Like everyone I have talked with, I am saddened by the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin and outraged at the lack of justice in Sanford, Florida. The shooter has not been charged with any crime. Groups too numerous to count have sought to find meaningful ways to express their sympathy and solidarity. One popular response is the wearing of hooded sweatshirts at rallies and other events. Trayvon was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he was profiled as a suspicious person by the shooter. Both of my sons wear hoodies, but since they are white they are unlikely to be called suspicious because of that kind of attire. A few days ago, Lebron James released a picture on Twitter of the Miami Heat wearing hoodies. And some of my clergy colleagues will be attending a worship service and prayer vigil in Cleveland after which they are planning to don hoodies and march a short distance around town.
I affirm this expression of concern about this horrible incident, and I hope that all in attendance (marchers and bystanders) will be moved to consider God’s vision of a peaceful and just world. And that they also are moved to action.
As much as I support this witness by others, I am conflicted as to the best way that I can participate in this process. I just don’t know if wearing a hoodie is the best way for me to express my own feelings. As a 55 year old white suburban male, I wonder at what my hoodie wearing, Cleveland marching image would say to others. Part of my struggling is with my own collection of hoodies. You see, I could wear a blue hoodie that I have which has the letters M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N on the front, but I can tell you that more than a few Buckeye supporters through the years have acted irrationally at the sight of those letters. Better to leave that one in the closet. Then there is that crimson zipped hoodie which has on its front these letters: H-A-R-V-A-R-D. A bald middle aged white man wearing a Harvard sweatshirt while marching for justice? I might as well be pictured in Doonesbury as a cliché for out of touch intellectual elitist. Then there is that brown hoodie I was given for completing three trail races last fall. It says “OhioOutside” on the front. I love the people I have run alongside at trail races, but they are among the whitest groups that I am ever in. And a group of hood wearing white folks probably sends the wrong message too.
I just don’t want to be like one of those palm waving folks who showed up as Jesus was coming into Jerusalem. They came for the excitement, they were attracted by the energy of it all, but in their end their faith in and commitment to Jesus was as deep as a thimble. Part of the cheering crowd one day, but a no-show after that. I don’t want to be a hoodie-wearing hypocrite.
So I think I am sitting out the hoodie wearing movement right now. It is right for others and a genuine statement of support for them to make. I hope it is a life-changing way for them to be involved and a genuine witness to their faith. But it just isn’t right for me. I am still struggling with the response that is true and authentic for me.
Let us all hope that all of our responses to this crime are more than just fashion statements.