Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hoodies Aren't Scary

As my last post pointed out, I gave up. In today's post, I've decided I gave up too quickly; I should have waited to throw in the towel. I should have waited for all of the Zimmerman apologists who are just really afraid of people in hoodies. You know people! Today I read this Salon article, which is in response to this Richard Cohen article. I really recommend not reading the Cohen article if you want to keep your brain intact. Cohen mocks all the people yelling "Guilty!" about Zimmerman without waiting for the verdict, but the only statistic he uses is the percentage of black male shooting suspects in New York. It's not surprising that Richard Cohen is a dick. In his article, a dick who says wearing a hoodie is a cultural signifier or "uniform" of violence. The amount of people who have used this type of logic to justify the killing of a young man does surprise me. And this is why: hoodies aren't scary.

Let me tell you a story. I attended night school during college, and when I left class, it was usually dark. Part of my walk was past a church on a quiet street. It was a little creepy because by the time I was walking, no one was around. One night I got scared. A man was walking towards me. He had a beard. His hands were in the pockets of his hoodie, and his hood was up. He was a big guy. I immediately started running through all the terrible things that could happen to me. Rape, murder, harassment. When the man passed me, he turned and struck up a conversation....because it was my brother-in-law!  He was walking to school. I was walking from school. He had his hood up because it was raining and cold. He wore a beard because, wait for it, he likes beards. He was big because of genetics. None of these things were good reasons to be afraid of him, but culture has taught me to be afraid of these things--to the point that I sometimes ignore better indications of violence because the person acting in the aggressive manner doesn't have any of the physical attributes I have been taught to fear.

My brother-in-law is white. Adding black to the above list is also not a good reason to be afraid of someone. Hoodies are not some kind of uniform which indicate violence. They are a ubiquitous piece of clothing. Everyone in the United States knows someone who has worn a hoodie or wears one themselves. When people use Trayvon Martin's clothing as a justification for his murder, what they are really saying is black people scare me. And if black people scare you, you are a racist. Because hoodies are not scary and neither are black people. And neither are black people in hoodies.

You are allowed to be afraid of a person when that individual starts acting aggressive. For instance, if someone starts following you for no apparent reason. We need to start being afraid of the people who are actively making our streets less safe. In the Zimmerman/Martin case, it seems clear to me which person that was, and it wasn't the kid in the hoodie. We must stop using dress, which is often just code for race, and race as indicators of violence. Because it doesn't keep anyone safe. In fact, it makes the world much more dangerous for kids like Trayvon Martin.


  1. Did you read this essay by Questlove? Fuck.

    1. Yeah. His essay is really beautiful and sad.