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Wearing hoodies does not make someone a gangster

We may never know what really happened on the night of February 26 between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, claiming self-defense after seeing Martin walk down the street in what he considered a suspicious manner.

Zimmerman claims that Martin hit him and repeatedly slammed his head against the ground when confronted. Other witnesses say that Martin hit Zimmerman, but was never in any danger of seriously injuring Zimmerman. Martin had no weapons on him; he had just gone to a convenience store and bought Skittles and iced tea. With all these different accounts, I’m not going to act like I know what happened.

What can be agreed upon is the sheer lunacy of Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera and his opinion on the incident. Specifically, Rivera spoke about Martin being an African-American kid wearing a hoodie.

Last Friday on Fox and Friends, Rivera said “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was…You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta, you’re going to be a gangsta-wannabe, well people are going to perceive you as a menace.”

If what Rivera says is true, the Bradley Bookstore should change its website quickly; it currently has 23 different hoodies that you could use to stylize yourself as a gangsta.

As dumb as Rivera’s comments are, it’s hard for me to become outraged about them. It’s far easier to laugh at the absurdity and think about just how out of touch one has to be to say that anyone wearing a hoodie wants to be a gangsta.

Nor is it easy to think about Rivera’s words without calling to mind his past feats of journalistic excellence, like explaining a U.S. troop mission (and drawing the battle plan) on live television before it had been carried out. The Army nearly kicked him out of Iraq for that incident.

People who live in the real world have used the hoodie as a protest image, calling for a further investigation of Zimmerman and his reasoning for shooting Martin. LeBron James of the Miami Heat tweeted a picture of himself and his teammates all wearing their warmup sweatshirts, with heads lowered and hoods raised. In New York City last weekend, protesters held a “Million Hoodie March,” saying not enough has been done to discover the truth.

People wear hoodies all the time. Maybe it’s because they’re comfortable. Maybe they like the design on the front, or the way it can keep their head warm and dry. Not because they want to be a gangsta. And the clothes a person wears while walking down the street, no matter what their actions are, should never be an impetus to kill them.

No matter if you’re black, white, Hispanic, Asian or any other ethnicity or skin color, your clothing should be an expression of yourself. If that’s a hoodie, so be it. It won’t make you a gangsta and it shouldn’t get you killed, no matter what antiquated television personalities might say.

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