Disciples News Service

Guest column: When does wearing a hoodie make me a hoodlum?

Questions like this are being raised across the country as the nation is reeling and reacting to the tragic murder of another young African American male.  February 26, 2012 was the last day in the life of seventeen years old, Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Florida.  Reports tell us that he was carrying a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles, but he was wearing a hoodie and thus he appeared “suspicious.”  This was the discerning impression of George Zimmerman, self-appointed block watch officer, who carried the deadly weapon that ended Trayvon Martin’s life. Many of us are old enough to remember, Aug. 28, 1955, in Money, Miss., when Emmett Till, a 14 year old African-American teenager from Chicago, visiting relatives, was brutally killed after having been accused of flirting with a white woman. The death of Emmett Till was the catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. It has been said, “If you forget the past, you are bound to repeat it.” Well, we have not forgotten the past and we sure do not want to repeat it.

As a church we extend our condolences to the family and relations of Trayvon Martin. We pray that somehow, through the misery and mystery of this fatal event, God will make a way for the sunlight of justice and the sun beams of mercy to shine through on behalf of Trayvon Martin and his family. We do believe that there is no sorrow on earth that heaven cannot heal.

Public marches and demonstrations of protests are picking up momentum, interest and numbers across the country. This dramatic event has touched too many hearts and imaginations with genuine concerns for “my son” or “my child” to be completely ignored or belittled. Scenes like this painful event are played out in reality too often. That is why I had to have the hard conversation with my sons to respond and behave with courtesy and humility when being questioned or confronted by the police or armed public officials.  It is a hard conversation because we should not have to have it at all. However, racism, racial profiling and stereotyping of African-American males and other persons of color are all-too-common American experiences. 

When does wearing a hoodie make you a hoodlum? When the eye and mind of the beholder jumps to the assumption, that just because you are black, you are up to something.  But today, everybody is wearing a hoodie in memory of Trayvon Martin.  Hoodies do not make you a hoodlum. People wearing hoodies today are joining the movement and marching for love, justice, peace, civil rights, personal respect and for the judicial system to administer a just non-biased prosecution.  It’s time to revive the movement against nonviolence, to stem the tide of death snatching our young people one by one. It’s time to revive the movement of the spirit of mercy, compassion and reconciliation that recognizes the value of every individual.  It’s time to revive the movement spirit of love and joy that goes from heart to heart and breast to breast. I will be wearing my hoodie for Jesus and praying that God will give to the bereaved family, concerned citizens, and all persons impacted, that which the world can’t give and neither take away.  May God grant us peace?  Amen.                      

Timothy M. James