At entrances leading to the Mounds Mall in Anderson, Indiana, patrons have noticed a new sign reminding them to "lower their hoodie" when entering the building. This hoodie ban is implemented "[f]or the safety & well-being of everyone," according to the signs.
But not everyone's convinced.
Although the Mounds Mall's policy on hoodies has technically existed since 2004, the intent of the new signs is being questioned in light of the clothing item's current symbolism in American society.
In the years since Trayvon Martin was shot to death, allegedly in part because he was apparently "looking suspicious" in his dark hoodie, the garment's once ubiquitous status as athletic wear has become symbolic of the "racial unease" in America," writes the Daily Beast's Robin Givhan. Indeed, following the acquittal of Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman, "million-hoodie marches" were staged across the country.
Furthermore, while the Mounds Mall Code of Conduct refuses entrance to patrons who wear "apparel that will disguise identity," the policy singles out the hoodie as particularly dangerous. Patrons are allowed to wear other items that arguably cloak or shield one's identity, such as sunglasses, scarves, hats and even face-masks into the mall. With the hoodie now so heavily imbued with a racial charge it is impossible not to wonder if a subtle, insidious racism might be at play here — particularly in a central Indiana town where close to 80% of its residents are white.
Policies that are created as measures to promote a generic sense of "safety" demand the policing of particular bodies; this policing actually has the inverse effect of heightening tension rather than quelling it.
As Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder of the University of North Florida told the Grio, "Let's be honest here — this policy is not about safety and security; it's about inciting more unnecessary fear and negative stereotypes about black male youth ... If a similar policy were developed to prohibit turbans or hijabs in airports for instance, it would be immediately labeled insensitive, irrational, and discriminatory."
One must wonder, too, if businesses in the mall that sell hoodies require that customers refrain from lifting the hoodie when trying the garment on before purchase.