Posted on December 26, 2018

Why Was an African-American Teen Told to Remove His Hoodie at a KC Grocery Store?

Toriano Porter, Kansas City Star, December 21, 2018

An encounter last month at Marsh’s Sun Fresh grocery store in Westport left her 17-year-old son shaken and made Mirador determined to change the stigma associated with African-American teens and hoodies.

After Mirador’s family arrived at the store, employees asked her son to remove his hooded sweatshirt, which was pulled up over his head. They cited unnamed security concerns as the reason for the request.

When did wearing a sweatshirt become questionable behavior? And is grocery shopping while black one of the noncriminal activities that now creates suspicion?

{snip} But there’s nothing posted on the premises prohibiting hoodies. And the lack of clarity raises questions about whether a young, white woman would be subjected to the same wardrobe limitations.

Businesses can’t pick and choose when to enforce rules — and which customers must abide by them. Subjective policies only lead to acts of profiling and discriminatory behavior.


Mirador questioned how the store enforces its policy, but she said she was brushed off by a security guard, a manager and store director Bob Smith. When I visited Sun Fresh recently to ask Smith the same question, he repeatedly shooed me away.


Repeated calls and email messages to owner Gary Marsh were not answered. On another recent trip to the store, Smith again summoned security when I asked to speak to him privately about what had transpired.


Weaponizing security guards to remove a complaining customer (or an inquisitive journalist) is a heavy-handed tactic. It’s also bad for business.


Four white women in Tennessee wore hoodies inside a mall after four black teens were escorted out of the same establishment for simply doing the same. Unlike the women, the teens’ heads were not covered, according to published reports. Security never asked the women to leave.


Toriano Porter