Saturday, March 31, 2012

Do I Look Suspicious? Thoughts on the Trayvon Martin killing.

When we decided to give our character Alvin Gentry a hoodie, we chose it for both its innocence and its treachery. We liked the hooded sweatshirt’s ability to obscure our hero’s identity, and because of the hooded sweatshirt’s popularity, we figured that it would allow Alvin to blend in. We reasoned that a person wearing a hoodie would not immediately be considered a threat (boy, were we wrong), and finally, we considered the weather. In New York, in early spring, one might need a jacket.

Thanks to the Trayvon Martin debacle, the hooded sweatshirt or hoodie has taken center stage. Political pundits like Geraldo Rivera are blaming an article of clothing, stating that it contributed to the crime. 

Alvin Gentry is a sophomore at NYU, and he has an NYU purple hooded sweatshirt. It's that simple. At least it was. The irony of our character, a young black male wearing a hoodie as Trayvon did the night he was killed has not escaped us. Our guy is a violent vigilante that carries weapons under his sweatshirt. Trayvon was carrying Skittles. The two could not be more different, but to many, they look exactly the same. 

I didn’t know Trayvon Martin and I don’t know George Zimmerman. Chances are neither do you. I can’t speak to their personalities, and I have no interest in debating the details of the case. But while we’re all caught up in the particulars, we’re missing the big picture. The driving force behind this incident and behind most of the reactions is fear.

You say that you want justice and I do too, but would your desires for justice change if it were a black shooter and a white victim? What about if both parties were white, or Latino? What if this happened in a poor neighborhood? Would it even make the news? Would you march, protest, or post pictures in solidarity then?

Fear is what causes suspicion, and I believe that fear is what led this young man’s death. George Zimmerman was afraid of Trayvon Martin, and now gun owners are afraid of losing their rights, politicians are afraid of losing their standing and their money, and just about everyone is afraid that something like this could happen to them or someone they love. In my opinion, fear is behind most of the things that are being said in the media, and fear is what is fueling the reactions in social media.

It's likely the Trayvon Martin killing has already changed your life in one way or another, but how we choose to react to this tragedy can and will shape our future. Maybe you identify with Trayvon Martin. Perhaps you identify with George Zimmerman. But until we recognize that the true enemy is our own preconception these kinds of things will continue. Until we focus on a person’s character and NOT their clothing, we are and will be truly lost.

- Chris Dickens

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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