News And Politics

OnCentral on Foot: Wearing a hoodie

March 27, 2012, 1:03 p.m.

A sign of support at Monday's "Million Hoodie March" for Trayvon Martin in downtown Los Angeles. (Credit: José Martinez/KPCC)


In "OnCentral on Foot," we approach people at random in the streets of South L.A. and ask them their thoughts on the world and community in which they live. This time, we asked about their hoodies.

The death of 17-year-old Florida high school student Trayvon Martin has dominated national headlines in recent days, more than a month after he was shot and killed by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Martin's death has become a rallying cry for racial equality activists, and reignited public discussions on the so-called Black Male Code.

In the wake of Martin's death, FOX News commentator Geraldo Rivera focused on the hoodie Martin was wearing when he died, and made one comment that sparked a flurry of controversy: "I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters, particularly, to not let their young children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was."

One glance down nearly any South L.A. street on a day with even the slightest chill will reveal plenty of hoodies. So we asked people about whether they felt targeted when they wore a hoodie – and about the deeper racial issues that might be a part of that.

Jeff Foreman, 28

Do you feel like a target wearing a hoodie?
No, I feel like a hoodie is a perfectly normal clothing item that practically everyone wears regardless of race or age, and it doesn't justify making someone a victim.

Why do you think for black and Hispanic males that there's an association with suspicion?
Basically racism. George Zimmerman looked at Trayvon [Martin] and decided he was a problem because of the way he looked. Young black male wearing a hoodie, and he decided he was a gangbanger or criminal.

Have you had experiences like that, where you feel people make a decision about you based on how you look?
Every now and then. Usually it's subtle. Sometimes I judge myself – I'm wondering if somebody's looking at me a certain kind of way.

So you have to pay a special attention to how you present yourself and carry yourself.
Definitely. Going to rock shows, I'm typically the only black person there and I feel kind of self-conscious, like I better not get in trouble or anything, or they're going to think – oh, it's the black guy.

Have you ever been in a car that's been pulled over by the police?
Yeah, it was pretty annoying. I was with my dad once when he got pulled over and they handcuffed us all and sat us on the curb – me, my brother and my dad. I don't know why we got pulled over, it was some sort of traffic violation.

--

Chris, 22
Chris declined to give his last name or provide a photo that showed his face.

Do you feel like a target wearing a hoodie?
If you're out in the streets, of course you're going to be a target. [Trayvon Martin] was a black guy too, so that makes it even worse. Any cop sees somebody black with a hoodie on, they're going to think they're gangbanging. [Martin] probably wasn't even a gangbanger! Cops are always mistaking somebody. Oh, it was a mistake – no, that's [bull]. Cops are just cruel. See, I've got on a hoodie. But my hoodie is kind of young-looking, kind of small.

When I see the cops, I take my hood off just so they can see my face because I don't want to get targeted. Because I've been through that before.

Is that an automatic reaction?
Yeah. You have to, nowadays, because I'm not trying to be next out here to die.

What do you think of Geraldo Rivera's urging black and Latino parents not to let their children wear hoodies in public?
That's [bull]. We can wear whatever we feel. Whoever wants to wear a hoodie can wear it. We should have a right to do whatever we feel. It's freedom of speech, freedom to wear whatever you want to wear. That's bogus.

--

Michael Adkins, no age given

Do you feel like a target wearing a hoodie?
No. I just feel warm. [Laughs]

Have you ever felt like a target for being black?
No. I haven't experienced racism.

What do you think of Geraldo Rivera's urging black and Latino parents not to let their children wear hoodies in public?
I think everybody wears hoodies. I don't really see a difference between a white person or ethnic person wearing one, or how wearing one makes you a bad person. I don't see it.

--

Darron Galbert, 20
Galbert declined to provide a photo that showed his face.

Do you feel like a target wearing a hoodie?
No, I feel like that's just a stereotype. It could just be a fashion statement or something. You never know.

What do you think of Geraldo Rivera's urging black and Latino parents not to let their children wear hoodies in public?
Again, just a stereotype. It's a fashion issue, not a racial issue.

Have you been the receiving end of some of those stereotypes or racism?
Every day. It's [messed] up but it's everyday life. You know, as I'm walking down the street, people may look at me like I'm trying to rob them just because I'm black.

--

Jesse, 21
Jesse declined to give his last name or provide a photo that showed his face.

Do you feel like a target wearing a hoodie?
No, I feel like people should be able to wear whatever they need to wear, as long as they don't do anything to threaten people. People should wear what they need to wear. Doesn't matter about the skin color. If it was a white dude with a black hoodie, I wonder if they would have shot him too.

What do you think of Geraldo Rivera's urging black and Latino parents not to let their children wear hoodies in public?
No, that's ridiculous. Little babies are going to wear hoodies, little toddlers are going to wear hoodies, old men are going to wear hoodies, little kids are going to wear hoodies – people are always going to wear hoodies, people are going to wear what they want. They shouldn't feel like, oh, I'm about to get killed because I've got a hoodie on.

As a Latino, have you been the receiving end of some of those stereotypes or racism?
Sometimes. Like when I'm holding the door open for somebody and they look at you like you had to do it or you work there but you know that they know that you don't work there.

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