Do I Look Suspicious?April 10, 2012
Young, white, and female — that’s me.
Young, black, and male — that’s Trayvon Martin.
Not much in common, huh? The privilege of being a white woman makes it impossible for me to understand what it was like to be Martin. So I won’t pretend that I do.
But I will stand in solidarity with others who are raising awareness about the many issues surrounding Martin’s death. Today, I skipped my usual work clothes and wore a bright blue hoodie, given to me by my grandmother, for National Hoodie Day. This day of action asks people to stand together and demand justice for Martin by wearing hoodies, an act that also recognizes the stereotypes our society places on black men wearing casual clothing.
Here at AAUW, we can appreciate the severe impact of such stereotypes. Look no further than our report on sexual harassment in schools or our support of Betty Dukes and her fellow plaintiffs’ fight for fair pay. Stereotypes have power — they justify catcalls and bra-snapping at schools, and they legitimize paying women less money for equal work. We fight against these stereotypes every day.
Originally, that’s why I wore my hoodie. But I got more than I signed up for on my bus ride to work. For 30 minutes, I was hyperaware of everyone who got on and off the bus. I looked at their clothes and thought about the labels attached to them. There’s a businesswoman wearing a skirt that’s a bit short (asking for it!), and a middle-aged man in sweatpants (get a job!). How often do these accusations stay in the back of our minds? Do we confront them, or are they left unchallenged? Are we left unchallenged?
White or black, old or young, stylish or sloppy, we know the sting of stereotypes. So today I wore a hoodie in solidarity with other Americans who are concerned about justice. But I also wore a hoodie to challenge myself — and others — to be aware of the labels and stereotypes we assign to each other.
There’s lot of controversy surrounding these issues and Martin’s death. I hope that you’ll express your own views in the comments.