Philadelphia 'ski mask ban' sparks outrage

Philadelphia 'ski mask ban' sparks outrage

Teen Vogue's new op-ed claims that the Philadelphia City Council's ski mask ban is hurting Black and brown youngsters and will have serious implications.

Youth advocates called the restriction an attack on culture, according to Kristin Henning and Vic Wiener.

The duo noted that far-right neo-fascist groups like the Proud Boys and the Patriot Front have not tried to prohibit neck gaiters, khaki trousers, and polo shirts. Fashion prohibitions may violate the First Amendment by restricting youth clothing.

The op-ed comes months after the City Council banned ski masks in parks, schools, public transit, and other city-owned institutions in December 2023, CNN said.

The move was hailed for helping police investigate crimes, but Philadelphia youth and civil rights organizations say it criminalizes people of color. CNN said that Mayor Jim Kenney passed a measure that fines offenders $250 for each transgression and up to $2,000 if they wear masks.

Henning and Wiener call the prohibition “the next in a series of tough-on-crime policies that disproportionately affect Black and brown youth.” Despite a drop in crime, politicians are utilizing the prohibition for personal and political advantage, they said.

Wiener and Henning wrote that politicians use harsh policies like the mask ban to show they are doing something despite evidence that crime, including violent crime, is plummeting almost everywhere in the country and data showing that adults commit the vast majority of crime. Other such regulations include longer curfews and tougher fines for certain infractions. These performative measures do not lower crime or adolescent criminality.

Hip-hop musicians popularized ski masks among Black and brown adolescents, the pair said.

By giving police a justification to halt adolescents, ski mask restrictions encourage needless and damaging police encounters, Henning and Wiener stated. “

The scribes noted that Philadelphia's ban has a civil fine rather than a criminal penalty, but it allows police to stop, question, and frisk youth without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, which the Constitution requires. Police encounters heighten trauma, especially for minority adolescents. Further, police-youth contacts may escalate from 0 to 100 in seconds. Youth who watch or experience excessive or harsh police contact may become frightened, evasive, or belligerent. An officer who misinterprets a child's anxiety, attitude, “back talk,” or physical resistance as a danger may tackle, arrest, and prosecute them with a far more severe felony than wearing a ski mask.

The writers believe crime will continue despite the ski mask ban. Henning and Wiener recommend a win-win method to minimize crime.

“If we want to reduce crime, invest in children, families, schools, and communities instead of criminalizing teens and fashion.”

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