I’ve been thinking about the Trayvon Martin case – the one that has the entire country up in arms because a teenager was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman. I’ve always been sensitive to stories where people are treated unfairly, but this one hits where it truly hurts – in my heart.
I volunteer in a predominately African-American school. On Friday, I noticed one of my first graders kept putting on the hoodie of his jacket despite repeated reminders to take it off. Students are not allowed to wear hoodies in class. Although this student is only six years old, it later dawned on me that *perhaps* he insisted on wearing a hoodie to show support for the slain teenage boy who lost his life in a senseless tragedy.
Another tragedy is that our founding fathers said we are all created equal, yet we are all not treated equal. I say this as a minority – a disabled American woman of Italian heritage – often mistaken for Spanish. Just being a woman puts me behind the equality eight ball. Add being disabled may put me further behind in some circles. But, I am not African-American.
In fact, I wouldn’t want to be African-American in our society. Our nation has improved with regard to accepting people of all races (thanks to Dr., martin Luther King, Jr.), but we still have a l-o-n-g way to go. An African-American person is judged no matter where they go. When have you ever heard of a white person being afraid of another white person walking past them?
Geraldo Rivera said that Trayvon’s hoodie is as much to blame for his death as the man who shot him. At first, this comment enraged me. Now, I agree with what I think Geraldo was implying, which is that a young black man wearing a hoodie conjures up only one image: a thug. It’s true. If I wear a hoodie and walk down the street, no one will be suspicious of me. It’s sad that Trayvon didn’t have the right to wear whatever he wanted. Instead, his clothing choice actually contributed to his death. Let me be clear: a hoodie did not kill Trayvon, however, I wonder if he would still be alive had he not been wearing one. And, because of this case, are we to send a conflicting message to our children in order to save their lives? A message which says, “We live in a free country, you are equal, but don’t wear a hoodie in public or else you might get shot.”
Equality bites in America if you are different in any way. Unfortunately, this lesson cost Trayvon Martin his life.