Sunday, July 14, 2013
In 2011, when my son was around the age of five, he had a black hooded sweatshirt that he lived in. It was a tad bit oversized but it was an innocent choice of attire that kept him warm when he was cold and whose pockets served as storage for his toy dinosaurs and action figures. He hasn’t worn it much since earlier this spring and right now it hangs in his closet between his yellow raincoat (which, of course, is hooded) and his denim jacket. I’ve seen him wear it so many times—to school, to the zoo, to the park. But after last night, I’ll never ever look at that little black hooded sweatshirt the same way again because it was a little black hooded sweatshirt cost 17-year-old Trayvon Martin his life.
Like most of the country, I was anxious to hear the verdict last night and when I heard those two words—not guilty—the emotion that overwhelmed me was inexplicable. I didn’t know if I was sad or shocked or angry or hurt or disappointed or scared, but I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe it was all of the above. Since hearing the verdict, I’ve held in a typhoon of tears and I’m finally allowing myself to release them as I type these very words.
For the last three years, I’ve been part of the style blogging community, a world that looks at fashion on a very superficial level. It’s about our physical appearance and putting our best foot forward. But, as I declare in my blog’s tagline, there’s more to fashion than getting dressed. I sincerely believe that. For us, we say that it’s a creative outlet that allows us to share and inspire and connect with like-minded individuals around the world. We compliment style bloggers on the skirt they’re wearing in their latest post, we create collages of clothes that we wish we owned, we publish posts displaying our new purchases.
But our clothing can be so much deeper than that.
Yes, fashion can be fun and glamorous and exciting. But fashion is accompanied by history. Fashion is accompanied by analysis. And fashion is accompanied by a cultural component, which couldn’t be more apparent than with the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. That sole article of clothing—the black hooded sweatshirt—was the catalyst for a sequence of events that has forever changed our nation. Trayvon Martin did what we do every single day—get dressed—yet what he wore cost him his life, simply because someone thought it was ‘suspicious.’
It started with a black hooded sweatshirt.
The irony is that the color black has played such a symbolic role in this tragedy, from the moment it occurred up until right now. In the black of night, a 17-year-old black boy wearing a black hooded sweatshirt had his life taken. We showed support with a ‘blackout’—swapping out our profile pictures on social media for black squares—and after hearing a verdict that left a black hole in many of our hearts, we protested in the black of night for the justice of that 17-year-old black boy.
I hear about tragedies every single day—on the news, on celebrity news sites, on social media. Yet this one touched my heart unlike anything else ever has because, in less than ten years, my son could be Trayvon Martin. As a mother, it’s terrifying enough to cause a lifetime of sleepless nights—and it started with a black hooded sweatshirt.
When I see my son in his black hooded sweatshirt, I see the very same thing I saw when I saw the picture of Trayvon Martin in his black hooded sweatshirt: a little boy in a black hooded sweatshirt. And from this point on, whenever I see my son in his black hooded sweatshirt, I won’t just see my son in his black hooded sweatshirt. I’ll see Trayvon Martin and I’ll hope that no one will ever be so threatened by the clothing my son is wearing (and the color of his skin) that they do him harm.
For my son, his black hooded sweatshirt is merely an article of clothing that he wears when it’s cool outside. For Trayvon Martin, it was the article of clothing he wore when he took his last breath. For me, it’s a reminder of the world we live in. It’s a reminder of race relations in our country. It’s a reminder of the society I’m raising my son in. It’s a reminder of Trayvon Martin.
It started with a black hooded sweatshirt. It ended with a life. Rest in peace, Trayvon.
Labels: MY WORDS