Those of you that are familiar with rap music or street culture, will recognize the title of this post to mean throw your neighborhood signs up. However, in this instance I am referring to an article of clothing. Specifically, I am referring to something that Trayvon Martin was wearing the evening he was gunned down by George Zimmerman – a hoodie. There is a stereotype that goes along with the attire of some black and Latino males.
Geraldo Rivera caused a stir when he stated on Fox & Friends:
I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.
So hear we go blaming the victim for what they were wearing. This is akin to blaming a woman who is raped for wearing a low-cut shirt and stating she was asking for it by the way she dressed. Just like no one invites rape by what they wear, no one invites murder by their attire. This is a very ignorant and irresponsible statement by Rivera.
We should be blaming the racist attitude and a culture in America that promotes negative stereotypes. Stereotypes that promote the idea that a black or Latino male youth in a hoodie is considered a threat while a white kid in a hoodie isn’t.
These stereotypes are reinforced by our media through the constant showing of black and Latino males as criminals. You turn on the news and you see images of black and Latino males committing crimes as if they are the only ethnicity to do so. You turn on a movie or a TV show and your criminals are predominately black and Latino males. Then you turn on a music video and all you see are blacks and Latinos living a “thug life.”
Now there is no denying that these elements exist within the black and Latino communities, but that there is no balance to these images is what is so damaging. Just as it is with the white community, not all black and Latino males are criminals. There are some exceptional young men within these communities that strive to do the right things. Education matters to them. Family matters to them. Being a productive citizen matters to them. These are the images that we need to be flooding our airwaves with.
Rivera has the right to his opinion and I have the right to disagree with it. I believe the better way to frame the discussion is to talk about how damaging stereotypes are. How stereotypes can lead to tragic situations like the death of Trayvon. How we need to live in a society where we judge someone by their actions; not their economic status, not their clothing, and not the color of their skin.
Let’s continue to fight this irresponsible ignorance. Let’s demand that we stop being treated as second class citizens. We shouldn’t have to show our freedom papers when we are in areas outside of the plantation (the ghetto) or be determined suspicious due to the pigment of our skin and/or the clothes that we are wearing!
Throw your hoods up! I am Trayvon Martin.