Sagging and Twerking: Cultural Expressions of an Angry Generation


According to Judge Greg Mathis, Retired African-American Judge of the 36th District Court of the State of Michigan, sagging was adopted from the United States prison system.  Belts were sometimes prohibited to prevent prisoners from using them as weapons or committing suicide by hanging themselves. Due to the rampant incarceration of black men, children were lost in a world of no positive male role models.  In fact they began to lead themselves in such groups known as “gangs.”  Additionally a lack education specifically tailored to opportunities to assimilate within the larger society, led to these practices becoming main stream.  Hip-hop artist popularized it in the 1990s.  Sagging has now become a symbol of freedom and cultural awareness among some youths or a symbol of their rejection of the values of mainstream society. (Wiki, 2014)


Twerking (/ˈtwɜrkɪŋ/) is a type of dancing in which the dancer, usually a woman, shakes her hips in an up-and-down bouncing motion, causing the dancer’s buttocks to shake, “wobble” and “bounce”. According to Oxford Dictionaries, to twerk is “to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance” (Wiki, 2014).

This practice has gone viral.  Twerking videos of black girls as young as 2 years old have been posted on websites such as World Star Hip Hop and YouTube.  In these videos pedophiles can relax and drool at the sight of such young flesh being prepared for their perversity.  Likewise, the prostitution and sex trafficking industry seems to have influenced black, misguided parents to promote this practice among their children by using hip-hop artist and their denigrating music.


These practices prepare black youth for either prison or the sex industry.  No self-respecting person would publicly engage in either of these two practices.  These practices reflect, “Black Rage” (Grier and Cobbs, 1968/1980).  According to Grier and Cobbs (1968/1990), the practice of training boys to survive among white oppression developed hostility in them toward their mothers consequently producing a disdain and hatred of all black women (p.62-63).  What man filled with love for his daughter would allow her to twerk?

This rage represents the anger that black men have toward black women for teaching them to subdue their aggressiveness in order to appease an oppressive society. A society in their view which offers no solutions to poverty, and that keeps them from participating in the American Dream. Rage is anger personified and can be expressed in many dissociative behaviors, sagging and twerking being two chosen by this current generation of young black youth along with gang violence and crime.  Bishop George D. McKinney (2005) writes, “Buried rage is powerful.  And when that vicious animal is loosed, it doesn’t care a whit about consequences, only about retribution” (p.70)

Evidences of rage within our youth can be heard throughout our community: in hip-hop songs, spoken word cafe’s, church youth groups, and other venues youth tell us that something is wrong within their psyche.  Black youth “feel sorry for themselves, have other emotions bottled up inside them, and see God as a stern father as opposed to a loving God” (McKinney, p.72-73).  Such emotional turmoil produces uncontrollable, unregulated, and disruptive acts of rage.  Sagging and twerking are what is termed passive-aggressive acts of rage and unless black leaders properly diagnose and address these signs of rage, our youth will only become more expressive in an attempt to get our attention.

Action Steps

According to Carter G. Woodson (1990), “the negro easily leans to follow the line of least resistance rather than battle against odds for what real history has shown to be the right course” (p.63).  Having been taught to subdue disappointment and submit to aggression youths have mastered the art of fighting through avenues of least resistance.  How else could sagging and twerking become so prominent in our communities except that adults were not paying attention to the youth.  Someone, some sage in the community should have been watching and ensuring that such deviant behaviors would not become the norm because such behaviors do not reflect black culture.  Such behaviors are a response to being ignored, marginalized, and undervalued.

Thus, black leaders from our communities need to reestablish their presence in our communities, especially where these behaviors have erupted.  They must return and care for their children.  Leaving the black community with no positive role models for the suburbs and hills of Beverly while countless black youth exist disillusioned and angry in urban settings can only produce more chaos.

The television show George Jefferson applauded “moving on up to the eastside,” a place where affluent whites lived.  This show led black leaders to think that if they distanced themselves from their origins they would be more acceptable to the white community.  This has proven to be a flawed strategy and now even the children of the affluent blacks are sagging and twerking.  Black rage is not limited to urban settings; it is prominently displayed throughout the country and indeed the world.  The phenomenon has taken root as far away as Great Britain.  In King’s Cross, London, England, the first ever twerking contest was held granting a prize of $324.  Youth are expressing their rage against a society that does not care.  It is time for black leaders to care for their children, to exemplify redemptive love for a youth culture that no longer values itself.

The best and the brightest of black men and women have been taken out of our communities just as the King of Babylon took the leaders out of Jerusalem when he invaded and destroyed that city.  The King of Babylon knew that without leadership, indoctrinating and controlling the masses would be less problematic.  Sagging and twerking are not problems that need legal solutions; they are problems that need a heart solution.  As Marvin Gaye sang, “Mother, mother there’s too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother there’s far too many of you dying.  You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some lovin’ here today – Ya.”

If we don’t show our black children we care and that they have a right to opportunities and teach them to fight for those rights then they will continue to wallow in the mire of sagging and twerking.  It’s time for black leadership to step up and do the right thing!


McKinney, George D. (2005). The new slave masters. Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries.

William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs (1968/19980). Black rage. New York City, NY: Basic Books, Inc.

Woodson, Carter G. (2005). The miseducation of the negro. Nashville, TN: Winston-Derek Publishers, Inc.

Sagging (fashion). Taken from

Twerking. Taken from:

Published by Earl J. Griffin, Sr.

As a John Maxwell Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker, I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. For over 40 years, my tract record as a proven leader has been exemplary both in the United States Army and as a Pastor in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. As a John Maxwell Certified Coach, Mentor, and Speaker, I use this expertise and experience to help leaders grow to their full potential. Coupled with my John Maxwell Certification is my Master of Science degree in Leadership Development, from Walden University. I am uniquely skilled at helping corporate leaders in the areas of human resources development programs, middle and executive leader development programs, and mentoring practices within the workplace. Both my professional time as an Organizational Development Specialist within the United States Army and my tenure as Senior Pastor within my church help me assist leaders in resolving the ethical dilemmas of leadership and developing the cultural skills necessary to lead in diverse multi-cultural organizations. Let's develop a sustainable relationship that benefits both your organization and that helps you achieve your personal leadership goals.

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