The dictionary describes a hoodie as merely a hooded sweatshirt. A piece of clothing. Nothing more.
However, depending on who wears it, the hooded sweatshirt might mean different things to different people. To some the hoodie takes on an evil description if a black male is wearing it.
That perception was driven home recently with the killing of Trayvon Martin. The Florida teen was wearing a hoodie when he was return home from the store with a can of ice tea and a bag of candy.
The sight of a black male wearing a hoodie in an affluent neighborhood was enough to arouse the suspicions of neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman says Martin attacked him so he shot him in self- defense. Zimmerman wasn’t arrested until more than a month later.
The case continues to draw nation and international concern. Some people and groups are now wearing hoodies to protest the way the police handled the killing and in support of the Martin family.
Mindy Thomas, a politics professor at St. Mary’s College of California said the possible role of racial profiling in the Trayvon Martin case reveals some of the complexities of race in America. But what might make the role of racial profiling in this case different and particularly troubling is that it raises the issue of formal, legal protection for “unofficial” racial profiling by a private citizen.
“If it turns out that George Zimmerman viewed Trayvon Martin as dangerous because he was a young black man wearing a hoodie and that view contributed to the tragic killing, it highlights the danger that Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, and other such state laws, may provide a measure of official legal protection for racial profiling by a private party,” Thomas says. “That in turn could prompt a rise in such violence.”
“While one hopes it is an unintended consequence, Stand Your Ground laws can provide a ready defense for individual vigilantism, even if the vigilantism has a racial component,” Thomas says.