Black principal of Houston inner-city school lays down the dress code...on parents

A principal at a Houston high school has issued a memo that bans parents from entering her school who are not appropriately dressed.

Items banned from the building include shower caps, hair rollers, bonnets, satin caps ... house shoes, undershirts (for men), and pajamas, or anything that could be construed as such, a topic on which the directive casts a wide net: '[A]ttire that could possibly be pajamas, underwear, or home setting wear, such as flannel pajamas," it reads.

Items banned from the entire campus include hot pants and Daisy Dukes, cleavage-revealing dresses, saggy pants or ripped-up, overly revealing jeans, and leggings, another topic on which the order goes to some length to explain.  To warrant a ban, they must be "showing your bottom and where your body is not covered from the front or the back (rear).

Critics are calling this "a form of  "respectability politics," defined as "the way minority groups police their behavior to fit white standards of decorum and behavior."  "Coined by author Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, this tendency among African Americans has roots in the works of WEB DuBois and Booker T. Washington; curmudgeonly NBA commentator Charles Barkley, comedian Chris Rock, and even Barack Obama have been accused of practicing respectability politics."

This may be the long awaited rebound of the decent against the indecent.  Principal Carlotta Outley Brown is black, and Madison High School is in the inner city.  She appears to be instituting a regime that prepares students for life after high school.  "Respectability politics" seems to argue that anybody should be able to wear anything in any way he pleases.  This is a variation of sixties hippies, who dressed like bums to disrespect the system generally.

That disrespect is intended in the current context becomes clear when defiant attitudes accompany inappropriate dress.  Kids model their parents and imbibe the defiance along with the rest.  This approach to the world outside home is a recipe not for success, but rather for lifelong conflict.

One can't escape the suspicion that such people really aren't much concerned with their progeny's success.  It's one thing to "be your own man" and to dress to showcase your individuality, but this can be done without vulgarity and disrespect.  The opinions of others do matter.  Over time, the general opinion establishes rules of propriety.

The underlying principle is respect for legitimate authority, without which society (and high schools) breaks down.  That authority can be abused isn't the issue here; the more basic need for rules, and for authority to establish those rules and exact compliance with them, is.

This gutsy principal has taken the bull by the horns.  We can be sure there will be a backlash during which she will be accused of racism, Uncle Tomism, etc.  In similar situations in universities, we're accustomed to seeing the administration backing down, apologizing, and undercutting such brave souls, perhaps even firing them.

We can hope her district has the fortitude and clear-eyed vision that animate Mrs. Brown, to stand behind and fortify her decision.  Of her kind America needs more, not fewer.