Equality Bites

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.

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  • hmmmm i don’t know about that. It’s common knowledge Geraldo is a dork.
    Trayvon was murdered because the killer was a racist cop wanna be that repeatedly called 911 to report suspicious “people” who all happened to be black. he had previously made a 911 call about a “suspicious” person. a black male about 7-8 years old….

    • Hi Isa,

      Thanks for your comment. I understand what you are saying about Geraldo. I do believe that a black person, especially a young black boy wearing a hoodie, is cause for disaster especially since there are racist people – cops, wanna be cops, and otherwise, looking for any reason to be suspicious.

  • Nicki – you speak what a lot of us think and your comments are so right on. Parents must teach their children very early on about embracing differences, whether it is color, sex, religion or disability…as we know, racist oe bigoted adults typically learn these behaviors as youngsters. And, it is never acceptable!

  • Unfortunately young black men are not the only ones judged by apparel. Women who are raped are criticized for dressing ‘slutty’. Muslims have been targeted as suspicious for wearing traditional clothing. Non-muslims such as Sikhs have been murdered because their turbans were mistaken for ‘Taliban’. Let us put the squarely where it belongs- with the perpetrator.

    • Hi,

      You bring up some excellent points. It is sad to even think that people are being targeted and murdered because of their clothing. What I do not understand is why a neighborhood watchmen carries, uses a gun, kills a citizen, and the police don’t arrest him and/or bring him in for questioning? Are neighborhood watchmen allowed to carry guns and pull the trigger?

  • I also volunteer in a predominately African American school and it amazes me when friends and/ or co-workers ask if I am afraid when I drive there. I always respond I will be afraid of who I am when I stop driving there. Those kids are equally as smart and talented as their white/ Asian and Hispanic peers. All kids want the same out of life; to be loved and to be given a FAIR chance at succeeding in life. Isn’t it time we all become color blind and learn to live as one? It truly is that simple. People are not given a choice of their skin color before birth. After birth we do have a choice to be color blind. It’s time we stop judging others based on their skin color. Our children deserve to be and feel safe while growing up in this sometimes unkind world. Put yourself in another person’s shoes before judging them. That could have been you.

    • Dear John,

      Your comment sums my thoughts up beautifully. I, too, have been asked by family and friends about the “area” in which my school is located. No one would ask us similar questions if we volunteered in a predominately white school in a questionable neighborhood. I am guilty of judging people, but, like you, I would be afraid of who I am if I listened to others and stopped driving to my school when I’ve NEVER feared entering that school. I do fear for those who ask me such ridiculous questions because they have no idea the amount of JOY those kids bring me every day. We are all one.

  • Personally, I think you are missing a lot of facts. There are eyewitnesses saying Martin was attacking Zimmerman. The 911 calls have Zimmerman’s voice screaming for help. Zimmerman’s black friends have come forward saying he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. (He is hispanic – not white BTW) Below is a link to Martin posing for photos flashing gang symbols.


    I’m a gay man and know what it’s like to be a minority and be discriminated against and taunted just for who I am. This doesn’t pass the smell test to me.

    • Hi Thindulge,

      Thank you for visiting my blog. While we do not know all of the facts surrounding this case, what doesn’t pass the smell test to me is the fact that an armed neighborhood watchman shot and killed an unarmed teenage boy and some are finding fault with the boy…I don’t get it.

      • Thanks for having me as a guest to your blog! 🙂

        To be honest, I think you missed the point of my post. Eyewitnesses saw Martin attacking Zimmerman. That’s where the fault comes in. Whether shooting him was the right amount of force, that’s not for me to judge. But witnesses saw Martin attacking him and the 911 calls have Zimmerman’s voice crying for help. To me, this was not an ordinary teenager doing his paper route gone awry – hoodie or no hoodie. Just my opinion

        • Hi Anthony,

          Thanks for continuing the discussion. Yes, if Martin attacked Zimmerman, that is definitely wrong. I do think that if Martin was not wearing a hoodie, he wouldn’t have raised Zimmerman’s suspicions and would be alive today. I definitely feel that charges should be brought against Zimmerman because he wasn’t supposed to be carrying a gun in the first place and upon using it, he killed a teenager.

        • Hi Anthony,

          Hoodies are not banned in my school. The teacher I work with doesn’t want kids wearing the hood probably so she can see what they are doing; plus, kids at that age tend to play with their jackets rather than just wear them.

  • I also want to clarify to everyone reading this that I am not saying that the hoodie killed Trayvon. I’m just making a social commentary that a young black boy (or Hispanic, etc.) wearing a hoodie is seen as a suspicious and a thug whereas a young white boy wearing a hoodie probably would not raise any eyebrows.

  • When athe news of Martin’s death resonated round the world we in Ghana, West Africa were equally shocked just like the rest of the world I believe. That a young adult with his life ahead of him should be killed in such a manner beat the imagination. As could be expected, the racism factor became the issue. Curiolsy, I was not swayed by that factor. I’ve never been to the US, but we all do know of gangs and thuggery by some African Americans and as a concerned mother I’m always monitoring what my children watch on the TV in relation to movies and rap music by the African Americans which portray such wildness.

