The Hooded Effect

Unarmed with a pack of skittles, an Arizona ice tea, and a dark hoodie.

The date is February 26th, 2012.  A quiet evening in the Sanford, Florida gated community where rain slightly drizzles from the grey sky above.  A 28-year-old man sits in his car patrolling the neighbourhood streets.  Returning from a trip to the nearby 7-Eleven, a 17-year-old teen walks down that same street where the car is stationed.  The man in the car finds the young man suspicious and calls the local police department describing the figure as a skeptical young man walking the streets in a dark hoodie.  Told to stay in his vehicle, the elder man defies the instructions given to him and proceeds on foot in the pursuit of the young man in the dark hoodie.  Acknowledging the man following closely behind him, the 17-year-old in the dark hoodie, on his cellular phone with his girlfriend, tells her of the events occurring.  Fearing for his safety, she advises the hooded teen to run, who in turns denies the request and decides to confront the man after him.  Tears and a single gunshot became the only sounds left to be heard in the quiet neighbourhood.

Laying face down in the wet grass is a 17-year-old teen. Unarmed with a pack of skittles, an Arizona ice tea, a dark hoodie, and a bullet from a Kel-Tec P-11 handgun, which has penetrated through his chest.

Walking freely is the 28-year-old man who has openly admitted to shooting and killing the suspicious teen in the dark hoodie, his actions being defended as an act committed out of self-defense.  Where is the justice?

Communities along with famous public figures are taking matters into their own hands, rallying together to seek justice for Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old teen deemed suspicious in his dark hoodie.  This article of clothing carries a social stigma, one that correlates with the person wearing it as sinister, threatening, and mischievous.  It is the clothing of choice worn by villains in movies, magnifying the stereotype depicting violence and crime.  A stigma that George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old neighbourhood watch man, associated with Trayvon Martin which caused him to take the initiative in alerting the police and, eventually, disregarding the dispatcher’s request and taking matters into his own hands.  The dark hoodie became the signifier that led to the bullet that claimed the life of the 17-year-old high school student.

The dark hoodie has become the movement in respects to Trayvon Martin.   It is being worn as a symbol of social injustice and being marched in, in the name of anyone who wears hoodies at the risk of being perceived as suspicious.  It is a representation of solidarity against racial profiling and Florida’s “stand your ground” gun law.  Six New York state senators, four of them black and two white, wore hoodies under their grey and blue suit jackets in the 235-year-old Capitol chamber.  This was done in expression of their outrage at the deadly shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin.  “It is horrific what happened to Trayvon,” Adams said. “But it happens every day in the city of New York.  His death was the tipping point.  It has been tipping for years and how it tipped over and now all across America … the shadows people see in the dark of their own fears … and stereotypes is not enough to allow them to take the life of an innocent child.”

Illinois Democrat Rep. Bobby Rush was asked to leave the House floor after removing his suit jacket to reveal his hoodie.  He went further by putting the hood over his head in his own attempt at a protest.  “Racial profiling has to stop,” Rush said.  “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”  Celebrities have also shown their support in the movement.  The Miami Heat basketball team has paid homage to the 17-year-old teen by posing in a picture, heads bowed with hoods covering their heads.  From actors to comedians to musicians, all have been showing their respects in this fashion.

During his promotional rounds for his “Celebrity Apprentice” appearance, Clay Aiken (former American Idol contestant) sported his hoodie as his wardrobe of choice.  On the issue Aiken stated, “As a father, you think about your own kid and mine is really young but this could be anyone’s child.  We need to have something happen here, some sort of justice and arrest.  I’m not saying a conviction, I’m just saying an arrest and a jury deciding this instead of just some cops.”

Social injustice will continue to happen as long as the world stays quiet.  Actions speak louder than words and the wearing of hoodies in respect of Trayvon Martin is speaking volumes. Do not ignore the movement, be apart of it – make a difference.





Picture by Darrel Dawkins – New York photographer:

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