Taking this picture required six different attempts to get the “look” and pose I liked. Would I, as many others have done, portray a stone-faced “thug,” thus illustrating the absurdity of equating a garment to a threat? Would an intense glare portray the correct level of frustration with the so-called system of “justice” we have in this country? As you see, I have given my hoodie more monastic reflection, emphasized with a greyscale filter.
But this is the luxury we have as bloggers. We are able to take the time to convey the image we wish to convey, quantified by explanation if need be. Mostly of paler complexions, mostly educated in the formal variety, our skin tones and ages cast differing contexts within which the hoodie can exist. It's obvious that a hoodie does not a threatening person make. Thus, the threat lies in the eye of the beholder. The fear which underlies that threat is the fear of a darkened face inside the hoodie.
As some have asserted, the purpose of the Million Hoodie March is to illustrate how everyone looks the same in a hoodie, and that we are now unified in our distain for the system which allowed Zimmerman to follow Trayvon Martin, a child, then to kill that child, then to go home to his own bed that night.
The reality is that, no, everyone does not look the same in a hoodie—at least from the front. No one is afraid of a late-middle aged white man or woman behind a computer. On the street, they would look ridiculous and we might question their mental abilities. No one is afraid of the somber teenage girl with alabaster skin and black fingernails. What “we” are afraid of is race, of being deemed racist for acknowledging the indoctrinated fear of young black men or the white boys to try to emulate them. So instead, we talk about hoodies. “Oh, I’m not afraid of YOU as a person! I’m not racist! I’m just bothered by your clothing choices.”
Bullshit. If you even thought of the young man you see as a person, this wouldn’t be an issue.
When I first heard of the Million Hoodie March, it reminded me of another demonstration designed to emphasize that clothing does not make the person: SlutWalk. The women at SlutWalk wish to convey that it is incorrect to assume that because a woman dresses a certain way, any man thus has her permission to treat her like a piece of meat. In the throngs of female demonstrators, populated by business women and teachers, college professors and lawyers, many dressed in their most garish attire usually reserved for Halloween; you do not know who you are standing next to simply by the way she’s dressed. The challenge presented is to carry this lesson with you when that same person is dressed for a night on the town or in a pencil skirt at the office.
Unfortunately, SlutWalk has the unintended perception of exhibitionism thinly veiled as civil rights activism. The male gaze will look to the half-naked bodies on parade and rationalize, “Oh, I have the upmost respect for women and do not for one second think YOU are a whore! It just that your clothing has me confused.”
Bullshit. If you even thought of the woman you see in terms of being a person, there would be no confusion. You would not think of her in terms of what she can do for you or to you and how much she might cost you in terms of money, time, or effort to get what you want out of her.
Rather quickly, I found a common denominator between the theoretical social dynamic above, and the specific dynamic of my marriage: my ex-husband would have this way of splitting hairs when it came to calling me a bitch. He would say it out loud, in various contexts, “You’re acting like a bitch.”
I would respond, quite flabbergasted, “Don’t call me a bitch! That is the worst thing you can say to your wife! How DARE you call me a bitch!”
“I didn’t call YOU a bitch. I said you were acting like a bitch.” As if there was a difference, he maintained there was, as if that difference made the offense allowable. (Try replacing ‘bitch’ with ‘nigger’, and see how far that logic takes you.)
Instead of attacking my character, it was easier and more "allowable" to attack my actions. This is because he did not wish to perceive me as a person of character, but only cared that I fulfilled the role of his conception of a wife. However, my identity as a person will always exist separate from my potential to fulfill the role of a wife.
Therefore, the identity of each woman exists separate from her potential to pleasure the male body.
Therefore, the identity of each black man exists separate from his potential to cause harm.
To embrace and acknowledge the identity of a person before acknowledging the color or gender of the body, or how it is dressed, is a step thus far we have been unwilling to take. To do so would require each of us to acknowledge the racist within ourselves who refuses to acknowledge that black men as a whole deserve more than to be regarded as potential thugs, the misogynist within ourselves who refuses to acknowledge that women as a whole deserve more than to be measured by their potential to pleasure a man.