The consequences of wearing a hoodie

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John Fountain III

The consequences of wearing a hoodie

More than two million people signed a petition on change.org demanding an arrest be made in the case of Trayvon Martin.

The 911 recordings went viral.

President Obama called a press conference.

Sales of iced tea, Skittles and hooded sweatshirts probably saw a brief spike.

I visited an Austin storefront church this past Sunday, and the pastor used the case in a sermon, noting "a teachable moment."

I saw the pictures of people of all different races showing solidarity in protest of Trayvon Martin's death by wearing hoodies and posting them on Facebook.

And this is where I had an issue.

That hoodie on a person other than an African-American male does not have the same significance. You can't just put on a hoodie and experience a generational inheritance of otherness, of being distinct from any other race.

This veil of white privilege will not allow you to see white women clutch their purses closer or hear the door lock in a car as you wait at the intersection for the light to change. Some may see these as clichés, but even in a "post-racial era," I get followed in a store and asked repeatedly if I need help with something.

Even in the age of a black U.S. president, who acknowledged that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin, people automatically assumed Obama was playing the race card.

News flash: The race card is America's trump card.

In black America, the prison population disproportionately reflects conviction rates and terms for people of color. In black America, the unemployment rate is two and three times the national number.

When I hear black women ask where all of the eligible black men are, I say to myself, "Dead or in prison."

Honestly and earnestly, I say to you who aren't African-American, f- your hoodies!

Stand up in solidarity for equal and affordable education. College and university tuition is on the rise. Stand up for reformation of early childhood education that will level the playing field for getting into college. Show support that would allow second and third chances for ex-offenders to receive aid for college and employment.

The behavior sometimes exhibited by certain men is generational and cultural. Understand that many of these neighborhoods lack the elements of social capital to prepare many of them to succeed.

The Social Dislocation Theory of sociologist William Julius Wilson offers some underlying explanation for behaviors of people who have been systematically cut off from opportunities.

When you cut off access to quality health care, people suffer silently in chronic pain. When there aren't enough stores that offer fresh fruits and vegetables, you see spikes in diabetes and heart disease. And where you see a lack of employment opportunities, you see spikes in crime rates.

But don't get it twisted!

There is also a reason why I don't wear white T-shirts and Air Force Ones in the summer. There is a reason why the hooded sweatshirts I wear carry logos of my church and my university. There is a reason why my grammar has been polished over the years. There is one reason why I fight so hard to stay employed and further my education.

I refuse to internalize the title of "just another n-."

The previously mentioned pastor made the comment, "You get to make your choices, but you don't get to choose the consequences." I'm not saying that you should be targeted because of what you wear, but it happens. Why are you setting yourself up?

It's not about the hoodie that Trayvon was wearing. It is about the state of emergency that black youth are facing today. Your suburban youth counterparts are bobbing their heads to Jay-Z and Kanye while studying for the ACT and SAT exams.

And before anybody says it, I know Martin was in a gated community. That's the point. Black youth, suburban and urban, are equal targets.

It is and always has been about this deep fear and hatred toward black people, especially black men. We have been perceived by the media as the threat, and we have also contributed to the myth by our own actions. Something has to change.

Until then, whether I wear a hooded sweatshirt or the hood presented to me next year as I receive a master's degree, I am a threat.

austintalks.org@gmail.com

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