Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2002

By Staff
Dress doesn't dictate behavior
To the editor:
I am writing this letter because I am aghast at the decision by management to enforce a dress code for teenagers at the Bonita Lakes Mall. This smacks of racial profiling and censorship. It is also a clear thumbing of the nose at one of the most powerful consumer groups in our economy today  kids; many parents do without so that their kids, particularly their teenagers, can have clothing and other items that are fashionable and, by that definition, generally more expensive.
Does it not matter to the Bonita Lakes Mall management that they are attacking the very group that supports the mall retail business? Do all of the merchants in Bonita Lakes Mall support the decision of management to single out teen-agers? If not, I believe the ones opposed should come forward so that they aren't considered a part of this new Bonita Lakes fascist regime.
Consequently, I believe the merchants who are supportive of this measure should be boycotted by any who are opposed to this radical, reactionary decision. This could be a good lesson for high schoolers: to learn how to protest in a civil manner when one's civil rights are being violated. Maybe the civics, government, history and English teachers should encourage letters of protest to be written by their students to the Bonita Lakes Mall management  let them know the kids have a voice and cannot be so easily discriminated against.
I'm not suggesting that people of any age who are acting in a threatening or disruptive manner should be allowed to "intimidate" seniors or anyone else for that matter. But, doesn't Bonita Lakes Mall have a security division that can be called on to remove the disruptive faction without everyone suffering for the bad actions of a few?
I don't understand how having teen-agers wear buttoned-down shirts that are tucked in, clean saddle oxfords, or short, slicked back hair is going to keep everyone behaving well. Isn't the element of trouble merely going to be then dressed in what mall management considers a more "appropriate manner?" How will this change the behavior in kids who are prone to misbehave?
A lot of the styles kids wear are inspired by hip-hop and gangsta rap? So what? Does this mean that they are all in a gang, selling drugs and carrying guns? No, it doesn't, any more than teenagers in the 50s who wore blue jeans and leather jackets were necessarily "hoodlums."
There are so many more things to worry about other than what teenagers are wearing. Wouldn't you rather have teenagers being able to dress in the styles of their peers as opposed to having them discriminated against for doing so? I know I would.
Cynthia Jokela
Meridian
Teens need parental guidance
To the editor:
I was watching the local news reporting the mall dress code and found it amusing and depressing that some parents wish to "pass the buck" instead of supply needed parental guidance to their children.
I can tell you from personal experience that whether or not your child belongs to a gang, they are acting as if they do in the manner of dress and actions.
I have heard some of the most filthy language you can imagine come from the mouths of these teens and young adults at Bonita Mall. Do they really need to refer to someone having sex with their mother (in a word) as every other word they loudly exclaim? Do they really need to show off their underwear to everyone? Do they really need to make gestures (equivalent of gang signs) to all of their friends as they yell at one another in the mall, and don't forget this one, do they really need to be smoking at the entrance to the food court every day and night, which is supposed to be illegal?
What they really need is some parental guidance in the ways of the world. Do you think that one of the kids, acting and dressing like this, is going to get a good job as, say, a bank teller? I don't think so. It pains me to think about all of the wasted youth potential that is lost.
I used to take my family to have dinner, movies and shop in the mall. Now, because of all of the above, I choose not to. I do not feel comfortable walking with my family while some kid is behind us cursing and carrying on "like gang members do." Now, I rarely shop there without knowing exactly what I want to purchase and how to get in and out of the fewest stores without subjecting my family to this, which means I just don't shop there unless I have to. I would rather go to Jackson, Laurel or Hattiesburg.
Last week the news reported about 50 children in high school that were either pregnant or had babies. One answer was to allocate more money to schools for sex education. Sounds like again the parents are "passing the buck." If you want better for your children, then we as parents must take some responsibility and help them with good guidance. Children learn by example for things like morals. We are adults and should act accordingly.
These are not problems for our government to handle, they are the problems of the PARENTS. You choose and shape how your children's lives will be. How about helping them not make the mistake of throwing their lives away to look cool for others who don't even matter.
Lloyd Trammell
Meridian
A question of values
To the editor:
I am writing in response to the Sunday, Sept. 1, editorial, "Mall within its rights to enforce dress code." The real question is not about rights but about the values the dress code represents. The mall's position may be legally justified within its shady definitions of what is and isn't "public" space, but has anyone stopped to ask whether a dress code is actually fair and in the best public interest? Since when does policing the way individuals dress lend itself to "making individuals feel secure in their surroundings"?
If the Bonita Lakes merchants and managers were really worried about what these "ill-dressed" individuals were going to do, wouldn't hiring more mall security be the answer? The fact is the mall is more worried about who these individuals are and how they dress than anything else. Who keeps the mall in business? It's teenagers, not elderly "mall walkers." So whose "comfort" are we really providing for?
Meridian is my hometown, and while I am here visiting I have shopped at Bonita Lakes Mall several times. It is a wonderful example of how a community shopping mall should be. Everyone should be made to feel welcome. Let's extend our southern hospitality to everyone, including the teenagers of this community.
The "dress code" idea is symptomatic of nothing more than thinly veiled racism and small town paranoia. Inasmuch as wearing a cowboy hat doesn't make me a cowboy, wearing backwards caps, oversized clothes and bandanas doesn't make one a gang member.
Indeed Meridian is fortunate to have Bonita Lakes Mall. It gives teenagers somewhere to go besides the street corner. Wake up, Meridian! It's time to treat all of our citizens with mutual respect. Some members of the community think they can pick on these teen-agers because they have no power to fight back.
If the mall continues down this discriminatory path I would encourage the youthful population of Meridian to take their money elsewhere. I certainly will.
Chadwick Roberts
Athens, Ohio

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