Trayvon Martin

*There was a time when the ‘hoodie’ was commonly known as a ‘parka’ – a garment mostly used by athletes and the military.

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The slang term ‘hoodie’ came out of the black culture, and over the years has been widely associated with suspicion and crime. Whenever news reports show surveillance video footage of a robbery or break-in with the perpetrators wearing hoodies, chances are viewers reflect on images of popular black Rappers and Hip/Hop artists who popularized the fad. As in any generation, the youth – just like 17 year old Trayvon Martin – want to be in (peer) style. No blame there, but unfortunately Hollywood and the music industry have seemingly conspired to bombard society with images of the bad boys in the ‘hood wearing hoodies.

There’s now a national – even international –  outcry for justice in the Trayvon case, but why has there been no such outcry against foul-mouthed so-called artists and other icons who spew extreme profanity and contempt? Where’s the outcry against the glamorization and glorification of illicit sex, drugs and the rampant acts of violence in the mainstream?  Why can’t the organizers of these nation-wide rallies for Trayvon, rally a product-boycott of the unfiltered, unsanitized mockeries of  ‘freedom of speech?’ Hollywood and the music industry continue to place profit over decency and morality, and ignore the consequences of the negative influences they traject.

Circa 1870 (likely recently emancipated)

Some people are comparing the tragic killing of  Trayvon to the historic case of Emmett Till, but I think this may be a teachable moment for a broader comparison, and I say this without speculation and with sensitivity to Trayvon’s family as details of the incident are still unfolding. During the Civil War when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the freed slaves (known as Freedmen) were ill-prepared for what was beyond their familiarity on the plantation, and there were severe consequences including murder at the hands of white southerners who could not and would not accept the edict. Now today, since the historic election of President Obama, the illusion pervades that America is now post racial – that the election of a black president is proof  that America is not as prejudiced and bigoted as in its dark past. That’s simply not so. There is still a lot of anger, hatred, and resentment out there. What has been created is a sense that black children can reach new heights and come and go as they please with the perception that it’s now an even playing field. However, many of them (if not most) are just as ill-prepared as the post-slavery Freedmen. To say the least, some parents are not even teaching their children the beatitudes and common courtesies like ‘please,’ ‘thank-you,’ ‘excuse me,’ and other interpersonal skills. Lack of these attributes coupled with a sense of entitlement is a formula for disaster. How can they feel entitled to anything? How can they think they’re entitled to a job when they’re speaking improper English, their bodies are pierced from head to toe, and their pants are sagging? Our misguided youth are being shut out and excluded due to lack of training, discipline, and humility. They may be grown in size, but not in character, and misconstrued negative behavior could be responded to as if they were an adult and not a mere child.

The disrespect and presupposition of the black experience is only fueled and fostered by images of today’s self-proclaimed black ‘role models’ whose vulgar messages devalue and denigrate women. How can anyone respect Black America if  Black Americans do not demonstrate respect for themselves and others?

The outcry for Trayvon has reached cross-cultural and ethnic proportions. A poster at one of the rallies read, “Trayvon today, who tomorrow?” Speaking to a CNN reporter, one woman who appeared to be white said, “We need to stop criminalizing black men in America.” So while we clamor for justice in Trayvon’s case, we should also examine ourselves to see what we can do individually first, then collectively to help prevent such tragedies in the future. May God help us that the outcry will echo beyond Trayvon.

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub) Available at Smiley’s Bookstore in Carson CA, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, and Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara CA. Visit the author at (213) 220-8101.