Security guards at the mall are handing out yellow code of conduct slips to anyone who doesn't pass "their" test when it comes to dress and behavior.
When I worked at Springfield Mall (two companies, spanning 1989-1994), I saw a lot of stuff that I am still trying to disseminate in my brain. The "Rent-a-Cops," as we called Mall Security, were a two-edged sword. On one hand, they did, for the most part, keep the peace. We also had a real police officer who wandered about. We also had a lot of local youths, and some of them had dark skin. I never differentiate between the two, since separating people by skin color is a stupid as separating people by left-handedness or eye color, but maybe I have lived a sheltered live, and that's just me. Many of the RaC were also dark-skinned, and I think that helped other dark-skinned urban youths respect them a bit more.
But the Mall Management were a bunch of old fat pink-skinned rich bastards. No, really, I met them. The problems I had with them were not their skin color, but the ruthless penny-pinching attitudes they had in their rules and regulations. They didn't give a tinker's cuss about mall employees or customers, only about getting rent and charging fees. Now, I am all for making money, that's not the issue, but I am not for making money at the danger and cruel expense of others. That mall stayed open through natural disasters, holidays (except Christmas), and national tragedies or events (4th of July, solar eclipses, 9/11). If you got snowed in, you had to HIDE in your own store to avoid getting caught overnight and tossed outside. It didn't matter that the snow was over a two feet deep, busses stopped running, government was closed, and the mall was dead. They stayed open, regular hours. And if your store opened up late because there was an ice storm that made the parking lot completely inaccessible? Fined. And stores were not fined a flat rate, like $100 or something, you were fined per square foot, per 5 minutes. I am not sure what the ratio was, but my 20' x 40' (approx.) store was once fined almost $35,000 for being open late by 2 hours.
But the real issue here is the article. Back when I went to the "Mall education seminars" (voluntary, but I went to a lot of them to see what new shoplifting techniques were being discovered), one of the owners answered a question about a new policy put into place that if a RaC saw a person who had been in the mall for 30 minutes or more, and hadn't bought anything, they could throw them out. How they determined whether they bought anything or not was sketchy, but most agreed it had to do with a shopping bag and a timed receipt (thus, stores with older cash registers that didn't have a time stamp were asked to upgrade - luckily, that wasn't many). In reality, there was no way they could tell how long you had been in the mall, and this rule was really to keep teens from hanging out, and thus, "prevent gang activity." To old fat rich people, teens = gang. So the question asked by the manager in the audience was, "How come black people keep getting thrown out over white people? White kids steal more than black kids, especially the girls!" Well, to be fair, that was the manager of Claire's, a boutique that caters to teen girls. But that question got this unexpected response:
"Listen, ma'am, this mall is PRIVATE PROPERTY. We OWN it, and we DICTATE the rules! We don't even HAVE to let black people, or Jews, or even women in. That right is protected by the Constitution. We decide who comes in and who leaves based on pure economics, and black teens do not have the purchasing power as the rest of our regular customers."
That comment turned my stomach. Okay, aside from the racist undertones that has, from "pure economics," the mall did not gain that much revenue from its customers (apart from 50 cent shopping bags). It gains it from the stores, and I know, I paid the damn bills for my store. I paid rent, not a percentage of my sales, and while I don't know if other stores did, that's moot. The facts that he stated were incorrect as well, because Civil laws state that a place like a shopping mall, while private property, unless it's a residential area, and assuming it's open to an otherwise unregulated public, does not have the right to discriminate any more than a company is allowed to segregate employees by skin color, sex, or religious persuasion.
I was glad a lot of the managers in attendance immediately booed the man. His comrades prevented him from speaking up the rest of the conference, but it was apparent that almost every stereotype of the rich republican was represented there. I don't know his name, or if he officially represented Springfield Mall management policies, but shortly after this was threatened to go public, the rules "relaxed" and black youths weren't asked if they had any receipts on them.
Some people don't know how deeply the subtle effects of racism can go. They don't know how quickly they spread, either. And if anyone participated in a version of the famous Jane Elliott "Blue Eyes Brown Eyes" experiments, they would know just how ugly racism is, and what it can do to other people's behavior. It's astounding.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000578.html