By Kia Granberry
Rhetoric Race and Religion Contributor
Follow her on Twitter @livelovekia
I was one of the organizers of a very large prayer vigil for Trayvon Martin and the youth of the Mid-South. We did tons of press interviews for televised and print media…we were even on the radio. Not once, however, did any of us wear a hoodie. This was no accident. This was not because temperatures rose to almost 85 degrees some days in Memphis. This was not because I don’t personally enjoy wearing hoodies. This was an intentional statement to everyone having hoodie marches and hoodie Sunday services: “I respect your collective efforts. I am grateful to see you gather so many people together to raise awareness about this injustice. Furthermore, I understand the symbolism of the hoodie. But, I beg of you, let’s not allow the hoodie to mask the real issue of RACE!”
You see, for so long our melanin-challenged neighbors have tried to pluck out a miniscule detail for each hate crime to justify the unlawful actions of racist individuals. For Emmit Till it was the alleged whistle and for Trayvon Martin, it is the hoodie. But, I believe that if Emmit Till had whistled or been mute, he would have been murdered. I believe that if Trayvon Martin had been wearing a hoodie or the Hollister shirt (he is also photographed in)…he would still be dead. The mass public’s obsession with the hoodie has pacified the rising fears of fence straddling non-minorities who want to wish away racism but, not disown their racist friends, coworkers, and family members. And, we have got to stop helping them…by shifting our focus, our language and our passions to the race induced hatred running through the veins of Zimmerman and thousands like him and far, far, far away from hoodies!
Skateboarders, primarily Caucasian, are often seen in hoodies. No threat. Caucasian college students at Harvard and Yale walk to class in their hoodies and Birkenstocks. No threat.
Was Sean Bell wearing a hoodie when he left the party before he was shot to death by racist law enforcement officers? Was Amadou Diallo wearing a hoodie when he was senselessly killed? Was Dr. Martin Luther King wearing a hoodie when he was gunned down? What about Malcolm X? Nope. No hoodie there either.
Rappers are the universal symbol of what is dangerous [heavy sarcasm here]. The last time I checked, rapper wardrobe rooms included white or black tees, crisp jeans, brand new custom sneakers and a few overpriced chains. Nope. No hoodies.
But you know who DID have on a hoodie? The Unabomber. And he wasn’t a brother!
So what is our obsession with the hoodie now?
I’ll tell you. We live in a post-civil rights era, where Black, White and Brown alike want to pretend that the struggle is over because there happens to be an African American man in the White House. How ugly of us, to cry racism when we have come so very far! How insensitive of us to think that our white neighbors, who likely voted for President Obama could still have incipient racism sneakily lying dormant and one night in the rain this racism might cause them to think a young, innocent African American boy is a threat…how wrong of us! We should just accept that our young black boys are an automatic threat and be shocked when white boys, like the ones who murdered James Craig Anderson in Mississippi are caught.
We had better accept it…because any cries about racism will be covered and smothered like hash browns at Waffle House. It will be swept under the rug or buried under unwarranted emotional soliloquys from non-minorities about how they have Black friends and would never act out of racism. Of course they wouldn’t, because racism doesn’t exist. Right? Wrong!
So, instead of admitting that we have much more ground to cover…we cover up the nasty racial climate of our country with a hoodie. We’d rather die of a heat stroke than admit that racism is still alive and well. It was racism that killed Trayvon Martin. It was racism that killed Sean Bell. It was racism that killed Emmit Till.
It was not a hoodie. And I don’t care how many Geraldo Rivera’s tell you otherwise.