March 12, 2014

THEIR VIEW: Hoodie policy reasonable but could be misconstrued


---- — No shirts. No shoes. No service.

Know this one?

Every consumer in America has encountered that message posted by restaurants whose owners strive to maintain a baseline dress code in their eateries.

It’s a sign that doesn’t seem to target any group by ethnicity. It seems aimed at preventing folks from offending other customers by not wearing clothing suitable to a food enterprise.

But, one asks, is there a real problem with shirtless, shoeless folks coming into restaurants? Maybe in beach towns. Or during summer.

How about the sign seen at a Houston, Texas, shopping mall last year that read “NO MUSLIM parking.” That mall is across the street from a mosque. Mall owners wanted only their own customers to use parking spaces. It was poorly worded, aimed clearly at a faith group that too often is maligned by others.

And think of the security measures we all have to endure when entering government buildings or airport terminals. Security can be an inconvenience, but a necessary one.

Then there’s a sign at the entrances to Mounds Mall in Anderson that reads, “For the safety & well-being of everyone, please lower your hoodie.”

Hoodies on sweatshirts can be associated with anyone from the Unabomber to young people. Since at least 2007, many banks and financial institutions have posted “No hats. No hoodies. No sunglasses.”

With surveillance cameras prevalent in many privately-owned businesses, a video can’t capture a criminal suspect’s face when covered by a hoodie or mask.

Hoodies have been in the news since the shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17, who was killed while wearing one in a Florida gated residential complex in 2012.

Though it may seem odd to post a “Lower your hoodie” sign at a mall where hoodies are sold, it is essentially a security and safety message. It asks shoppers to lower their hoodies, but does not forbid wearing them.

When worded properly to avoid targeting specific groups, warning signs can be a small comfort to customers. Such signs should send a positive message regarding safety, not one that could be construed to target specific groups.

As far as the sign of the times at Mounds Mall, perhaps the posting should carry a further explanation to make it clear why hoodies should be lowered, as well as a note that the policy is not intended to single out specific groups.

In summary, Mounds Mall’s “lower your hoodie” policy is an understandable safety measure, but the signs announcing it could be worded better to avoid the interpretation that a specific group is being targeted.

— The Herald Bulletin, Anderson