Volume 65: Tales From The Hood

Posted on 04/17/2012

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So, I believe the day count has reached 50 with regards to how long it has been since the killing of Trayvon Martin; and, throughout the ordeal, I hoped that cooler heads would have prevailed by now. Unfortunately, they haven’t. Now you may be asking what I mean when I say “cooler heads”? Well, I’ll tell you. Let me begin by stating that I believe Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman. No question in my head about that. He was identified, stalked, confronted and murdered. That is my opinion, and I believe that I have logically come to that conclusion. Now, I specifically used the word ‘logically’ because I don’t want to confuse that with ‘legally’. I am not a lawyer, investigator, prosecutor, forensic pathologist, medical examiner, judge, or any person that has been trained to collect and/or interpret physical evidence. What I am armed with is my addiction to Law & Order, CSI, NCIS, Snapped, First 48, and a good dose of common sense; so I believe there has been enough information disseminated to the public to warrant his arrest – but that’s not the point I’m making with this post. Additionally, the “cooler heads” to which I’m referring is not directed to the George Zimmerman supporters, it’s to the supporters of Trayvon Martin. And, while my opinion may be unpopular; it is indicative and emblematic of the American collective unconscious. So while this story is dominating the headlines, I don’t see it as being unique. I see it as just another Tale From the Hood.

To Hood? Or not too hood?

I had this conversation on my personal Facebook page last week regarding the hoodie Trayvon was wearing on the night in question; and I remember Geraldo Rivera being chastised by media pundants for suggesting that his wardrobe choice played a role in the incident. And, I have to say that, to a certain degree, I agree with him. Specifically, Rivera explained, “It’s those crime scene surveillance tapes. Every time you see someone sticking up a 7-11, the kid is wearing a hoodie,” Rivera said. “You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangster, you’re gonna be a gangster wannabe? Well, people are gonna perceive you as a menace.” (Please stop yelling at the computer. And please, roll your eyes back down so you can see, LOL!) Let me put his comments in the proper context.

Menace To Society

If you are Black or Brown in this country – well, any minority for that matter – you have been stereotyped and/or racially profiled. American history has shown that the prevailing class projects on to minorities negative perceptions that they believe to be contrary to their ideal (i.e. homogeneous) society. Some of those perceptions were born from a guilty conscience. For example, African people were described as violent savages that were both dumb and lazy so being kept in horrific bondage was “better” for them. It sounds ridiculous now; however, you’d be surprised as to what you can convince yourself to be true to assuage a guilty conscience. Anyway, over time, the minority population tends to assume some of the erroneous rhetoric created about them as some sort of suicidal self-fulfilling prophesy. In short, slavery created a large-scale Stockholm syndrome in the captives. Blacks identified (and to a certain degree still do) with the stereotypes created about them and behaved accordingly.

Chicken or Egg?

Moving forward, racial profiling is a hot issue with regards to the treatment of minorities by police and other authorities. It has been debated in the highest courts in this country with no end in sight. The line has been drawn in the sand, and sides have been chosen. On one side, statistics support the use of profiling to ease the burden on police. They use the statistics to summarize what a typical criminal “looks” like. But wait, we just learned that the stereotypes were created about and projected on to the African slaves; and they slowly assimilated those stereotypes as “truths” about their nature. So, it could be suggested that the criminal statistics used to support profiling were initially fabricated. Therefore, those that tout them are not necessarily wrong. They are just not providing the whole context. I mean, if you tell a cat he’s a dog his whole life; don’t be surprised if he starts to bark.

Real vs.  Reality

So where am I going with all this? Good question. The 1960’s brought about two monumental societal changes in this country. The first was the Civil Rights Act. The second was the expansion of television as the primary medium for information. Television made and makes society more reliant on what they see versus experience in making decisions. Today, image is a commodity that is marketed and sold to the masses. If you can control your image, you can alter reality. Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson are classic examples of people who lost control of their image, and their reality suffered as a result. Anyway, the supporters of Trayvon cannot deny the statement made by Mr. Rivera. You cannot walk around looking like the profile of a criminal, then get upset when you are treated as such – whether that profile was erroneously generated or not. Is my statement unpopular? Yes. Is it untrue? No. Please don’t confuse the two.

Conclusion

I know my “unpopular” diatribe sounds as if I’m blaming the victim. That is  not what I am doing AT ALL!  I stated earlier that I believe that Trayvon was stalked and unceremoniously murdered in cold blood. At the same time, any “freedom” (including freedom of expression) we enjoy in this country does not include “freedom from consequences.” There is a consequence for each and every decision that we make. If we press the snooze button in the morning, the consequence is that we might be late for work. If we are Black in this country and choose to wear our jeans low with a hoodie, there are consequences (real and perceived) for that too. Should we be judged by how we look? Absolutely not! I believe in the Kingian philosophy of being judged by the content of our character. At the same time, I’m not naive enough to think that’s how it really is. Is it possible to work towards and ideal while living in the real? I hope so. That is the only way we can find some triumph out of this tragedy.

That’s just my three cents…

Sill-E

“Peep my ver-na-cular cuz I don’t know how to act…”

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