Friday, July 19, 2013

In the Dark about Hoodies and Race Relations

I am going to start this rant by stating that I believe that George Zimmerman should have been convicted of manslaughter in the death of Trayvon Martin.   However, I also believe that the prosecution did not prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Our justice system depends upon that reasonable doubt to try to keep innocent people out of prison – or from receiving death sentences.  It does not always work, but I would rather a guilty man go free with reasonable doubt in play than an innocent man be executed because we no longer consider reasonable doubt.   

This being said, I would like to vent my 2 cents worth on the Hoodie Marches for Trayvon Martin  that are going on across the country this weekend.  Somehow it seems that many people have gotten the idea that it was Trayvon’s hoodie that made Zimmerman nervous.  It was the hoodie that made Martin seem “suspicious” or “sinister.”  Many people are going to don their hoodie’s this weekend and march in protest of the sterotyping that they believe drove Zimmerman to confront Trayvon and ultimately led to his death. 

I am not going to get into the interactions between Zimmerman and Martin on the day in question because I was not there.  Zimmerman has told his story, but Martin is not available to tell his.  At this point, the actions and reactions that led up to the ultimate conclusion are no longer relevant. 

But in response to these marches I have to say that if people think that hoodies are the catalyst for suspicious minds, perhaps they should complain to those who hide behind their hoodies in an attempt to get away with their crimes.  No, that is not a stereotypical statement. 

Just two weeks ago, in Columbia, SC, two teenagers entered a bakery, hoodies pulled over their faces to hide them from the surveillance cameras, guns drawn as they came in the door, and shot the baker five times, killing her, because there was no money on the premises.  Their look-out – a younger teen – stood just outside the back door, the only thing picked up on the camera being his hat.  These young men knew there was a surveillance camera and they deliberately concealed their identities because they knew they were committing a crime.  Thirty-three year old Kelly Hunnewell was the single mother of four children, ages 6 through 13.  She worked hard to provide for her children and spent all of her spare time with them, loving them and caring for them.  The bakery was an off-site location where she prepared the baked goods for a local restaurant.  There was never any money on the premises. 

I have a hard time trying to reconcile these two incidents when I look at that one object – the hoodie.  Many see it as an object that created a stereotypical image in the mind of George Zimmerman while others will certainly view it as a method of concealment for these young men who so callously took the life of a young mother.  How can both be correct?   

For those of you who believe that every situation is stoically black-and-white (no pun intended), I request that you open your minds and realize that life is full of a broad spectrum of shades of gray.  As I say this I realize that I have to make the next leap that has already been made in many minds.  Is this a race issue?  They are both race issues . . . if the individual interpreting the facts views it through values that hinge upon race.  Otherwise, neither are race issues.   

Zimmerman was a man in perceived authority who was determined that the young man, Trayvon Martin, was going to do as he requested.  Zimmerman was determined that Martin was going to respect that authority.  The situation escalated into a physical altercation where, I believe, they both felt threatened.  At that point, fight-or-flight kicked in for both and their fight ended in death. 

Hunnewell was thinking about nothing but her baking and her children in the early morning hours of July 1.  These young men who attempted to rob her were thinking about nothing but the money they hoped to find in the store.  So why did they enter with guns drawn?  Why did they immediately point their weapons at Hunnewell?  And why did they shoot her five times when she told them there was no money in the store?  It was not about race, but rather about anger in not getting what they wanted and the desire to keep Hunnewell from identifying them at a later date. 

When will we – as a society – stop reducing our problems down to race or hoodies or other such identifiers instead of looking closer to find the true cause of the problems?  It is hard to answer that question, but as long as we allow this simplistic approach to prevail, we cannot hope for any better than the dog-eat-dog society in which we live.

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