Breathing While Black, City Place Mall, Criminalization, Dehumanization, George Zimmerman, Hood Policy, Hoodies, Institutional Racism, Lisa Petrie, Malls, Petri Dish, Petrie Ross Ventures, Racial Stereotypes, Racism, Silver Spring Maryland, Trayvon Martin, White Fears, White Supremacy, Whiteness
Last Thursday afternoon (February 27), a security guard at City Place Mall in Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland confronted me and my 10-year-old son about wearing a hood over our heads, having just come inside from below-freezing and windy weather. The security guard explained that the policy at City Place Mall is to forbid patrons from wearing hoods, hats, scarves, sunglasses and other clothing that would make us more difficult to identify. When I asked for a written indication of this policy, the security guard told us that the one sign for your 400,000-square-foot mall was downstairs in the lower lobby, which does patrons like me little good in informing us of their racism and stupidity.
Keep in mind, I’m a 44-year-old man with a 10-year-old kid, who’s only intent was to go to an indoor ATM machine to withdraw my money from my bank account so that we wouldn’t freeze. We weren’t shopping at Marshall’s or another store in the mall. What were we going to do, buy two packs of Skittles at the dump of a snack store at City Place instead of just one? Buy two bottles of Lipton Ice Tea (Arizona Ice Tea makes our teeth hurt)?
If this is how they treat all patrons, this policy would merely be a stupid one. I suspect, though, that they don’t stop women in veils or burqas, Sikhs with turbans or every person wearing sunglasses. No, Black and Brown male patrons — especially ones that look young and healthy — are their targets for such an idiotic policy.
I emailed Lisa Petrie about this incident and wanted clarifications about this policy. Petrie is a co-owner of Petrie Ross Ventures, LLC, the Annapolis-based group that manages (read owns here) City Place Mall. In addition, I asked her to answer the following questions:
1. Is this in fact the policy of City Place Mall, to force patrons to remove hoods and other clothing upon entering the mall?
2. If this is in fact your policy, then why isn’t it posted conspicuously at the entrances to the mall for all patrons to see and read?
3. Is this policy one that security guards are supposed to apply, and if so, are they doing so in an equitable manner?
Petrie didn’t answer any of my questions. Instead, she emailed me this response:
It is our policy in all of our properties to ask our patrons to remove their hats, hoods, etc. only as a safety precaution for all that visit our malls. I am unsure as to the procedures as I am not part of the operations team however I will ask that if you have any questions that you follow up with the property manager on site, Mr. Gary Brewer.
This is a ridiculous statement, unless by “safety precaution,” Petrie means that there are George Zimmermans in all their malls waiting to shoot anyone with a hood over their heads if their skin has a significant melanin content. I did, after Petrie sent me his contact information, send Brewer the same information about the incident, as well as my questions. Mr. Brewer has refused to respond.
If this is how City Place Mall and Petrie Ross expects to treat its patrons, though, I think that whatever plans you have for this mall should come with the disclaimer that not all patrons are welcome, especially Black and Brown males. You can name your dilapidated mall Ellsworth or even Crap. I already don’t shop there. I can always withdraw money from another ATM.