Dare to Ask: A gripping question involving, well,
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
I notice black men walking around holding their genitals (from outside). Also
I saw a young man holding his pants up with one hand, and the back was under his
buttocks. Are these two acts confined to blacks? — Thomas, 70, white,
People have to find something to complain about. No one talks about the boys
who wear tight pants up to their nipples with suspenders. — JJ, 15, black
Since 70-plus percent of [rap] music is purchased by suburban white
youths, perhaps these are the images that motivate them to buy this music. … The
prison culture inspired the pants that seem to be falling down. Grabbing one’s
jewels is a symbol of power. Alternatively, comedian Richard Pryor answered that
by saying something similar to: “Y’all took everything else. We are just
checking to see if they are still there.” — Herb, Atlanta
Really repugnant to say black guys have some sort of toehold on the
crotch-hold. Give Italians some credit, too.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini reportedly did it big-time, long before the
King of Pop started tugging. Turns out that publicly manhandling the goods may
have started as far back as pre-Christian Roman times, by those who believed it
warded off the evil eye (somebody gazing at you to cause you harm). Online
magazine Slate wrote about this in 2008, with context from Pellegrino D’Acierno,
professor of Italian Studies at Hofstra University.
In more modern times, associating the crotch-grab with black males is another
way to hyper-sexualize them, said Jimi Izrael, culture critic and moderator of
“The Barbershop” for NPR’s “Tell Me More” radio program.
“Everything seems more 'sinister’ when black guys do it — dancing,
crotch-grabbing, even wearing a baseball cap backward,” said Izrael, author of
“The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can’t Find Good Black Men.”
“Little Richard grabbed, but so did Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s a way to demonize
black masculinity … I acknowledge the gay community, but for some black men,
[this is a] way to demonstrate 'I’m proud to be straight, virile, black…’ It is
silly, yeah, but in the same way that a lot of non-verbal cues are.”
And the saggy-pants-in-jail storyline? Revisionist history, he said.
“It’s actually from prep culture. Back in the ’80s, the white preps wore
Polo, and part and parcel of the look was to sag your 501 jeans. It was a small
sag then, and it’s evolved.
“It’s counter-intuitive to attribute it to jailhouse culture. I mean, if you
were to wear your pants low, you’re going to get [raped] in prison.”
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Keep the cross-cultural dialogue going at our
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