Local Business’ Restrictions on Teenagers Decrease Racial Profiling


Cartoon by Yasmin Roach

Three years ago, Wilde Lake senior Armand Lucas and his friends were racially profiled at the Columbia Mall. Armand’s profiling experience is hard to hear, but not unusual. A store manager told one of Armand’s friends that he “wasn’t on the block,” a reference to drug dealing. The boy was simply standing in the food court, and being Black. Yet, an adult identified him as a criminal because of what he looked like. 

Later, Armand says he was told to leave the building for “being loud,” despite not disturbing anyone. He says this happened because there was no other way to control the mayhem of the mall, so those in charge had to use their own judgment. 

This was before the Columbia Mall had put in restrictions on unaccompanied minors coming in after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and before CVS had banned backpacks and groups of students larger than three. 

Businesses want to reduce theft and disorder so their customers feel safe. Wilde Lake senior and AMC employee Alicia Weatherford says that prior to restrictions, fighting was far more frequent. She says that fights would happen multiple times a day. These fights are the presumed reason for restrictions recently placed on teenagers at CVS and the Columbia Mall. 

I’ve heard some Wilde Lake students talk about being upset by the changes, but I believe there is a positive aspect to them that many have not thought about. 

Whether students really steal and fight as much as businesses say we do is no longer up for discussion. Clearly, they have decided that the teenagers are the problem. Therefore, they have made rules based on this assessment. In the short term, these rules are better for us. 

Instead of traumatizing already marginalized children through profiling, it is better that businesses limit all members of the teen population. They see our population as the most problematic. 

  Before these new rules, employees would have to look at students who walk in and decide who looked like they were going to steal and who did not. They would treat certain people differently and enforce certain rules on them based on their appearance. If an employee mistakenly identifies someone as a troublemaker, this may lead to them harassing a person who has done nothing wrong. Looking at the history of profiling in America, and even in Columbia, the people who are hurt are Black and brown kids. 

According to the American Psychological Association, as cited by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, racial profiling has a serious impact on the mental health of children. Experiencing racism at any point in time, but especially at a young age, has been connected to disorders such as PTSD. When authority figures treat specific groups of teenagers as criminals because of how they look and not how they act, they are harming them in the long-term. 

To be clear, any sort of discrimination is harmful. While the restrictions reduce racial profiling, they are still age profiling. It is also worth noting that the location of these restrictions is problematic in and of itself. Shopping centers and CVS’ near other schools, schools with different racial demographics, have not been subject to similar rules. 

Moving forward, the Columbia Mall and CVS should search for better ways to police their businesses that don’t discriminate against any group. But for now, a blanket limitation on teenagers allows for us to have fun without fear of being punished for how we look.