I’ll get my opinion out of the way first: the crux of the matter is not whether the 20 year old black man refused to pull up his pants when asked,
or whether the 65 year old white man has a right to wear women’s underwear on planes.
The crux of the matter is this: a US Airways employee asked the young black man to pull up his pants, whereas they rarely have asked the white man – who flies US Airways several times a month – to cover up.
It is, in my opinion, a question of double standards.
For many people, a young black man wearing baggy trousers is threatening; an older white man in women’s undies is, at best, comical, at worst, in poor taste.
I should know. I’m one of the many.
I own bars in downtown Oakland, and when I see a group of twenty something black men shuffling down the street, boxers exposed, I don’t cross the street to avoid them, but my radar does crank up, and I’m a little on edge until we pass each other.
I can’t help it: my fight or flight response kicks in.
And if I were to see a white cross dresser walking down 14th Street? The only thing I would be fighting is the urge to laugh.
It’s simple: I find this a little threatening:
This I don’t:
Prosecutors are considering whether to bring charges against Deshon Marmon, the 20 year old college football player, who, having refused to pull up his pants at the airport, was arrested on suspicion of trespassing, battery and resisting arrest.
The laws about dress codes on airplanes are purposely vague, requiring only that passengers not be “inappropriately clothed.” So it’s up to whoever happens to see you to decide whether your dress constitutes a threat to safety.
As Al Anolik, a bay area attorney who champions air travelers’ rights, put it: “It’s about the crew, which has omnipotent power. If a crew member says something to you, and deems your response ‘unsafe,’ and that it could lead to a safety concern – that’s it. That’s the law. You’re out.”
From the 65 year old cross dresser’s point of view (who hasn’t revealed his name, because, as a business consultant, he worries his reputation could be tarnished – especially his reputation for figuring out how not to draw attention to yourself if you’re worried about your reputation) thinks it’s a question of tone and attitude:
“His issue was that he refused to listen to an employee and became belligerent. I have a feeling youth played a role in his response. I’ve learned over the years, the best response to a confrontation is a soft response. Becoming angry is never a good practice. You cloud your own ability to think properly, and you reduce your chances of persuading the other person.”
Still, he said, he probably wouldn’t have asked Marmon to pull up his pants.
“These kids probably look at me and don’t like what I’m wearing,” he said. “I’m not really one to put myself out there and pass judgment on what someone else is wearing.”
Right. He’s a winter. That pastel blue is washing him out. I would’ve gone navy.
The bottom line: Marmon didn’t make nice when he was asked to pull up his pants. I think he was being totally obnoxious, needlessly confrontational, and I hate the whole exposed boxer thing.
But god bless him for exposing something much more important: our (maybe not so) latent racism.