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Less hoodies might mean better race relations

Written By | Aug 19, 2014

OCALA, Fla., August 19, 2014 — Now that Michael Brown’s death has placed America in yet another race relations quagmire, let’s forget about black, white, yellow, or red and focus on fashion.

George Zimmerman has long since been acquitted of any wrongdoing in the death of Trayvon Martin. Nonetheless, a great many individuals believe that Zimmerman profiled Martin because the teen was black and wearing a hoodie.

The FBI investigated the question of whether or not Zimmerman was prone to racially-motivated violence and subsequently found no proof that he was. Because of this, one can reasonably infer that any claim that Zimmerman is a racist is the result of personal bias, not logical consideration.

As for the hoodie, though, there can be no denying that it is the attire of choice for members of street gangs or individuals who are up to no good and operate as lone predators. Consequently, stereotypes about those who wear hoodies have long been part of the American sociopolitical scene.

Shortly after Martin’s death, famed lawyer and pundit Geraldo Rivera remarked that the teen’s hoodie was partially responsible for his death. He urged parents to tell their children not to wear hoodies.

Parents ought to take his advice.

Can it be that Zimmerman saw Martin walking around his gated community−one that had a history of gang troubles as well as break-ins−and thought that the teen might be bad news because of the signal being sent out by his chosen attire?

Don’t law enforcement officers often profile people on this very basis? Race is not the factor here, but dress certainly is. That old adage, “clothes make the man” often functions in other entirely different scenarios as well. If a man in a suit and necktie drives his late-model luxury sedan into a high-crime neighborhood, then he would be wise to be on alert and expect trouble of the highest order.

The bottom line is this: People are people. We frequently make assumptions about one another before even a word is spoken. This isn’t always the rational course of action, but it is the way it is.

Hopefully, some real good can come out of the Martin-Zimmerman misfortune. Hopefully, more people will follow Rivera’s advice and ditch the hoodie before it causes them problems on a grand scale.

The social ramifications of hoodies aside, they are just ugly. Wearing one while exercising is one thing, but who on Earth can say that a hoodie is appropriate for many more occasions than that?

Indeed, people need to not only wise up, but dress up.


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph Cotto is a nationally syndicated columnist. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he wrote for The Washington Times Communities and Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications.