By Syma Chowdhry

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Signs asking customers to take off their hoodies or masks before entering are popping up on many corner stores in South Philadelphia.

The stores’ owners say it’s a way to protect themselves.

“Most of the robbers are with hoodies and masks on. That’s why we don’t want hoodies on in the store,” explains Clara Olivares, one store owner.

But Dr. Molefi Asante says banning hoodies out of fear is a form of racial profiling.

“What you are essentially saying is that people with certain characteristics shouldn’t come in here,” Asante, the chair of Temple University’s African American Studies program, says.

“The idea coming out of the Trayvon Martin situation is that it is the black youth, so that’s the target, that’s where the targeting comes in,” Asante adds.

Trayvon Martin was an unarmed teen who was gunned down while he was wearing a hoodie, which became a symbol of his story.

Many of the store owners we spoke with are minorities themselves and say this isn’t meant to be about race.

“It is for the safety. That’s all it is, nothing else,” Olivares says.

Still, “racism against African people can also be perpetrated by African people,” Asante says.

Community organizer Nate Chatmon says the signs have been effective and are not intended to profile anyone.

“I understand maybe some perspectives, but hoodies are worn by everyone all over the world,” Chatmon says.

Customers we spoke with agree, and say they are not offended by the signs and are more than happy to take off their hoods before entering.

“They don’t want to get robbed. Bring your hoodie down, come in the store. When you leave, you can put it back on – on your way out,” says customer Sylvester Adams.

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