In the 1980’s there was an evil man. He blew up people mailing bombs to their places of business and homes. Over seventeen years he killed three people and injured twenty-three. I would say countless family members and friends lived in fear. The FBI called him the Unabomber. His brother identified him as Ted Kaczynski. A man in a hooded sweatshirt with a zipper.
During this same period of time, I played left wing striker (soccer, baby). My attire included a sweatshirt with a hood. Yes, consider me a trend setter, along with thousands of athletes participating in sports world-wide. After one particular game, my teammates and I headed off to Wendy’s for a burger, fries and a frosty. Ah the days of wolfing down transfats with reckless abandon. In the South most fast food places are notoriously freezing. I pulled the sweatshirt on. The hood draped over my head. Before I could remove it, someone made a comment that I looked like the Unabomber. I didn’t swagger with defiant pride with this identification. I ripped the hood off my head faster than a teen can down a cheeseburger.
Thirty years later, I own at least three such hooded sweatshirts and that is what I continue to call them. One sweatshirt was given to me by a young teen back in 1992. Today it is a little worn around the cuffs and the pull string has long disappeared. A little ratty, but fully functional. It’s functionality only includes keeping me warm when riding my scooter around Kona-town on early mornings. It doesn’t function as thug apparel when I hang with my peeps.
When I do drape the hood over my head, I’m freezing. I’m not grabbing my crotch with one hand and holding my jeans up with the other in an effort to keep them from falling below my ass. Something about swaggering down the street with a gangsta attitude seems well, first, stupid and second, intimidating even if I might be a 58 year old white Hispanic (NY Times new name for me) of some economic means (pool monitor, extraordinaire).
I’m not from some big city with hard neighborhoods. I don’t watch TV and I’m not prone to viewing culturally deprived Spike Lee movies, but I am not so sheltered that I don’t know that when I see a young black male sporting a hoodie my sense of self-preservation gets raised. Call it my Juan Williams Muslim-in-the-airport-dressed-in-a-ghutra alert. When I hike in the woods and find a tree leaning over the trail I think “widow maker.” Trust me I don’t hate trees.
You can call me racist until you run out of breath and drop dead. This is not a black and white issue. It’s a cultural issue. The hoodie symbolizes nothing but a negative image for young black males, white males, and girls. I learned this 30 years ago. Why do you think a Congressman wore one in the House of Representatives? To show his solidarity with a young black? Bullshit. Too capture his moment in the spotlight.
Let’s look at the facts. The majority of all murdered people in the United States are black. And you know who killed them? 93% of black murder victims are killed by blacks. (83% of whites murders are committed by whites.) However, young black males commit violent crimes way out of proportion to their percentage of the population. It doesn’t have anything to do with skin color. It’s culture. That is a fact. The odds that I’ll get killed by a young black male are remote, yet I won’t be found hanging with the brothers. Why? The same reason why I won’t stand under leaning trees. It isn’t the smart thing to do. And wearing a hoodie…?
The President, Congressmen and Congresswomen and black activists should be outraged, but not because a Hispanic man shot a young black male. The facts should outrage them. My apologies to the families of all the young black victims murdered by their own whose deaths have been ignored by their own. That is the outrage. But hell, we can’t make a media political stink about that can we?