A proposed amendment to Oklahoma's state constitution would make wearing a hooded sweatshirt in public punishable by a $500 fine.
Essentially, the ban would put "hoodies" in the same league as KKK hoods, which were banned in Oklahoma in the the 1920s. But while the clan-hood ban was aimed at reducing racial violence, critics say the hoodie ban could increase racial tensions.
According to the wording of the hoodie ban, it would be illegal for Okies "to intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place" by wearing a "mask, hood or covering." The law doesn't specify if hoodies can be worn on other parts of the body, like tied around someone's waste in a deliberate attempt to conceal their calves.
Critics are calling the proposed amendment borderline racist. Ahem, Trayvon Martin. Anyone?
“I think this is a violation of an individual’s right to choose what they want to wear as long as it doesn’t violate the realm of public decency and moral values. And I think this could be very problematic,” attorney James Siderias told Oklahoma City's KFOR.
State Senator Don Barrington, author of the proposed amendment, says the measure is meant to help victims of robberies identify their assailant.
“The intent of Senate Bill 13 is to make businesses and public places safer by ensuring that people cannot conceal their identities for the purpose of crime or harassment….Similar language has been in Oklahoma statutes for decades and numerous other states have similar laws in place. Oklahoma businesses want state leaders to be responsive to their safety concerns, and this is one way we can provide protection,” Barrington told KFOR.
"Hoodie bans" have been instituted by some stores in New York City, along with several shopping malls as an attempted deterrent to crime. Those efforts, too, have resulted to controversy over allegations of racial implications.
In the past, similar clothing-ban disputes erupted over "saggy pants." Though attempts to ban saggy pants have been ruled unconstitutional by several high courts, attempts to limit men's inseams miraculously keep appearing on the books, especially in Florida.
Oklahoma's proposed hoodie ban would include exceptions for Halloween, masquerade parties, and religious reasons, along with wearing a hoodie for "protection from the weather." Whether a hoodie of wether or leather is better for wet weather is not mentioned in the proposed law.
Still, some worry the proposed law will do nothing for public safety, and could lead to increased racial tensions.
“I don’t think that solution will work. I just think that will cause a little more tension within the community. It probably will be a reason for cops to mess with more people wearing hoodies,” hoodie-donning black Oklahoma resident A.T. told KFOR.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.