Gerard Kersey speaks on individuals being stereotyped based on their appearance, causing them to lose out on great opportunities including employment.
The other day I was in a department store to purchase some batteries. While looking for the brand I preferred I noticed that the packaging was damaged. This happened to be the last one left as well. Even though It was damaged I decided to still go ahead and purchase it being that I really didn’t like the other brands. When I reached the counter the clerk informed me that because the item was damaged they would offer it to me for half price. The company had devalued the product because the packaging was unattractive. I quickly agreed to the price change and left. Once I got home and opened it up I noticed that even though the package was damaged, the actual product was in excellent condition. I immediately put the batteries in the remote control and began using them. They worked perfectly and just as well as any others I had previously purchased.
This got me to thinking about how individuals are devalued based simply on their appearance as well. Like it or not this happens all day every day. People are looked on as nerdy, tough guys, criminals, successful and unsuccessful based on their “packaging.” Just like the batteries were still great despite the package being damaged, some individuals are the same way. They could be great thinkers, intelligent, wise and just overall nice people but people are judging them based on their package.
This brings up the issue our young people are going through now which is that of “saggin.” For those who are unaware of what that is let me help you. Sagging is a manner of wearing trousers which sag so that the top is significantly below the waist, sometimes revealing much of the underwear. Sagging is predominantly a male fashion. Now I know every generation has their own popular style of expression. My generation had a few as well. I had the “Kid N Play” high top fade (you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t fly!). Also there was the “Kwame” Polka Dot movement and blond hair streaks. Also there was the big clown club/house shoes and club clothing. All of these were a way to express some sort of individualism, or rebellion against the system or even just a free spirit having fun. However, I believe it is a little different with saggin. Though the hightop fade was weird looking and the club shoes were strange they never crossed over into disrespectful or vulgar.
Now I know there are levels to saggin …..
1) slightly hanging below your waist, some underwear showing
2) the more popular halfway down the butt, shows plenty of underwear
We also know that this style was popularized in the prison system, but also people see their favorite music and movie stars doing it as well. Also this isn’t solely a young person style, this is done by older gentleman as well. So it can be disrespectful for women and children to witness in the street. Remember we learn by the examples we see. However the bigger problem is when individuals who sag constantly go for job interviews or go to conduct business. Generally saggin is just that, a style. The individuals who do so are just following the trend and style of their generation. But just like the damaged battery package, society will only see the outside and will devalue the individual totally.
Now there are bad apples in every bunch as we know, so certain individuals who sag may be into some sort of negative activity or unproductive lifestyle but that is not always the case. However the perception greatly effects those who do. I do not agree with the style itself primarily because of the image and I know how they will be viewed by those around them, Picture this….
You are walking down a street and you see 5 males standing in your way all saggin. How do you feel? What do you do? Now picture the same street and the same individuals but they are dressed in suits. Do you feel the same way? Do you do the same thing? 8 out of 10 people I asked had different reactions simply based on what the men were wearing. The same 5 men, the same mind, same history, same voices, the only thing that was different was their attire. Now we don’t live our life based on the reaction of others, I am definitely against that but we have to realize the greatest resource in this world is people. We have to communicate, network, work and have relationships with people to be successful.
As a person who was part of hiring people at one time, I have seen individuals come to interviews saggin. Unfortunately they weren’t selected for the position, and that was a major reason why. The perception that gives others is not a positive one. They could have been the better candidate but their package hurt them. Sometimes it is just a matter of not having the finances to buy a suit.
The nonprofit I founded That Suits You tries to help address that issue. We provide professional attire to job trained and qualified men free of charge. We have suited almost 100 men with suits, shirts and ties. Some men come in saggin, but leave suited. Some have never worn a suit before, some have never even tied a tie. As we presented the suits to them some have even cried. Society may have seen them as damaged and may have devalued them but we know that is not the truth and some just need a different package to get an opportunity to show that they are unique, talented and gifted. The package doesn’t always give a true value of the product. By the way my remote is still working just fine!
Originally published on The Huffington Post