Hoodie ban a smoke-screen bill

Jorge KrzyzaniakEverybody has an opinion about the Oklahoma hoodie ban, the proposed bill known as SB 13.

Social media clamors with pictures of rebels with their hoods up, standing against a bill that will most likely never see the light of day while all kinds of legislation without a nickname passes under our noses.

Strangely, if your act of defiance showcases a consumer product, like buying a certain chicken sandwich or snapping a selfie in a sweatshirt you were going to wear anyway, it’s viewed as an acceptable form of protest.

Engage in any sort of protest beyond that scope and many will happily applaud the cop who fills your face with pepper spray or shoots you with a teargas canister from five feet away. But I’m glad to see people taking some interest in politics I guess.

A hoodie ban would bring an interesting perspective to the “breathe easy” people, whose newly purchased sweatshirts are emblazoned with a slogan suggesting strict adherence to all law is an American’s only guarantee against being choked to death by police. And for that reason alone I would welcome it.

But there is no hoodie ban.

SB 13 would make it a crime to wear a robe, mask or other disguise that “intentionally conceals the wearer’s identity.”

But no part of it targets hoodies. There’s an exemption, in fact, for clothes worn to protect from weather that would actually protect hoodies under the law.

No self-respecting GOP member is going to introduce a bill that could ever drive down sales at Wal-Mart. It would spell their doom.

State Sen. Don Barrington claims he authored the bill under encouragement of “business leaders” and said its aim is to prevent the wearing of masks and disguises during the commission of a crime.

Oops. There’s already a law against wearing masks and disguises during the commission of a crime in Oklahoma.

So, SB 13 is perhaps all about those business leaders then.  Particularly, business leaders of the American Legislative Exchange Council or similar organizations with access to a legislature mostly made of men whose campaigns these businesses paid for in the first place.

The “stand your ground law” and laws allowing companies to keep chemicals used during fracking undisclosed began as bills authored by “business leaders” and pushed on pet lawmakers for sponsorship.

It’s possible SB 13 is designed to incriminate protesters who gather on the steps of these businesses. It may exist to strip demonstrators of the protective anonymity of their kerchiefs and Guy Fawkes masks.

More likely still, is the prospect that this is little more than a kind of marketing scheme.

Barrington is at the end of his political career and remains mostly unknown. He realizes his value to the business world is waning and he needs some piece of legislation to point to as an example of standing with business over the common good, even if the legislation never gets out of committee. SB 13 is simply an example of an old man fleshing out his résumé.

He’s introduced a useless bill but has done little to decry the misleading moniker it’s been branded with. The hoodie ban is this session’s sleight-of-hand trick.

Forget it for a moment and take a look at what else the Legislature is doing. Read the bills you are concerned about and let your legislators know how you feel about them. They can be found at www.oklegislature.gov/FindMyLegislature.aspx.

Don’t be distracted by fluff.

To contact Jorge Krzyzaniak, email seniorwrite@occc.edu

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