Trayvon Martin: Between life and death, a hoodie and a sweat shirt

Trayvon Martin, he of the walking home from the 7/11 store with Skittles and a can of tea. Wearing a hoodie. Photo: UKMail Online/Chris Sunderland

VIENNA, Va., March 28, 2012  – Today many of us find ourselves not “between a rock and a hard place,” but quite literally between a hoodie and a sweatshirt place.  

And it all stems from Trayvon Martin, he of the walking home from the 7/11 store with Skittles and a can of tea. While wearing a hoodie.

Enter George Zimmerman, vigilante wannabe, gun-toting, gun-happy Sanford “neighborhood watch” person and the unnecessary death of a nice, well mannered black kid.

Mixed into this saga is the apparel worn by Trayvon, the hoodie sweatshirt, a piece of clothing that is fairly prevalent among young children, youth and athletes. 

It just may be that we need to rethink how our children dress.

And it’s not a totally gender specific admonition, it was but a few years ago that a sports team of young ladies visiting the White House were severely chided for showing up in flip-flops, seen as just plain inappropriate for the venue.

If you grew up in my Southern part of the woods, you were daily admonished to comb your hair, wash your hands and other bodily parts, shine your shoes, and “look as though you are somebody.”

One was also told to be sure and put on clean underwear in case you were in an accident and required hospital care; the corollary to that one was to make sure your bed was made in case you had to be carried into the house! 

And we did.

Today’s youth, frankly, could stand for some guidance. Many school districts and principals need to step in to measure hem lengths on girls, yank elastic waisted pants up on the boys, and send either sex home when found with an improper messaged t-shirt.

So the hoodie has evolved, through recent years, as an article of attire beloved by youth looking for a warm, comfortable jacket as well as kids who are into gangs who use the hood to hide behind.

The net result is that the sight of a hoodie on a youth, regardless of color, makes hearts beat a tad faster, and people hold brief cases, laptops, cell phones or handbags closer. 

That’s just a fact.

The “dudes” who like to look ferocious, scary, intimidating, with pants at half-mast, hoodies over their heads, big sunglasses even in the dark, may glory in the fact that they do elicit some stares from normally attired folks, it seems that they really enjoy the idea that they are bad guys. Or look like bad guys.

Which is sad. 

Trayvon was not one of those types of kids.  He wasn’t hiding behind his hoodie, he was wearing it against the rain.  

He did not want to get into trouble.  Or be killed.  He did not belong to a gang. From all accounts he was a nice kid, well brought up, visiting his dad in the gated community where the altercation took place. He had just gone to a convenience store. He had a cell phone on him, a can of iced tea, and a bag of Skittles. 

He also was wearing a hoodie, which he had every right to wear.  Unfortunately it may have been the trigger that caused an over stimulated security guard to shoot him.

But in today’s crime suffused world, and with that horrible 20/20 hindsight we all have, was it smart?  

An old cliché ran that if you don’t watch out, you might be right, but you could end up “dead right.”  

As Trayvon did. 

If we criticize and scold young nubile girls who wear skirts up to crotch level, shorts so tight they cannot breathe, t-shirts cut down to the waist and the like, it seems only logical that if they don’t wish our young girls to be seen as “trashy”, we may need ask our young men to reconsider their attire.

If you are out shoveling snow, or raking leaves, or standing on the sidelines on a cold fall morning then it may be acceptable attire for teenaged guys. 

But to those who fear the worst either from firsthand knowledge or from the media, a hoodie is not a particularly welcoming sight. 

This is not in any way to excuse the actions of Mr. Zimmerman, who disobeyed not only what his position as Community WATCH captain, but also the local police told him to do when they said, “We don’t want you to follow him”. 

So going against rational thinking, and the directive of the police dispatcher, he got out of his truck and followed Trayvon.  

Here the story ends, because we have only one side – Trayvon cannot tell his.

But we know this, it all happened about three weeks ago, and now we are hearing that Zimmerman’s nose was broken, there was an abrasion on the back of his head, and he had grass stains on his shirt.  

Walking down a paved or asphalted roadway, one wonders where the grass came from. We wonder if he had a bleeding head wounds, and head wounds bleed a lot, and his nose was broken why didn’t the responding police call an ambulance. 

Current reports (seeming to proliferate with information daily) indicate that the two had a knockdown fight, Zimmerman being beaten on the ground by Martin, with a bloody nose etc., and suddenly there are witnesses who saw this. 

The cries for “help” we are now told, came from Zimmerman, not Martin. 

In any event, we have seen no pictures of Zimmerman, no x-rays of his nose, no grass-stained shirt, etc.  We have only his word, and it does not speak very loudly. 

Zimmerman should have stayed in his truck as he was told to.

But as long as there are men like Zimmerman, and prejudice against clothing apparel, young men like Trayvon should follow the admonition in the Bible, to “shun (or abstain from) the very appearance of evil,”  (First Thess. 5:22) and if that includes not wearing a hoodie, so be it. 

If it saves lives, it’s even better.

But just in case, because the important thing is to keep our youth alive, maybe it’s time to take scissors to the hood and just end up with a sweatshirt.

If it saves just one life, it would be worth it.

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Martha M. Boltz

Martha Boltz is a frequent contributor  to the long running Civil War features in The Washington Times America At War feature in the print and online editions. She has been a regular contributor to the original Civil War Page and its successor page since 1994, and is a civil war buff, historian, and writer. "Someone said that if we don't learn about the past, we are condemned to repeat it," she said, "and there are lessons of all sorts inherent in this bloody four-year period of our country's history."  She is a member of several heritage and lineage groups, as well as the Montgomery County Civil War Round Table. Her standing invitation is, "come on down - check the blog - send me your comments and let's have fun with its history and maybe learn something at the same time."


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