The phrase, “Do not judge a book by its cover’ is probably one of the most ignored expressions in English societies. Instead of judging someone by the things they say or do, groups choose the easy way out and base their judgments on someone’s appearance.
The color of a person’s skin or the clothing items one wears determines how one is treated, and thus perpetuates stereotypes. A new stereotype of hooded persons has emerged following the death of Trayvon Martin. The story of this seventeen year old reflects how society limits citizen’s ability to dress as they desire without being compartmentalized into an inaccurate and dangerous mould.
Trayvon Martin’s incident sparked off the hoodie movement following a news anchor’s assertion that his hoodie may have contributed to his death. Hundreds of thousands of people, including a US legislator, wore hoodies to protest against this new form of injustice.
The hoodie marches had a lot of racial undertones, but it is clear that the victim’s piece of clothing was the centre of attention in these campaigns. In order to understand why the hoodie is so important to the case, one must place the garment in context. The hoodie sometime solicits negative reactions owing to its tendency to hide the distinctiveness of the wearer. In most cases, the item of clothing will overlap with other stereotypes that build a case against the person.
For instance, issues of race, fear, delinquency and safety will arise when one sees a person with a hood. However, the case of Trayvon has not reinforced these stereotypes from the public; instead, the public has responded by challenging them and asking for justice. This kind of reaction demonstrates that the nation now understands that one must move beyond another’s appearance in order to know another person.
A number of individuals across social networking sites and other media outlets have tried to demystify the hoodie. These sources are quite useful in understanding the psychology and the social misgivings about the item of clothing. Many youth wear hoodies for practical reasons; they have no political agenda when choosing these types of clothes.
Many of them like the comfort and flexibility that they get when wearing them. In fact, hoodies strike the right balance between heavy winter jackets and light summer clothing. They are quite appropriate for those chilly days that are not cold enough for bulky jackets. In fact, even older individuals wear these clothes for comfort and warmth. Additionally, hoodies are conveniently located; they can be found in almost every major supermarket chain in the country.
On top of this, one may not have to part with a lot of money to acquire them. Consequently, it would be wrong to label a person as a delinquent, criminal, or a suspect because of their hoodie. Most of them are simply trying to stay warm. The product was created in order to offer protection against the wind, rain or cold. Many runners will wear hoods in the morning in order to protect their faces from the elements (Prosper 5).
Other people wear hoodies for less-practical reasons; to them, it is more of a fashion statement. High school goers, especially in Martin’s area wear these types of clothes all the time. Some of them have them in various designs, shapes and colors. In certain schools, the hoodie may be mistaken for a uniform. Indeed, this form of fashion is an expression of a young person’s style.
It is a microscopic illustration of what that person is about, and has absolutely nothing to do with the individuals’ character. The danger lies in the people who make conclusions so easily without getting to know the wearer. Since the US is a pluralistic society, then it ought to have open-minded individuals who are ready to apply sound logic before judging others. Citizens need to move beyond the external appearance and use facts in order to come to these decisions.
Sometimes choosing the rational path over the irrational one can make the difference between the death or survival of another human being. Trayvon Martin would probably have been alive if his shooter – Zimmerman – had figured understood the practicality of wearing a hoodie when it was raining. He would have realized that this was just an external cover and had nothing to do with Martin as a person.
A number of individuals have a very twisted view of the world, including the person who shot the hooded victim. They tend to make assumptions about their own safety or a perceived threat on the basis of unfounded ideologies. Even the President himself stated that if he had a son, then he might have looked like or been in the same position as Trayvon. Categorizing people into groups based on their external appearances can lead to irrational actions that may even take away a person’s life (Prosper 8).
If discrimination against people continues owing to their items of clothing, especially the hoodie, then the matter may spiral out of control. Some radicals may argue that hooded clothes should be outlawed in order to protect people from these wearers. However, this would be dealing with the problem in a very aggressive and misguided way. If people continue to discriminate against the wearing of hoodies, then it will send the wrong message to unbalanced people such as Zimmerman.
They will assume that it is alright to attack or even shoot a person because of what they have on. If the stereotype about hoodies was taken to the limit, then everything that criminals wear to conceal their identity should be banned, such as masks, stockings, shades and the like. It may be true that a number of liquor-store robberies are done by hooded individuals, but this is no excuse to make blanket statements about everyone in a hoodie.
Such a stereotype is just a reason for uninformed people to profile other individuals. If the same logic were applied to other items of clothing, then one would be justified to get nervous about a person wearing dark glasses or an individual driving with tinted glasses. One would become sinister about any item that conceals identies and would take away others’ right to do so.
A number of people argue that discrimination against hoodies is also another way of covering racial stereotypes. One can understand their point of view because the victim of this crime was a black male and the assailant was white. It may have been racially based or not; nonetheless, this scenario opens up the possibility of other racists who may use clothing as a disguise for their racist intentions.
They may select symbols that are largely associated with the targeted race or ethnic group and then use them as an excuse to commit hate crimes. If the country prides itself in democracy, then it should not allow this kind of discrimination to continue.
The hoodie movement has brought to light the pervasiveness of stereotypes in society today. It has shown how dangerous prejudices can be if thy are treated irrationally. While biases will always exist, it is what one does with them that reflects who one is. In fact the hoodie movement symbolizes a vital force in society’s democratic space because it focuses on eliminating future excuses for injustice, which is quite commendable.
Prosper, Cheyenne. “Chic and cheap: The symbolic hoodie”. The Oracle 28 Mar. 2012. Web. 12 Apr 2012 ‹http://www.usforacle.com/chic-cheap-the-symbolic-hoodie-1.2720974#.T4UsPNl6ZY0›