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UPDATE

You can't make this stuff up.  The NRA store sells a hoodie specifically designed to  make it easier for people to carry concealed firearms.  Read all about it:

We want concealed carry to fit around your lifestyle – not the other way around. That’s why we developed the NRAstore™ exclusive Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt. It’s the only garment of its kind we know of! Made from a pre-shrunk, heavyweight 50% cotton / 50% polyester blend, we’ve taken a standard 9 oz. fleece sweatshirt design and added a full-body polyester lining for added warmth, durability, wind resistance and weight distribution. Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets. The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw. Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm – but it does so with ease!

                                                  ***

It's odd how an item of apparel can trigger certain emotions in people.  Emotions such as fear, hatred, and racism.  So let us talk hoodies, shall we?  You may find this hard to believe but I know a thing or two about this particular article of clothing even though I am a middle-aged white male.

I have lived 55 years on this planet, in this country.  When I was in my teens, I ran track in middle school and high school in Colorado.  Track season there is during the spring and the weather, at least in the early 70's when I ran sprints, was often unpredictable.  Guess what our team, predominately-white kids and a few Hispanics, were issued as team gear?  That's right.  Hoodies.  Every teenager I knew wore one.  In the damn 70's.  

I sure wore mine a lot back then, because the spring season was cooler than it is now.  I remember wearing them at track meets up until the last possible moment before stripping down to our shirts and shorts because I didn't want to freeze my ass off.  And when my race was over, I put them back on to keep warm.  And on days when we had track meets, the whole track team would wear our official team hoodies to school.  A team spirit thing.  I know they still do that for lots of high school sports.

Throughout the 80's and 90's when I was still physically active outdoors, I owned and wore hoodies.  Grey old-school hoodies, hoodies with the name of my favorite team, the Denver Broncos printed on them (I still have an old one the pre-dated the Elway years, though sadly it doesn't fit anymore) and really nice all-weather, rain-resistant hoodies.  So did a lot of my white friends and neighbors.  Guess what?  Many times, we wore them with the hood up, covering our heads.  I know--you're shocked.  White people wearing "hoodies?"  Isn't that "Gangsta" gear (i.e., code for young black males)?  Well, not that I knew.  It was just a garment to wear on cooler days or snowy days.

Flash forward to 2007. My daughter began playing on traveling volleyball teams.  For those who don't have daughters, well volleyball is a big deal for young female athletes.  There are tournaments all across the country each winter and spring in small cities and large where hundreds of teams and thousands of girls and their parents and their coaches congregate, often playing in convention centers on sixty or 70 or more courts that are set up.  At each tournament site there are large areas dedicated to selling volleyball accessories, souvenirs and clothing items.

Guess what.  They sell hoodies at these tournaments!  Usually these hoodies for sale have the tournament name or logo on them, or some cute motto.  They often come in various colors and sizes, and one can customize a hoodie with various designs that can be printed on them at the site in all of ten to fifteen minutes.  And the girls (well their parents) buy them.  And the girls wear them!  Mostly white girls, but also Asian girls, African-American girls, Hispanic girls, Indian-American girls, Native-American girls, girls that are short and girls that are tall.  They wear them as they walk from their tournament sites to their hotels, and from their hotels to shopping malls or tourist sites, or in their rooms at night while they text each other with their cell phones into the wee hours of the night (unless the coaches have wisely confiscated their cell phones before lights out).

Heck, I see kids at the predominately suburban high school my daughter attends who wear hoodies all the time, cold weather or warm, girls and boys, athletes and non athletes, kids headed for expensive colleges with academic scholarships and kids who likely won’t attend college because of their grades or the cost.  I see people in hoodies everywhere.  I even see them on TV when I am forced to watch my daughter's favorite football team, the New England Patriots, because their coach, some guy named Bill Belichick is rather famous for wearing them on the sidelines.  That link, by the way, will take you to a Google image page showing you Coach Belichick wearing his hoodies, in good weather and bad.  Even in the rain.

And I still see other adults in hoodies.  I see them at Starbucks, at Barnes & Noble, at the supermarket, at the local parks, out jogging or riding their bikes or doing yard work.  I don't even notice them (i.e., the hoodies) much anymore, to be honest.  They are so ubiquitous.  

Do I see black people wearing them?  Yes!  In my own neighborhood.  I've even seen one young black male wear them.  He's a friend of my daughter, a slender child, no more than 5' 7" tall, and 140 pounds dripping wet who has a black father and a white mother.  I know it may be hard for some to believe, but he doesn't belong to any gang, unless you can call his friends, a combination males and females, whites and Asians, who play cards at the library, and read Manga books (Japanese graphic novels), a gang.

