Wearing my hoodie has a different meaning and consequence

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More than 2 million people signed a petition on change.org demanding an arrest be made in the case of Trayvon Martin.

The 911 recordings went viral.

President Obama called a press conference.

Sales of iced tea, Skittles and hooded sweatshirts probably saw a brief spike.

I visited an Austin storefront church this past Sunday, and the pastor used the case in a sermon noting, “a teachable moment.”

I saw the pictures of people of all different races showing solidarity in protest of Trayvon Martin’s death by wearing hoodies and posting them on Facebook.

And this is where I had an issue.

That hoodie on a person other than an African-American male does not have the same significance. You can’t just put on a hoodie and experience a generational inheritance of otherness, of being distinct from any other race.

This veil of white privilege will not allow you the incident of seeing white women clutch their purses closer or hear the door lock in a car as you wait at the intersection for the light to change. Some may see these as clichés, but even in a “post-racial era,” I get followed in a store and asked repeatedly if I need help with something.

Even in the age of a black president, who acknowledged that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin, people would automatically assume Obama was playing the race card.

News flash: The race card is America’s trump card.

In black America, the prison population disproportionately reflects conviction rates and terms of people of color. In black America, the unemployment rate is two and three times that of the national number.

So, when I hear black women ask where all of the eligible black men are, I say to myself, “Dead or in prison.”

Honestly and earnestly, I say to you who aren’t African-American, f— your hoodies!

Stand up in solidarity for equal and affordable education. College and university tuition is on the rise. Stand up for reformation of early childhood education that will level the playing fields of getting into college. Show support that would allow second and third chances for ex-offenders to receive aid for college and employment.

The behavior sometimes exhibited by certain men is generational and cultural. Understanding that many of these neighborhoods lack the elements of social capital to prepare many of them to succeed.

The Social Dislocation Theory of Dr. William Julius Wilson, a sociologist, offers some underlying explanation for behaviors of people who have been systematically cut off from opportunities.

When you cut off access to quality health care, people suffer silently in chronic pain. When there aren’t enough stores that offer fresh fruits and vegetables, you see spikes in diabetes and heart disease. And where you see a lack of employment opportunities, you see spikes in crime rates.

But don’t get it twisted!

There is also a reason why I don’t wear white T-shirts and Air Force Ones in the summer. There is a reason why the hooded sweatshirts I wear carry logos of my church and my university. There is a reason why my grammar has been polished over the years. There is one reason why I fight so hard to stay employed and further my education.

I refuse to internalize the title of “just another n—.”

The same pastor made the comment, “You get to make your choices, but you don’t get to choose the consequences.”

I’m not saying that you should be targeted because of what you wear, but it happens. Why are you setting yourself up?

It’s not about the hoodie that Trayvon was wearing. It is about the state of emergency that black youth are facing today.

Your suburban youth counterparts are bobbing their heads to Jay-Z and Kanye while studying for the ACT and SAT exams.

And before anybody says it — I know Martin was in a gated community. That’s the point. Black youth, suburban and urban, are equal targets.

It is and always has been about this deep fear and hatred toward black people, especially black men. We have been perceived by the media as the threat, and we have also contributed to the myth by our own actions. But something has to change.

And until then, whether I wear a hooded sweatshirt or the hood presented to me next year as I receive a master’s degree, I am a threat.

2 thoughts on “Wearing my hoodie has a different meaning and consequence

  1. Points well received. When youth wear these hoodies, in most instances, they are trying to project a gangster, harden image. Many of them know what they are doing. If you smile at them, they mean-mug you.
    There’s consequences when you project certain tough-guy images, and display inappropriate public behaviors that seemed to be condoned and justified because of their so-called economic plight. Many of these kids come from two-parent households that are not poverty strickened. Parents, schools, politicians, preachers and other self-proclaimed stakeholders need to do their jobs. Too much talk and no action. Many of these so-call concerned entities get government funding to finance their initiatives, but very little impact is being made because they don’t want to work with the troubled, disruptive teens. Bottom line, youth need to be responsible, and accept consequences for bad decisions/behaviors. Many of them aren’t innocent. Black on Black crime seems to be acceptable until someone loved one is directly impacted. Would Trayvon had received the same media coverage and empathy if he was shot by a Black man? Why is Jesse Jackson is Florida? Why isn’t he or Congressman Bobby Rush rallying around the high statistics of homicides in Chicago. Why don’t the Black clergy hire some of these youth through their weekly tithes? Who’s advocating for the White boy who was doused with gasoline and set afire by several Black boys because he’s White. How about the Hispanic girls who were shot while watching television. Crime is crime and demonstrations and rallies aren’t enough. Where’s NAACP. What’s their stance on crime reduction? Don’t let me get started on cross fire? What a waste of millions!

  2. I totally agree with this. People can show empathy, but unless you take a walk in ones shoes, you will never completely get it. As a woman, I will never be able to fully know what a man goes through. Its really tough for a black man, because not only do they have to deal with society, but they have to deal with the treatment of their women who have been taught by society to look down upon them. I don’t pretend to know, but I understand. As a mother of teenage sons, this hurt me to my core. It’s pitiful that a person cannot express themselves without being harmed or even killed because of it. What saddens me is when the smoke clears, when the weeks and months roll by, this young man’s tragedy will be forgotten, and people will still continue to discriminate…….. This article was well written…..oh, and I am so glad you mentioned the importance of appearance……we are still judged by the way we present ourselves. I am a firm believer in looking the part. While I don’t think its right for a person to be judged based on their appearance, it is the first thing that people see before you even open your mouth or extend your hand. Teach us!

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