibrancy
As a small business owner in the Village Plaza shopping center in Chapel Hill, I am excited to see the first project proposal come through under the new Ephesus-Fordham zoning rules.
The addition of residents in the heart of an otherwise commercial district will bring more customers into the businesses in the area and add a vibrancy that is lacking in the district’s current form.
As I understand them, the new rules will transform the district into a more pedestrian-friendly shopping and entertainment area that people will enjoy and actually spend time in as opposed to driving in and out for a single purpose. In short, I greatly prefer a well-executed, mixed-use development at my back door to the empty, overgrown lot that has been there for the past 10 years.
Even though the new retail space may bring in businesses that compete with my business and my neighbors, the additional activity and interest will be a positive change for us all. During the debate leading up to the approval, I heard many non-business owners lament that there is a chance that rent could increase and drive out locally owned businesses like mine. Landlords will only be able to charge more if there is an increase in customer traffic that increases sales. If this becomes a reality, I’m happy to pay more rent if it means more business; and I’m confident that my business can compete with any competitors.
I am pleased with the Town Council for passing the form-based code in a manner that will actually spur the development it intended instead of alternatives that would have rendered redevelopment impractical.
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