I am reluctant to say too much about the Hoodie and the controversy involving Trayvon Martin because the problem is not the Hoodie. It's who and what's under the Hoodie. A few years ago, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates was arrested at home by a white cop who thought he was in the wrong place, even though it was his home. In the sixties and seventies they said it was young Black males who wore black leather jackets, that was the problem. Black leather jackets were the symbol of the Black Panthers.
On May 8, 1968 I was a senior at Pepperdine College when it was located on Vermont Avenue in South Central Los Angeles. I was coming home from a tutoring lesson for my Spanish Language class. The Los Angeles Police Department allegedly believed that the way I parked my car in front of my house was an indication that I was driving drunk. I was raised in a strict Pentecostal (COGIC) home and have always been a tee-totaler and never a drinker. But I was Black and driving a 1948 Plymouth in 1968, so I guess I looked suspicious in South Central Los Angeles. The neighborhood was a Black neighborhood.
I was approached inappropriately, and with no words spoken to me, I was beaten and charged with Battery on a Police Officer. By the way I didn't even get a ticket because there was no alcohol or drugs and taken to the hospital for treatment. Several things were in my favor. There were neighbors watching and they knew that I was a struggling student with a wife and an 8-day-old newborn child, and not a criminal. They made themselves available to my lawyer who defended me against the police who had beaten me and tried to destroy me and my future with their lies about what they said I had done. I was also President of Pepperdine's first Black Student Union and the school and the students provided support for me and my wife through those difficult times. My parents came in from Bakersfield to help with the legal fees. The consequences of losing that battle would have caused me to drop out of school, and I would have never been permitted to attend law school or admitted to practice Law. I had no criminal record. The case was dismissed at the preliminary hearing.
The world knows that there was nothing about Trayvon Martin that caused George Zimmerman to notice him, profile him, get out of his car and attack him in a manner leading to his death. There was nothing except that Trayvon was young and Black and not where Zimmerman thought he should be. Let's remember that, like Professor Gates and I, we all were at our respective residences, so it doesn't matter where any of us are, it is the state of mind of the person approaching us.
The state of mind of today's racists is that Black folks are still inferior to Whites. They feel that we have somehow stolen the White House and put a Black man in there who they don't want to admit is an American in the White House. They feel that Blacks must be put back in their place or their greatest fear may be realized and America may expect to replace one Black President with a second one.
Since the racist mind set is part of who America is, what Blacks must do is begin to raise up a nation of young Blacks who don't fit the stereotype. The formula I see is as follows:
(1) Seek education at all costs
(2) Make family security and unity a primary goal, i.e., each person's life is an example for the next generation
(3) Seek family economic independence by making sure that someone in the family has a business supported by the rest of the family
(4) Return to a faith that teaches morals and a positive code of conduct as prescribed in the Christian Ten Commandments. (I'm sure that other faiths have similar rules)
(5) Get involved in some organization dedicated to justice and equality and lifting up our community before another tragedy happens
(6) Stop lying to young people. Be the parents and adults! Tell them the truth about how dress codes, language, and thinking they can do whatever they want to do will not move them forward and may even GET THEM KILLED.
(7) Tell children the truth! Telling the truth is often uncomfortable and inconvenient, like: "Dress like a thug and you will be treated like a thug, even if you are not a thug, and that means not wearing a Hoodie."
(8) If you are Black, the rules are often different. You still need to strive to be twice as good to get half as much as what non-Blacks get.
(9) You must do what you have to do, to get to do what you want to do. Example: If you want a decent career, you have to put in the time training.
(10) Don't listen to people who tell you to do things they don't allow their kids to do. Example: If successful people don't allow their children and grandchildren to wear their pants sagging, why would you listen to them when they tell you it's ok for your kids to sag.
The justice system will eventually deal with the Trayvon Martin matter. The question is what is each of us doing to make the world better so there won't be so many Trayvons in the future? In the meantime, be careful out there and make sure that you are not a hood (hoodlum) under the Hoodie.
Immediately, we all should BOYCOTT FLORIDA!