The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin has provoked outrage across America on so many levels. Certainly it exposes the undercurrent of racism that still grips the country. How can we ignore the fact that an African-American teenage boy walking home from a family errand is automatically suspect?
The fever over Trayvon’s death will die down because our society is entrenched in social injustice. As wealth and power become more concentrated in the hands of a few a populace is governed by whatever views they hold, whether they are arrogant and cruel, or benevolent and just. Right now, arrogance and cruelty appear to be winning the day.
Self-righteousness is so convenient. It distracts the conversation from uncomfortable truths through the use of fear and disgust. Bill O’Reilly blithely advises poor people to get a job , saying they just “aren’t trying hard enough.” Domestic violence is blown off as the victim’s choice. The inevitable question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” ignores the complex social, emotional and financial realities that shackle victims to their abusers. And now we have Geraldo Rivera, from his insulated world on Fox News, telling his listeners that “the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as … George Zimmerman was.” In fairness, Rivera identified Trayvon as a wonderful kid, one who didn’t deserve to die. But he then continued with his expedient explanation saying, “I bet you money, if he didn’t have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way.”
If wearing a hoodie is code for being dangerous, then we have millions of killers roaming our streets. Hoodies are a fashion staple for people of all races, genders and ages. Sports fans wear them with their teams’ imprints. Old Navy, Nike, Hanes and Tony Hawk all have a market for their hoodies. Did you know that you can buy a cashmere hoodie for a mere $445?
So we are down to an insinuation that a certain piece of clothing is an invitation to murder. Some will go to any length to divert attention from uncomfortable and emotional issues like racisim and social injustice. When we use stereotyping and fear to justify our actions we are contriving simple answers just to make the questions go away. And when such an ugly epsisode of social injustice happens again, the same people will use the same questions.
George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, was not arrested that night because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The law allows for people to use deadly force to defend themselves from great bodily harm. A full month later Zimmerman is still free, as officials say they do not have evidence to rebut Zimmerman’s claim of self defense. Shouldn’t we worry about Zimmerman’s safety? Trayvon not only was carrying concealed Skittles, he had on a hoodie.
Maybe if it had been cashmere Trayvon would still be alive.