Community Greens

People of all colors discussing evergreen ideas.

It Takes a Village: Profiling and Trayvon Martin

CZV Hooded

The young folks in my Clason Point village often wear hooded sweatshirts: hoodies. There are other villages where people wear kente cloth, mud cloth, plaids, saris, sarongs, leather jackets, Hilfiger polo shirts and suits with shirts and ties. In New York, some villagers signal authority by wearing blue. Gang members wear red bandanas in their back pockets, around their heads. Motorcyclists wear colors, but wearing a motorcycle jacket doesn’t mean you are a Son of Anarchy. Villagers wear clothes and colors with pride and dignity, not with criminal intent. When did the hooded sweatshirt become a symbol of crime and delinquency like in 1977 when the Bronx was pronounced the example of urban blight and decay in America? When did the hoodie become a target, something that defined the profile?

It takes a village to create a culture based on the content and character of its people. Villages aren’t perfect but they should be transformative, a chrysalis for their residents, so they can emerge and move into the larger world taking their culture and colors with them to better the broader landscape. Why have villages too often become ghettos where the inhabitants are branded by the color of their skin, the language they speak or the clothes they wear? Why do we, understanding this, accept profiling? Why do we create laws and policies where a person becomes a perpetrator and probable cause is justified because they wore a hoodie? If only crime prevention was that easy. Should everyone that buys a ski mask register with the local police because they now have the intent and means to commit a crime or are they simply planning a ski weekend?

We must move past provincial thinking that allows one villager to harm another in any fashion for any reason. It stops by thinking inside the box, by ordering the content within, by tossing out the trash before it contaminates another villager and consumes another village. If Trayvon Martin were your son, what would you do? Justice is not equally applied in every village. What would your village do? Should people fear wearing a cross or yarmulke because they belong to a certain village? Or should we demand human rights, not for some, but for all. I have to wear a hoodie because not wearing one would say I am not willing to stand up for my rights and yours. And I am going to wear my Black Is Beautiful Button as you should wear your Kiss Me I’m Irish button in Ghandi-esque protest. I have a 25 year old son who is stopped once a week in my village. He wears hoodies. He fits the profile. Given the recent events, I am afraid he could be killed. Should that be right?

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2 Responses

  1. czvasser says:

    I started to post something about arts and culture or the vibrant Bronx, but when at 11:30pm in Clason Point, between Soundview and Castle Hill Avenues in the Bronx where I live, before I walked Simple, my 11 year old pit, as I have done regularly, thousands of times on cool evenings, I paused before putting on a hooded sweatshirt: a hoodie. I had to make a decision to wear a hoodie or not given the time, neighborhood, frequent police patrols and Trayvon Martin. I realized I needed to say something about the world we live in, not the green, arts and culture world we would like to live in, but the world we immerse ourselves in and are subject to everyday. I wore the hoodie and will change my Facebook “profile” photo to stand up for changing the world one hoodie at a time.

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  2. Morgan Powell says:

    This issue ties into a bigger one for working class and lower middle class people of color who are upwardly mobile and may signal their aspirations by ignoring the grinding poverty of similarly resourced others who’ve been so unloved and over-profiled in many ways as to qualify as “other.” I know of what I speak, I am coming out of this dual consciousness even as I type this post. I will be wearing a lot more hooded garments this year. It’s time for all of us who need to to free ourselves from our false sense of extra-worthiness and recognize the essential connection between all elements of society from the suites to the streets. This is going to have to include confronting the messages we all consume from an ever expanding mass media reaching us on ever more screens in our lives. A nation that was remarkably more equal in the early 1970s must re-invest in the things that mean cohesion, legacy and civility. Please join me in finding those paths understanding that a lot of it will be off line and face to face in public space!

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