Trayvon Martin: Hoodies and Perceptions

In case your boob tube has been frozen on the NCAA tourney, there is a story out there these days that is bigger than the premiere of The Hunger Games. And rightly so. The story involves a black 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer while he was walking unarmed, carrying only candy and a drink.

From the accounts I’ve heard and read, Trayvon was a decent young man with a caring family and an excellent future. So I would like to believe that something positive will surface from this tragedy. And at some point I would like to believe that we will actually find out what happened — and why.

We’ll see.

This is a situation that now touches on subjects of law, race and politics. And we’re also looking at stereotypes, symbols and perceptions.

And here’s where the hoodie comes into play, as described in this WaPo story, “Trayvon Martin’s death has put spotlight on perceptions about hoodies“:

“Did you see what he was wearing?” asked the voice.

“A dark hoodie, like a gray hoodie,” George Zimmerman told the 911 operator moments before he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, whom he described as “real suspicious.”

Out of tragedy, the utilitarian hooded sweatshirt, which first gained popularity in the 1930s as a practical pullover for workingmen, has emerged as a Rorschach test of racial perceptions.

On Sunday, many preachers and their congregations attended services wearing hoodies in a show of solidarity with the slain teen.

On Friday, LeBron James of the Miami Heat tweeted a photo of the basketball team, wearing hoodies and with heads bowed, alongside the hashtag “WeWantJustice.”

The same day, Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera ignited widespread criticism for saying on the “Fox & Friends” morning show that “The hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.” He continued his assault on “The O’Reilly Factor,” warning parents of black and Hispanic youths not to allow their sons to wear hooded sweatshirts.

“Who else wears hoodies?” he asked. “Everybody that ever stuck up a convenience store; D.B. Cooper, the guy that hijacked a plane; Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber.”

Ah, and how about old white guys like me who wear one almost every morning heading out into the dark and going to the gym wellness center? I know. That’s not the point Geraldo and others are making. And they touch on an issue of perceptions and stereotypes that shouldn’t just be dismissed.

Like I said, I hope something positive comes from the national spotlight that is now on Trayvon Martin and the events leading to his tragic death. And if bringing hoodies into the discussion helps, then good.

By the way, I dislike gated communities. They encourage elites to become even more separated from the broader community.

But that’s just a perception.


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