DeShon Marman, a safety for the University of New Mexico football team, was punted off US Airways Flight 488 and arrested on suspicion of trespassing, obstruction and battery of a police officer after “refusing” to pull up his sagging pants at the request of four different airline employees, including the captain.

The Marman incident generated national headlines and debates concerning racial profiling and discrimination. Even more, it sparked viral videos showing Marman calmly, but in an irritated manner, repeatedly addressing the captain as “sir” and reiterating statements such as “I told the [flight attendant] that when I sit down everything will be taken care of, I’m sitting down and it’s taken care of. I didn’t do anything. This is all unnecessary, sir,” and “I’m just like everybody else. Yes I am. Yes I am.”

The fact that Marman felt so compelled to state, “I’m just like everybody else,” and to substantiate the claim with a couple of “Yes I am” declarations, proves just how much he and far too many others are not just like everybody else.

He is a young Black male who must learn to properly navigate a world that is socially trained to fear and attack him. Given the wealth of legitimate reasons Black males have for not trusting authority figures (note such current and historical issues as police brutality, the Tuskegee experiment, Jim Crow, politicians who label us as an issue, and psychiatrists and academics who label us a pathology), we must learn very early exactly how to deal with authorities (see Oscar Grant). We must learn exactly how to pull out our wallets in order to show I.D. (see Amadou Diallo). Hell, we must even learn exactly how to recognize plainclothed officers (see Sean Bell).

Any misstep may very well mean our lives. The cry for normalcy–that is, to be recognized as human, the proof that too many people think he and other Black men like him are not, and the history of power abuse based on race, racism and racial discrimination–is exactly why so many felt Marman’s case was about nothing more than racial profiling.

But “This conversation isn’t about the race card,” writes L.Z. Granderson, senior writer for ESPN The Magazine, “This is about the race facade.” This is, for Granderson, about the many young Black males who perpetuate “hostile or intimidating” images of themselves that mainstream capitalist media package as authentic. While I agree with Granderson on many levels, he does very little to explain the need and desire for many Black males to perform a hostile and/or an intimidating masculinity.

Whether it’s from the desire to illustrate Black male cool–what the youth today are calling swag–or the need to protect oneself from the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of attacks waged on Black people, or the need and desire to capitalize on a capitalist system that continually figures young Black males as one-trick ponies (angry and intimidating for rap or athletic purposes), hostile and mean-mugging Black masculinity is in demand for serious material reasons. And, that does not even mention how mainstream media perpetuate the hostile Black male image, not only for profit, but to justify the state-sanctioned violence enacted upon Black males on an everyday basis.

Still, others have argued that Marman’s case is not about racism, racial profiling, state-sanctioned violence or the difficulties of being a Black male. It was for many about decency, about the rights not to be forced to see Marman’s undergarments. I would, however, argue that decency is a loaded term, fraught with troubling race, class, gender, and sexuality implications. While I do not fancy sagging pants, I find it entirely too difficult to justify US Airways overreaction for a couple of reasons.

First, from the zoot suits that symbolized racial rebellion in 1940s Los Angeles to the overly large white T-shirts that were made fashionable by young Black males who, for financial and gang reasons, often had few other clothing options, fashion, decency and politics have always been near-synonymous terms. Even our proudly displayed logos and labels, as well as the material our clothes are made with, suggest, if only symbolically, a certain class status. Wherever sagging comes from, it is now a part of a rebellious youth culture, who like those in the past, are shunning the rules of the generations before them. Let us not forget that many people once thought zoot suits, black leather jackets and berets, tie-dye, and 80s androgyny to be terrible and ridiculous fashion ideas, as well, all of which now has larger political meanings.

Second, if it was truly about Marman’s exposed undergarments–and let me remind you that he was already seated–then how did US Airways allow Joe O’Sullivan, an older White male and self-identified drag queen travel in knee high stockings, panties, a bra, and an open see-through top? Let me make one thing clear: I am not calling out O’Sullivan’s desire to wear what is traditionally known as women’s undergarments. He has the rights to wear whatever he wants. Rather, I am highlighting the inconsistencies in US Airways undefined clothing/exposure policies. Here, questions about how we perceive race and gender collide in ways that might prove fruitful. What is troubling most about this comparison, however, is how US Airways forces us to pit race, gender, and sexuality against each other as if they are in competition and not working together in the same body.

“A US Airways spokesperson told CBS by phone,” writes CBS Sacramento, “as long as someone is not showing parts of their anatomy, they are permitted to fly.” So why was Marman, who was not showing his anatomy, denied so vehemently?

Maybe, with all the sensationalism surrounding homosexual rights, the US Airways staff, under fear of a public-relations storm, decided it was best not to harass O’Sullivan in the way they did Marman. Maybe O’Sullivan’s flight staff was nicer and more open-minded than those on Flight 488. Or, it was, as O’Sullivan stated on CBS Sacramento, “It was racial because he is Black. And he had dreadlocks and they jammed him…. Why would they have stopped him? No passenger complained about him. No police report says he showed any flesh…. He was reverent, respectful. I almost felt it was obnoxious he said ‘Sir’ so many times.”

The reason O’Sullivan might have found the use of “sir” so many times that it became obnoxious is because he may never have had to learn how to survive authority the way Marman and so many Black men had to learn. The San Mateo County district attorney’s office dropped all charges, claiming that if the case was taken into the courtroom people will say they should focus on more important things. While this might be true, the DA suggests his office dropped the charges because the case is too frivolous, which conceals the fact that the case, and more importantly US Airways, is just wrong.

Above all, US Airways reminds us that it is still far too easy to make a villain–a monster even–out of Black males. And the DA’s nonchalance, coupled with the lack of apology by US Airways, illustrates just how easy it is to get away with such a thing. While Marman simply pulling up his pants on first request may have avoided most of the problem, he could not have hid his skin, nor the hundreds of years of social training that makes him suspect on sight. Even more, he shouldn’t have had to pull them up. He was not violating any laws or any policy; he was simply being a young Black man, which in this world can be quite dangerous.