The Hoodie Argument

Photo taken from Flickr user: Harlequeen

Geraldo Rivera made the following statements on the show Fox & Friends:

  • “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”
  • “You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta – you’re going to be a gangsta wannabe? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace.”

After his segment on Fox & Friends, he tweeted two other statements:

  • “My own son just wrote to say he’s ashamed of my position re hoodies-still I feel parents must do whatever they can to keep their kids safe”
  • “Its not blaming the victim Its common sense-look like a gangsta&some armed schmuck will take you at your word”

I never knew that wearing a hoodie and looking like a gangsta were synonymous. Herein lies part of the problem with Geraldo Rivera’s argument. For some reason, Rivera is fixated on the hoodie being a dangerous article of clothing. A hoodie alone, I don’t believe, can be considered responsible for endangering someone’s life. And looking like a gangsta shouldn’t be responsible either, though, it probably would sway someone to look at a person with a much more vigilant eye.

What we wear, that is, our entire attire, and not just one article of clothing, certainly does influence people to form a particular judgment of us. Society as a whole simply does not hold the same opinion of an individual wearing baggy street clothes and of one wearing more formal attire, especially if the former is of a minority group and the latter is white. Sometimes even the same clothes on individuals of different races will formulate different judgments. Whether we like it or not, someone’s outside appearance and race will determine the type of attention, reaction, and treatment they will receive.

What’s important to remember is that clothing should not fabricate, whether positively or negatively, an individual’s character, and, consequently, cannot adequately determine their threat to society. Wearing gangsta-looking clothes does not automatically mean that someone is dangerous, just like wearing a suit, let’s say, does not mean that someone cannot be dangerous; it works both ways. Ultimately, even if someone looks like a gangsta no one should want to shoot them if they’re not being harmed by them.

Having grown up in a community that is primarily made up of African American, Asian, and Latino populations, I have seen and have been one of those stereotypical hoodie-wearing, young, and dark-skinned males. There was a time when I choose to wear clothes far bigger than my actual size because I was influenced by what I saw around me, but not because I was part of that crowd. Eventually I grew out of that phase and started wearing clothes that actually fit. Part of the reason was because I didn’t want to be associated with negative social circles; deep down I knew that outside of my community people would associate me and my clothing choices with being a gangsta. At no point in time, however, did I stop wearing hoodies.

While I do believe that individuals, especially those from minority groups, should choose what they wear carefully in order to not be seen as a threat, at the end of the day clothing choices is not what kills people. Weapons in the hands of ignorant and racist individuals who make lethal and rash decisions based on someone’s appearance, is what kills people.

Do I look like a gangsta?

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