The Trayvon Martin killing has set the racial world on fire. There is a new symbol of racial solidarity with Trayvon, and it is the ubiquitous hoodie. Now, hoodies have been around in one form or another for centuries, most recently in the United States since the early 20th century.
This week as I was leaving the local Walmart store, a young black woman entered the store wearing a red hoodie, with the hood deployed over her head. The temperature outside was 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the date was July 5, 2013. In Atlanta we call this summer time.
It took me a few seconds to realize that she was probably trying to make a public statement. Why would anybody wear a sweatshirt, much less pull the hoodie up on a bright, sunshiny, summer afternoon? It was hot as hell in that parking lot.
What could that public statement be? Could it be that Trayvon was black, and this young woman identified with him just because she was black? Most likely she was saying that if you believe that George Zimmerman (killer of Trayvon) was NOT guilty of murder, then you are racist. I believe that this is a shallow approach to the situation.
Let me say a couple of things about hoodies,
1. My children all have hoodies and will wear them on occasion.
2. My grandchildren wore their hoodies when they visited my house yesterday. It was raining, and they wanted their hoodies. Maybe that was Trayvon’s reason for wearing his hood up that night.
3. My wife has a hoodie.
4. I have four hoodies. Two of these hoodies are from universities I attended, two are from a technical college in Marietta, Georgia where I learned the web page business the last couple of years. I like my hoodies even though it is difficult finding the closet space in which to store them. Having about six jackets for cool and cold weather takes up lots of room, too. I believe in keeping warm in the winter.
Throughout history, hoods have been used to shield identities of people bent on doing no-good. Whether Trayvon was bent on doing no-good, or whether he was just trying to stay dry, we will never know. This is because he choose to become the aggressor by attacking Zimmerman. That cost him his life, and changed George Zimmerman’s life forever.
Efforts to show that George Zimmerman was racist have likely failed.
Zimmerman was a frightened guy, carrying a gun to bolster his courage while he was doing (in his mind) the right thing, protecting his property. Even if Zimmerman were a flaming racist, the situation still screams self-defense, not that this excuses Zimmerman from culpability in the killing. That’s what the jury will decide.
I would have loved to engage that young, hoodie wearing lady at Walmart in a conversation of the Trayvon Martin incident. I think dialog can be healthy. But, the conversation about race that Attorney General Holder once called for will not happen. It will not happen because people are caught up in their symbols.