So, when the Trayvon Martin slaying entered the national consciousness, it became clear to most that a single person acting alone had killed a harmless youth and not faced any penalties for it. The youth’s crime? Being black, mainly; although his killer, George Zimmerman, claims he looked drunk.
Obviously, this set-off a whole host of people to debate the events of the night, and names like Emmett Till were tossed around. Some have focused on Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows someone to utilize self-defense to justify a killing even if they didn’t make an attempt to flee from their assailant. So, it appears to me that a single man, with a history of bad judgement calls, killed a teenager for no reason other than his suspicions.
But you know what, there was a possibility I hadn’t considered. Trayvon Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. And Geraldo Rivera thinks this was as much a cause of his death as anything else. Now, this started creeping into territory that gets me a little scared. See, I’ve been to Britain, and in Britain, Mr. Rivera’s remarks would not be that far off from what people are willing to think. See, in Britain, the hooded sweatshirt has been transformed from an unobjectionable piece of clothing to the dreaded “hoodie” bringer of riots, crime, and destruction. I don’t know where along the way “hooded sweatshirt” became reduced to “hoodie” but I think that reduction could possibly be part of the problem. A hooded sweatshirt is just a sweatshirt with a bit of cloth to keep your head warm. A hoodie is a whole style of clothing. I actually think I grew up without distinguishing between a regular sweatshirt and a hooded sweatshirt when speaking.
It’s gotten so bad that a six-year old was actually banned from a supermarket for wearing a hooded sweatshirt that had been bought from said supermarket. That’s where Britain’s paranoia has brought it. They also rely on the famous “Anti-Social Behaviour Order“, labeling a whole generation “ASBOs” in slang for such innocuous activities as “loitering” or “spitting”. Luckily, ASBOs may be going away.
Fear of the hooded sweatshirt may not. Mr. Rivera is right in that it’s a pretty useful garment in avoiding a camera. But does that mean we go about stigmatizing what is a really comfortable and useful piece of clothing simply because of a few bad apples? It’s like banning cars because they kill people. Or because they’re used in crimes. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter what type of clothing you wear; whether you’re white or black, whether you’re Latino or Asian. You have the right to walk to the corner store and not be killed.