The Hoodie

You may have already been outraged to hear that Geraldo is blaming the hoodie for Trayvon Martin’s death. Of course he’s wrong. Short skirts don’t rape women; men rape women. Hoodies don’t shoot Skittles-toting teenagers; overzealous neighborhood watch guys shoot teenagers. The blame lies squarely with the rapist or killer, not the victim. And it lies with the racism that keeps getting passed on through our culture, just below the radar. I am regularly appalled when, on family movie night, we watch some children’s movie that friends recommended—and realize that the only African Americans are the bad guys. It makes me sick to my stomach. That instills fear in too many brains and shame in my son’s heart, all about his skin.

But watch Geraldo all the way through. He didn’t say that it’s right. He didn’t blame Trayvon Martin for his own death. He gives an impassioned diatribe about what he told his own son, whom he describes as darker-skinned: Do not go outside wearing hoodies. When you do that, it will trigger thoughts that you don’t want to trigger in other people.

And he’s right. It’s unfair. It’s unjust. But it’s true.

That doesn’t happen when Rachel Maddow wears a hoodie; she triggers thoughts that she might be, um, well, like my 8th grade gym teacher. It doesn’t happen when Dan Savage wears a hoodie.  But when young black men wear it, it can set off the racism in other people’s brains. It makes me sick to my stomach. But it’s true.

That doesn’t let George Zimmerman off the hook. It doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook for changing the culture. But you better believe that, in my house, we are not putting any more hoodies in our son’s closet.

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