Strangely enough, this young man walks to school and to convenience stores, the library, and many other places I'm sure, often wearing a hoodie.  He's the same age as Trayvon Martin.  He even has a cheerful, happy-go-lucky personality that sounds quite similar to descriptions in the press about Trayvon Martin's personality.  Fortunately for him, he's never been stopped by a man with a gun while out walking home, been confronted, shot and killed.  Frankly, until recently I never worried about that possibility for him, even though he is a tiny minority in a school that is 90% white, maybe 5% Asian, with the rest of the kids being Indian (from India), Hispanic or Black.

Oh, we do hear about black youth that are killed in our metro area, but they live in the poorest sections of the inner city.  Some are gang members.  I can't lie about that.  Others, however, are innocent bystanders -- wrong place, wrong time type of shooting death.  These kids are invariably shot by other young back youth.  No whites are involved, except the police, who rarely seem to find the shooters, for whatever reasons.  Nothing much ever seems to be done to stop that violence, though attempts to do something are occasionally discussed and promoted by local community groups, sometimes with the support of police and politicians and sometimes not.  

Whatever programs are initiated to stem that violence invariably make little if any difference in the rate of shootings in those communities.  Perhaps the programs are underfunded or misguided.  Perhaps the people who make these attempts haven't found the right approach to reach kids who have grown up in poverty all their lives, many of them joining gangs out of fear, or desperation or simply to find a "family" that will support them, even a "family" of other kids with guns.  Or perhaps these programs fail and the violence continues because it is not directed at white people, and thus isn't a priority for the politicians.  

Now I understand the fear of being a crime victim.  I have been the victim of two burglaries, one very recent.  The first burglary we have no idea who did it.  The more recent one was by a white female heroin addict who we mistakenly trusted to clean our house.  Both left me and my family with the feeling of being violated.

However, the worst crime committed against me was a violent assault by three men when I was in my early 20's.  In that instance, I had rear-ended their van.  All three men jumped out of their vehicle while I searched for my registration, dragged me out of my car and punched and kicked me, especially in my head.  A black cab driver saw this happen and called the cops, possibly saving my life.  

I was sent to the hospital with various wounds requiring stitches and a severe concussion.  I suffered balance problems--I couldn't walk more than a few steps without falling--probably because one of the men had been kicking the back of my head, where the cerebellum is located, with his boots. I was kept in the hospital for several days and treated by a neurologist until I had regained my ability to walk on my own, and my doctors were certain that I had not suffered irreparable brain damage.

I'll bet you'd like to know a little more about those three men.  Well I can tell you this much.  They were all white males.  One wore shit-kicker cowboy boots (I remember them from when he kicked me).  And one, according to other eyewitnesses and the police report (two of the men were arrested, one escaped) was wearing a hoodie.

A grey hoodie.

I know, seems hard to believe in these days when we are told that hoodies = young black thugs.  It’s as if all those other "hoodies" that non-African Americans wear are invisible, as if they don't exist.  At least that is the meme that our media has drummed into our brains, from news organizations to Hollywood filmmakers.  But it's a half-truth at best.  Yes, members of black, white, Hispanic and even Asian gangs sometimes wear hoodies, but so do many other people.  Old people and young people.  Rich people and poor people and everyone in between.  And a heckuva lot of those hoodies are worn by white people.

Some people, such has Geraldo Rivera, have claimed that Trayvon shouldn't have worn his hoodie that rainy night he was killed.  They say his hoodie made him appear to be a suspicious person in that neighborhood and that his race had nothing to do with his shooting death by a 250-pound man named George Zimmerman.  To which all I can say is this:  I call bullshit.

A hoodie is a piece of clothing, nothing more.  Millions of people wear them or have worn them.  They are not limited to criminals or to any race or ethnicity.  They can tell you nothing about a person other than this: he or she is wearing one.  That's it.  They certainly are not the defining characteristic of young black gang members or any other violent criminals.  A hoodie doesn't define who you are or what you do.  Should we claim that expensive Italian suits are the mark of criminals because Wall Street investment bankers convicted of securities fraud and some Mafia members favor them?  I suspect persons who own an Italian suit would object to being categorized as a criminal simply because of what they wear, don’t you.

You know what makes someone suspicious to me.  If that person (e.g., George Zimmerman) had a history of violent acts.  If that person followed a young man in his car and made specific references to the race of the teenager, whom he considered "suspicious" to a 911 operator.  If that person then got out of his car and shot the young man with a pistol after being told not to get out of his car by a 911 dispatcher.  If the young man who was killed weighed 100 pounds less than the person who shot him to death.  If the person shot dead had no weapons on him.   If the shooter claimed he was justified in killing the smaller, young black teenager because he was acting in self-defense.

That is what would make me suspicious that a person (i.e., George Zimmerman) had committed murder when he shot and killed a young black teenager wearing a hoodie (i.e., Trayvon Martin) on a rainy night.  By the way, what was George Zimmerman wearing that night?  Do you think his clothing would have made you more or less suspicious of what he might do to Trayvon Martin?

You tell me.

Also in Green

Originally posted to Steven D on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 07:39 AM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges.

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