Saturday, March 24, 2012
Of Hoods and Hoodies
There are a few important things to realize why Trayvon Martin's story is different from others.
1. Setting aside race, the notion that a 220 pound bully, in flagrant disregard of the instruction to stop following him, pursued Trayvon Martin because he "looked suspicious" carrying his Skittles and iced tea, then turned around and claimed to have felt threatened enough to kill him in "self defense" is absurd on its face. Regardless of whether Trayvon Martin was black, white or Hispanic and whether George Zimmerman was black, white or Hispanic.
2. The "stand your ground" law was thrust into the spotlight because of the absurdity that it could be abused to the extent that Zimmerman, despite his previous history and the fact that he was chasing Martin, was not arrested, finger-printed or sufficiently interrogated before being set free -- gun and all -- and to this day, has been free from any legal consequences whatsoever surrounding the killing.
3. The fact that a young black man in a hoodie is in and of itself enough to warrant suspicion on behalf of someone like George Zimmerman is symbolic of a much broader perspective, where black kids and youngsters -- particularly, but not exclusively male -- are burdened by an inherent prejudice that renders their mere existence a threat.
4. The combination and conflation of the above three points precipitated a conversation and dialog that was waiting to be had. The fact that a young, unarmed kid can be gunned down without so much as a slap on the wrist, resulted in a swell of outrage that manifested itself in the form of protests, vigils and things like the MillionHoodieMarch across the country turned this story into an international one.
No one is denying that there are not similar, ugly, irrational incidents every day. If anything, Trayvon Martin's story became as huge as it did because it isn't just a one-off, freak accident. Regardless of whether Zimmerman once "actually caught one thief and aided in the apprehension of other criminals," his racist comments on the 911 tapes, from the arousal of suspicion to the epithets themselves, communicate clearly enough what his thinking was and why he chose to pursue Martin despite being told not to by the police dispatcher.
And whether Trayvon Martin was taller than the pictures (he was still smaller and lighter than Zimmerman) or whether he was a model student or not (I was suspended from school, but it was never used as a justification to shoot me), the facts remain.
Trayvon Martin, armed with nothing but candy and an iced tea, was enjoying a walk in the rain, (wearing a hoodie as one in the rain might, typically) chatting to his girlfriend on his cell phone, was pursued, chased and shot dead for being black in the apparently wrong place, at the apparently wrong time, in the apparently wrong weather, in the apparently wrong clothes. And if current gun laws, current perceptions and issues relating to racial profiling, and the tragedy resulting from this "perfect storm" are thrust into the national dialog, his death may not be in vain.
And the President's expression of sympathy to his grieving family, whilst acknowledging how close to home the situation hit, reveals him to be nothing other than a parent and human being. Nothing more, nothing less.
“I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly not to let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin‘s death as much as George Zimmerman was,” the Fox News host said Friday on “Fox and Friends.”
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