Opinion by Barry Anthony
While most citizens agree dress codes are necessary to ensure that entertainment venues remain family-friendly, enforcement of the dress code at the Power & Light District has become a hotly debated topic.
Time and time again, African Americans have cited indifferent, even hostile treatment at this downtown entertainment district. As a middle-aged African American male, I think I have some understanding of the problem and why it has not been easily resolved.
The main issue is whether certain groups are being targeted using the pretext of dress code violations.
The younger generation has embraced a lifestyle that includes wearing long T-shirts, baggy pants, sagging pants, etc. We see this on the streets, at school and in other public places.
This style of dress crosses cultural lines—many whites, blacks, Hispanics and others embrace it. Youths display this style of dress whether we like it or not.
I agree that business owners have the right to establish and enforce dress codes. However, enforcement must be blind to ethnicity. And we all need to voice our concerns when we see a dress code used as a device for arbitrary exclusion.
City Manager Wayne Cauthen, an African American, was an economic architect of the Power & Light District, along with Mayor Kay Barnes and others. Cauthen should organize a citywide partnership to lay the dress-code controversy to rest once and for all.
This Partnership Committee should sort out the concerns of all parties with a stake in the future of the Power & Light District. The Partnership should monitor the situation and issue public reports.
As responsible citizens, we all need to support presentable attire in public facilities, including the Power & Light District. We cannot let dress code enforcement become the subject for racist conversation.
We are on the verge of becoming a great entertainment destination. We can’t let empty rhetoric and angry accusations block our progress.
Barry Anthony is Marketing Director for KCTribune.com.