A New York politician proudly unveiled his campaign theme, announcing it with six billboards across Brooklyn in the hope of reaching as many voters as possible. However, as soon as passersby saw the political sign, the controversial message sparked accusations of racism.
While serving as a New York State senator, Eric Adams found himself in the center of controversy. Not long into his campaign, the career Democrat soon encountered accusations of racism toward African-Americans, despite being a black man himself.
In today’s divisive atmosphere, nearly everything can be construed as offensive to someone. Astonishingly, all it took for his credibility to come under fire was a simple billboard.
Adams launched his political campaign with a controversial billboard, which showcased a pair of young black men sagging their pants as part of the urban trend. Along the sides of the sign read the words “Stop the sag!” and “Raise your pants, raise your image” in bold letters, CNN reports.
Adams unveiled the image on six billboards around Brooklyn, hoping to inspire black youths to dress appropriately in order to be taken more seriously by their community. Instead, he received mixed reactions, including some questioning whether the imagery was racist against black males and phobic toward young people’s fashion trends.
Despite receiving mixed responses, Adams is sticking by his billboard’s message. In fact, he believes that changing how America perceives black men starts with changing how black men present themselves, he told The New York Times.
“I was on a subway train, and there was this young man,” State Senator Eric Adams of Brooklyn said. “His behind was showing, literally. He had underwear, but even the underwear was sagging. All the passengers were looking at each other in disgust, but nobody was saying anything.”
But Adams’ dress code campaign didn’t stop at billboards. In yet another controversial move, the Democratic politician launched an ad to support his racial agenda. In the commercial, historically racist imagery is flashed on the screen before Adams addresses the issue.
Still, even those who didn’t disagree with Adams’ campaign argued that saggy pants is a trivial issue that won’t impact the bigger problems facing black men. According to NBC News, some have criticized Adams for wasting money on billboards that simply aren’t effective.
“I think there’s other things going on besides someone’s pants being low,” said James Scott, 27, of Brooklyn, his jeans sitting jauntily low on his hips.
But Adams insists that sagging is part and parcel of criminal behavior in youths. He explained that, if adults are willing to teach young people to dress in a way that commands respect, they will feel differently about themselves and, thus, be more likely to act the part.
“It’s part of a larger campaign … to tell our young people and our community as a whole, we are better than this,” Adams told CNN, adding that the sagging trend originated from prison culture. According to the former New York police captain, “I policed all over the city. … The first indicator of whether a young person was in trouble was the way they dressed.”
While many agree with Adams’ point of view, they admit that he’s probably just catering to his core constituency, which is made up mostly of older black voters. So far, his direction has worked well, earning him support in his community on both sides of the political spectrum.
Adams maintains that, when black men sag their pants, they are playing into racial stereotypes and essentially mocking themselves. While he doesn’t think that the message will necessarily convince young people, he hopes that it will inspire their elders to hold them accountable and encourage them to change the way they present themselves.