    Be that as it may, I found it utterly senseless that Zimmeman could gun down an unarmed Martin in cold blood, and I felt something was amiss. As a neighbourhood watch committee member, I do beblieve he would have been trained in other means of arresting a ‘suspect’, as well as defending himself. Anthony Caruso is right when he admitted that the use of force against Martin was in the extreme, and therein lies the issue, but for God’s sake what was he defending himself against? The hoodie or Martin’s swagger? If a hoodie on him made him look suspicious could Zimmerman not have employed maybe other soft approach in handling the youth? Was there a scuffle? If 911 actually recorded Zimmerman screaming for help, then, Martin most likely exhibited some ‘gang tactics’ on the cop. But did that justify an extreme use of force to defend himself?

    The Hoodie isssue is another dimension. Is it a symbol of resistance to authority on the part of the youth in America or a symbol of gang identity or a fashion phase? I’m an African, and in my country, the youth don’t go about wearing hoodies. Our type of weather will make the wearing of hoodies ridiculous. What is more, the adult is respected, and so even the errant youth or gang member will recognise the one in authority and show some due resepct. I’m not sounding smug, here, please. I believe the authorities should deal with Zimmerman on the facts of the case, without any racial undertones. After all, the basics is that he shot and killed unarmed youth, gang or nr gang, hoodie or no hoodie. Thanks , Nicole for the opportunity.

    • Excellent comments! I totally agree with what you said. I also feel that the hoodie is usually viewed as a symbol of resistance to authority since it originated (I think) among gang members. Yes, the basics of Zimmerman shooting and killing an unarmed youth, hoodie or no hoodie, should be enough for Zimmerman to be questioned at the VERY least.

    • reading these comments I see so many with valid points. to me, yours perfectly sums up the true issues. children are not being taught to live with discipline, make good choices and show respect, which leads to major behavioral issues and negative social grouping in later years, which perpetuates stereotypes and fear in people outside of the stereotype, which leads to paranoia and irrational actions on the part of the ignorant outsiders, which leads to violent reactions from the troubled youth/adults, which leads to both types of these people teaching their children (or not teaching them anything at all) that all these hateful actions are acceptable… and the cycle continues over and over… which forces me to say “which leads to” way more times than I would like.

  • I’m not so sure that had his hoodie been down on his shoulders, we still would not be talking about this tragic turn of events. Those that hate, those that are xenophobes need no costume excuse- they have hated and feared others who were naked (or whom they rendered naked).
    And, even if Trayvon punched Zimmerman- he was being followed for no reason and would feel intimidated (listen to his phone calls). Furthermore, Zimmerman was told to pull back. The cop wannabe (rejected application) clearly did not obey the command (was that why he was rejected?)- and has his own agenda.
    Oh, and in many circles (especially at night), any young person in a hoodie- of any color- would be a cause for concern… but not the subject of a murder as would be true in Texas, Florida, and Virginia that are “liberal” with gun excuses…

    • Hi Roy,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that people who hate others need no excuse – clothing or otherwise, but why give them even more ammunition? My main point about the hoodie is is cause for concern in many places; it, like the color of ones’ skin, should not be the subject of a murder.

      I do not understand why Zimmerman isn’t in custody given what you said – he was told to leave Martin alone; he didn’t. He shot and killed Martin and he’s allowed to stay in hiding?

  • There is something going on with all this that I don’t understand. Since there are questions about who did what and to whom, we are not in position to be judge and jury about either person involved. Hoodies were banned in the schools in North Texas that I subbed at because they supposedly were gang related. Kids could wear them in the halls, just not in class. Kids are not supposed to shout bad things about each other. I would stop the behavior, but not kick kids out for it. Maybe I should have. The kids being shouted about proudly said they were being bullied. I made them be quiet, too. Their pride is why I didn’t kick the other ones out. Maybe I should have kicked the lot of them out. Violence, verbal abuse, and teachers either ignoring or making a matter worse can probably lead to the Martin-Zimmerman confrontation. Like I said it’s too complicated for us to judge.

    • Hi Ann,

      I did not know that hoodies are actually banned in some schools. The Martin case is confusing because things keep getting leaked – some are true, some are false – how are we to know? I definitely feel the police department handled this case poorly.

  • Great article Nicole.

    Although the aftermath of the Martin case is sketchy and confusing, the one thing we do know is an unarmed teenager has lost his life and will not be able to give his side of what had happened the evening he was shot.

    Discrimination is evil….but covering up an act of discrimination is inhumane.

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  • No offence….in as much zimmerman is wrng n pulling d trigger,I think there’s a bit of truth in what zimmerman is saying 4 christsake u cnt just walk up 2 som1 nd shoot him n xpct 2 get away wid it we’ve got eye witnesses ….more so dis case nid not be approached 4rm d racial point of view zimmerman shud av a fair trial need u b told how poor american youths are morally??

    • Thank you for your comment. Whether or not American youths have poor morals is not in question. Zimmerman shot Trayvon when the police told him to leave him alone. A young boy is dead – such a tragedy. Zimmerman should not get away with shooting the boy – that would add fuel to the fire.

  • I kind of see what you mean, although anyone wearing a hoodie could be considered “suspicious”. My husband was walking home from campus when a cop stopped to talk to him on two different occasions because he was wearing a black hoodie. His hood was up because it was cold. The cop said he looked suspicious.