Oklahoma’s possible hoodie ban supports racial profiling


People cover their heads for many reasons – to avoid a nasty sunburn, to hide an embarrassing pimple, or even to commit a heinous crime. After all, a hoodie can conceal a bank robber’s face just as easily as it can mask a bad complexion.

In Oklahoma it could soon be illegal to put on a hooded sweatshirt before heading out the door, no matter how bad that blemish might be. State Senator Don Barrington wants to outlaw covered heads in the name of public safety and he has this particular garment on his radar.

According to Senate Bill 13, violators would face a $500 fine if caught intentionally sporting a hoodie in public. Barrington’s proposed law would not apply to religious garments, such as burqas for Muslim women, and costumes worn during performances or Halloween.

But let’s be real: This feeble attempt to protect the masses is really an attack on personal freedom, one that’s costing too much time and money to consider. People want an answer to escalating crime rates and they’re pulling every thread to find it – even the ones dangling from that old American Apparel hoodie in the closet. But while the bill is ridiculous, it’s not as revolutionary as it might seem.

An existing Oklahoma statute makes it illegal to conceal one’s face while committing a crime. This law, passed in 1923, was intended to stop the increase in hate crimes committed by the cloaked and elusive Ku Klux Klan. But despite the original law’s intent to curb institutionalized racism, Senate Bill 13 would have the opposite effect.

Too many times have young black men’s deaths been falsely justified by the simple fact they wore hoodies when they were attacked. Their sweatshirts somehow made them threatening enough to be fair game for an angry police officer or an over-vigilant maniac with a shotgun.

Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie the night George Zimmerman shot him. The defense attorney said this made the teen a legitimate target under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. What the argument really did, however, was push the stereotype that young black men in hoodies are always up to no good. Now Ferguson protesters are putting officers on edge with their hooded sweatshirts that read “I CAN’T BREATHE” as they gather to speak out against police brutality.

In both these instances a hoodie stopped being a symbol of fashion or culture and became a red flag for investigating non-whites. Oklahoma cops will go on profiling to an even greater extent, paying extra attention to hooded minorities. Now those who already have to worry about the color of their skin when confronting police officers will also have to worry about the contents of their closets.