There is a Hoodie Day event on Facebook to wear a hoodie on April 2nd in order to commemorate Trayvon Martin’s death and bring to light some of the racist comments that have been brought up by politicians and journalists.
For those who don’t know the details of the shooting, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was walking home, wearing a hoodie, when neighborhood watch member, George Zimmerman, deemed him ‘suspicious looking’ and shot and killed the teenager.
There was instant outrage towards the shooting, especially when it was reported that Martin was only bringing a bag of skittles and a bottle of iced tea home. Anger only increased after journalist Geraldo Rivera said on television, “I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly not to let their children go out wearing hoodies…if they’ve got those hoodies up, and they’re hanging out on the corner, the cops look at them and say, ‘Hmm, hoodies. Who else wears hoodies? Everybody that ever stuck up a convenience store…”
President Obama expressed his sympathy to Martin’s family, and also referenced the sad occurrence of minorities often being the victims of racial profiling. Obama assured the American public that the law would do its job at finding out what exactly happened. He also said, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” Republican candidate Newt Gingrich referenced this last remark of Obama’s by commenting, “Is the president suggesting that, if it had been a white who’d been shot, that would be OK, because it wouldn’t look like him? That’s just nonsense.” Racial comments like Rivera and Gingrich’s have only strengthened the public’s outrage at this shooting.
Now a month after the shooting, I found an interesting article from The Chicago Tribune with the story of the shooting from the side of the shooter. Zimmerman states that after following Martin because of his ‘suspicious nature,’ Martin confronted him and starting hitting him, rather than the original story that Zimmerman shot Martin without any provocation.
Depending on whether or not he’s telling the truth, the story is now more complicated than it was before. If Martin attacked Zimmerman, then this would be a case of self-defense and Zimmerman is not at fault. But there is also a phone recording, since Zimmerman had called 911 telling them he was following Martin, who he deemed suspicious. On other 911 phone recordings (since neighbors also called 911 in response to the incident), someone is heard calling for help. Zimmerman claims he was calling for help as Martin was attacking him, but Martin’s family believe the cries are Martin’s voice, and his girlfriend says she heard Zimmerman start the confrontation as she spoke to Martin on the phone.
While it’s never okay to “shoot now, ask later” by following the “stand your ground” mantra, it’s also never okay to bombard someone with something so heinous before the entire truth is brought to light. Now, I am not saying “shame on you, American public!” because I am definitely guilty of this as well, and not just in this case. When a crime is first reported there is often only a small amount of detail, not enough to fully show the extent of what happened. Zimmerman is being accused by the public of murder, and a racially inspired one at that. That is a very high accusation, one that is far too serious to be branded upon someone before the whole truth is revealed.
It happens too often where someone is under media fire for an extended amount of time before people realize, after investigation, that they were not responsible. Everyone says “sorry, my bad” but the damage to the person cannot be undone. Even if the judicial system brings to light the truth, the person is still seen in a negative light and may have had their lives destroyed.
The evidence in this case is still being investigated, and it is clear that no one is quite sure what actually happened yet. On one hand, things are not looking too good for Zimmerman, seeing as he has an extensive criminal record, including the assault of a police officer and the filing of a restraining order by his ex-girlfriend. Though many believe that Zimmerman is guilty, we must not forgot that in our judicial system, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
Nothing has been proven yet. Just because we have freedom of speech doesn’t mean we should always voice our opinions and beliefs when we don’t know all the facts. Even so, I will be wearing a hoodie on April 2nd and I hope that all of you will too. Regardless of what really happened between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, we can still show that no one should be deemed as suspicious looking based on what they’re wearing.
Because you never know, I may just be carrying a bag of skittles and a bottle of iced tea.