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HomeGeneralAdvocates Say Ski Mask Bans in Cities Like Philadelphia Will Criminalize Black...

Advocates Say Ski Mask Bans in Cities Like Philadelphia Will Criminalize Black Youth

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SKI MASK
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This move represents so much for a culture. Saud Salahuddin, a 19-year-old youth advocate, testified at a Philadelphia City Council meeting, opposing the passage of a ban on wearing a ski mask on public transport and in other public spaces.

The Philadelphia City Council`s ski mask ban is just the next in a series of tough-on-crime policies that disproportionately affect black and brown youth.

However, these anti-hooding laws are written so broadly that police can interpret them to justify stopping, searching, and charging a range of fashion accessories, including hoodies and ski masks.

The current ski mask ban comes as rapper Pooh Shiesty and other hip-hop artists are popularizing ski masks as a fashion accessory among black and brown youth.

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As Salahuddin’s testimony made clear, ski masks are a cultural fashion statement, and laws banning them are an attack on culture. As Salahuddin’s testimony made clear, ski masks are a cultural fashion statement, and laws banning them are an attack on culture.

Whatever the justification, by dictating what young people can wear, fashion bans may violate First Amendment rights to free speech. Banning ski masks allows police to have unnecessary and harmful interactions because they give police a pretext to arrest youth. 

Jetson Cruz, another young advocate protesting Philadelphia`s ski mask ban, testified: I have to worry about going out there and being stopped and harassed by the police for wearing something of my choice. 

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Although Philadelphia’s ban carries civil penalties and not penalties, it allows police to stop, question, and search teenagers without reasonable suspicion that the youth is engaging in criminal activity – the level of suspicion that the Constitution requires of the police requires a fine.

Police interactions cause and aggravate trauma, especially among youth of color. Like previous fashion bans, the ski mask ban adds an extra layer of alleged criminality to the profiling and racism experienced by young people of color at the hands of police, lawmakers, and spectators. 

ALSO READ: Daniel Pitout: Is He the Man Behind the Orville Peck Mask?

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Contrary to assumptions about criminals, young people may wear ski masks to keep warm, hide their identities from friends who want to harm them, or even simply follow trends. Regardless of why young people wear ski masks, ski masks do not cause crime, and banning them will not prevent it. 

Even if a small percentage of individuals wore ski masks to commit crimes, the ban traumatized large numbers of young people to correct the harmful behavior of very few. If we want to reduce crime, let’s invest in children, families, schools, and communities instead of criminalizing youth and their ways.

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