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When hooded sweatshirts attack | Editorial
I recently got back from a much needed vacation in the Sunshine State. Generally speaking, I’m not a particular fan of Florida - it’s hot and muggy and has an oh-so-tacky color scheme. But a week’s worth of beaches, umbrella drinks and Key West sunsets in the middle of another Pacific Northwest April was about perfect.
Jimmy Buffett is not lying to you.
Plus, there’s just something about getting off the mainland that really allows you to relax.
And the Keys are great. We had margaritas at the actual, original Margaritaville, we took a boat ride out to where the Gulf meets the ocean and I even wore sandals.
But what I didn’t wear, the entire time we were in Florida, was a hoodie.
Oh no, I’m not falling for that one.
The furor has died down a little now, but during our week off, the Trayvon Martin case was still dominating television news coverage, including George Zimmerman’s bail hearing, which we got to watch live one morning.
(Side note: I don’t have cable and don’t get to see a lot of cable news - just clips here and there when something particularly interesting happens - and I was amazed at how vapid and stupid it has gotten in past decade. Good lord, I actually felt dumber and less informed when my parents finally changed the channel. But I digress….)
It’s been everywhere and spun in every which direction, but the basics of the Zimmerman-Martin incident go like this: Back in February, George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old guy with a history of neighborhood watch involvement in his community, which like much of Florida happens to have a pretty high crime rate (despite being gated), saw a young man whom he didn’t recognize.
The young man turned out to be 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who was walking home from the store with a pack of skittles and an iced tea in his pocket.
Martin also happened to be a black kid and was wearing a “hoodie,” a popular style of hooded pullover sweatshirt.
Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious person. The police told him it probably wasn’t necessary to follow the kid, but Zimmerman grabbed his gun and went out anyway.
This is where it gets messy.
At some point soon after, there was a confrontation between the two and Martin ended up shot dead.
According to Zimmerman, he felt threatened by the teenager he was stalking with a gun when the teen confronted him. Zimmerman said the teen then attacked him. In the ensuing scuffle, Zimmerman pulled his legally concealed handgun and killed the young man.
Zimmerman is claiming the homicide was justifiable under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows for the use of deadly force when threatened. Basically, you are legally allowed to “stand your ground” in the face of an attacker and do what is necessary to protect yourself.
Now that’s just Zimmerman’s side of the story. Martin said … nothing. Because he is dead.
So, the police naturally assumed Zimmerman’s story was correct – he was threatened, he pulled the trigger – and released him without an arrest.
It caused an uproar, because there was still a dead, unarmed teenager who was killed in his father’s girlfriend’s neighborhood simply for being there.
After a month of so of national protest, Zimmerman was finally arrested and arraign for second-degree murder, to which he entered a plea of not guilty.
Nobody saw the incident and there are some conflicting reports from people who heard the conflict. We may never know exactly what happened that night, because Trayvon Martin is dead and dead men tell no tales.
Was Geroge Zimmerman standing his ground by getting out of his vehicle, following the kid and then shooting him when the kid he was following turned around violently to confront him? Or was Trayvon Martin standing his ground against a weird old dude with a gun who was following him for no reason?
It’s tough to say either way.
But the key here seems to me to be the hoodie. It has become a national symbol around which people are rallying in support of Martin and his family.
Everyone wears them and it is weird to think that this kid, carrying only candy and drink, was killed - killed! - because some guy driving by thought he looked suspicious.
And let’s be honest here, by suspicious, we mean young, black and male, and wearing a hoodie.
I want to be clear, I am not calling Zimmerman a racist. By all indications, he is not and has not shown any indication of it. Truth be told, he seems like a good dude.
But a white kid with a pack of skittles and hoodie simply doesn’t get shot for wandering through his aunt’s neighborhood. Period.
That’s not to say the hoodie can’t look menacing. It certainly can. It can hide a person’s face in shadows and give even the sweetest grandma an Emperor Palpatine menace.
But on other people, the same fashion choice has an entirely different connotation.
For example, the hoodie was in the news again this past week for an entirely different, nearly opposite reason. It seems Mark Zuckerberg, the 20-something CEO of Facebook, has been failing to impress potential investors because when he deigned to show up for meetings regarding his company’s highly lucrative initial public offering this month, Zuck did so wearing his trademark hoodie.
For investment bankers and other rich-get-richer, 1 percent types used to dealing with expensive suits and shiny, shiny shoes the hoodie again signifies danger, though in this case the response may be more hold-your-powder.
The investment bankers – already struggling, I’m sure, with how a website designed to allow folks to tell their friends know what they had for lunch and share silly cat pictures is worth a bajillion dollars - are balking about a what they see as a lack of professionalism and caring.
Zuck and the rest of the Facebook guys don’t really care much about their fashion and continue to do things as they did in college when they created what has become our latest and greatest Internet overlords. Dance with the one who brung ya, I say.
It’s kind of silly, really. I mean, it’s just a sweatshirt. But once again, it was a sweatshirt that was front page news.
The difference, of course, is that instead of being on a suspicious-looking black kid carrying a pack of skittles, it’s on a goofy-looking white kid carrying the keys to the private information of 900 million potential advertising customers.
So you can bet it won’t be THAT big a deal this time and it certainly won’t get Zuckerberg shot.
Except maybe in Florida where last week it surfaced that a gun and ammunition shop was found to be selling targets that features the shape of a black hood, with a bag of skittles and a can of iced tea in the pocket.
Because they’re classy like that in the Sunshine State.
The targets apparently sold out in two days.
Which I know makes me feel safer, because when the hoodies come for you, you need to know where to shoot.
Unless of course they come with stock offerings. Then you may want to hold your fire.
At least until the next time Zuckerberg screws with my news feed. Then I may have to get one of those targets myself.