“I mean if we’re honest, for a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear.”
Multi-platinum recording artist Eminem once wrote, "I guess words are a motherfucker; they can be great, or they can degrade; or even worse, they can teach hate." Hillary Clinton, in her "honest" assessment of Blacks in hoodies—I'm including all Blacks because history has proven, time and again, that law enforcement makes no distinction between male/female/young/old when it comes to administering their bigoted-brand of justice upon Black folk, (but I digress)—managed to degrade, teach hate, and promulgate a situation we can no longer tolerate: bigotry on sight.
In her words, Clinton manages to degrade not only “open-minded white people” but open-minded people, period—I’m not sure what makes one a “well-meaning, open-minded” white person, but one hopes that an open-minded person thinks for him/herself, but, again, I digress—To suggest that open-minded people abandon Dr. King’s dream that “one day [we can] live in a nation where [Blacks] will not be judged by the color of [our] skin, but by the content of [our] character” and begin judging Blacks based on the gear we wear is elitist and egregious; to suggest that such hasty generalizations be made on sight is preposterous and only serves to ensure that bigotry and hatred, borne out of fear, continues to separate and divide this great nation.Imagine, if you will, being judged on sight…Sandra Bland was judged on sight; Kindra Darnell Chapman was judged on sight: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, U.S. Marine veteran, Richard Davis, Trayvon Martin--donned in a hoodie, armed with skittles and tea--, and countless other unarmed Blacks who died at the hands of law enforcement were all judged on sight. They were viewed as "arrogant," "disobedient," "threatening," "thugs...” Their lives were viewed as worthless when taken by those afflicted by "a twinge of fear." Through Clinton's words, I envision Brent Staples' experience:
"...a graduate student newly arrived at the University of Chicago. It was in the echo of that terrified woman’s footfalls that I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I’d come into—the ability to alter public space in ugly ways. It was clear that she thought herself the quarry of a mugger, a rapist, or worse (Just Walk on By).Staples’ experiences mimic the experiences of many Blacks in America, not just Black males. Clinton’s justification of fearing Blacks in hoodies propagates stereo-types that validate violating Blacks of their Constitutional rights because, in Clinton’s world, it’s more about making “well-meaning, open-minded” white people comfortable than it is about protecting the rights of Blacks.
Unfortunately, Clinton’s words leave me shaken. As a resident of the Chicagoland/Northwest-IN area, my family, friends, and I own many hoodies; some are pull-overs, some zip up. We wear hoodies to keep warm during the harsh Chicago winters. I recently purchased a couple of hoodies from the high school for my grandson. He’s a sweet kid; he still finds pleasure in watching “Hey Arnold” at 16yrs. old; he’s small in stature: 5’2”, 125lbs. He doesn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs, but his grades aren’t the best. His most prized possession, consequently, is the NorthFace hoodie he saved for and purchased himself for his birthday. Now, thanks to the hateful words of Clinton, I and my grandson fear that some “well-meaning, open-minded” white person may feel threatened by our gear and hastily violate our rights out of preconceived fear at first sight. Isn’t that the bigoted mentality that caused the death of 12 yr. old Tamir Rice? Besides, if her concern is truly young Black males in hoodies, why does she sell hoodies on her campaign website? Is it that she does not see young Black males as a voting block worth courting?
Bigotry, of any kind, cannot be tolerated if we are to grow as a nation. But when bigots act on sight, all that is gained is violation of rights and, more frequently than not for Blacks, loss of life. For those who believe Clinton’s words are taken out of text, ask her what are her plans for undoing the damage done by her husband’s Welfare Reform, Three Strikes Law, and Deregulation. Maybe then we can truly put her words into context. Until then, spread words of love, not hate.