Letter to the Editor
We think it’s awesome that many of you are wearing hoodies today in solidarity with Trayvon Martin.
It’s great that our community is taking this story seriously and demanding justice. At the same time we also hope that you take the conversation even further than that.
Focusing on Trayvon, focusing on the hoodie, obscures the structural oppression faced by black men in the United States. Incidents like this happen all the time all around the country. Usually we’re talking about the “regular” police, not a self-appointed vigilante, but that does little to change the facts. Whether the victim is a doe-faced 17-year old or a 30-year old with a prior conviction, wearing a hoodie or a t-shirt matters little. The reality is that black men are systematically targeted by law enforcement every day. Here are a few examples of how this plays out:
People of color are disproportionately arrested compared to whites. For committing the same crime, people of color face harsher sentencing and are more likely to go to jail rather than receive a fine or probation. As a case in point, Political Research Associates points out that “Black youth with no prior admissions were six times more likely to be incarcerated in a juvenile facility than a White youth with a similar history.” The criminal justice system targets black males and treats them more harshly all the way from arrest to conviction.
Trayvon wasn’t shot because he wore a hoodie. Many of us can easily wear a hoodie without any repercussions. Conversely, black men are targeted disproportionately regardless of their attire. Trayvon was shot he was black, because he lives in a society where being a black male makes you inherently and immediately suspicious, and because our criminal justice system encourages and reinforces this view.
Raising awareness is an important starting point for any social justice issue. But zeroing in on Trayvon risks treating this as an isolated issue. And zeroing in on the hoodie could focus our attention on what is actually a peripheral issue while we miss the bigger picture.
So wear the hoodie. But also have a conversation about our “justice” system and about a society that systematically oppresses people of color.
-Evan Camara ’12 and Max Weylandt ’13