Findings from a recent investigation into the killing of Trayvon Martin, reveal that the lead investigator believes the hoodie may have been the reason that George Zimmerman suspected Trayvon of doing something wrong. The Trayvon Martin case has largely been viewed through the eyes of race. Most blacks have either been the victim of racial profiling or known someone that has been profiled due to race. Even Oprah was denied entry into an exclusive Hermes Paris boutique in June, 2005 when she was viewed as a black woman and not recognized as Oprah Winfrey without make -up and hair done. And prominent African American professor Henry Louis Gates was racially profiled by police while trying to get inside his own house.
Black males are the most identified group to be racially profiled second only to Latino males. And that has nothing to do with clothing. Prominent Hollywood black actors have discussed being the subject of racial profiling when in circumstances where whites view them in a suspicious manner. So on the night that Trayvon Martin was killed, George Zimmerman would have followed any black male that wasn’t dressed impeccably.
The ABC show of What Would You Do with host John Quinones has done racial segments on the differences of how whites view black actors in the same identical scenario as white actors. For those unfamiliar with the show, it does social experiments in the way persons react to certain situations with different persons. One segment showed a young white male actor attempting to steal a bike. No one passing by questions him for an hour or assumes anything suspicious. The same show next revealed a young black male actor performing the same act. Within a manner of minutes, persons assume the black actor is stealing the bike and question him. Both actors are the same age and dressed identically. Here’s the segment to view for yourself:
I wish there were more shows like What Would You Do which show and don’t tell how race is viewed differently from the eyes of whites looking at the actions of blacks. Whenever an attempt is made to discuss racial attitudes , many become defensive and disclaim that they are not racist. But it’s not about a label being attached to the actions. It’s about recognizing that actions are often viewed differently depending on the color of one’s skin.
If Trayvon Martin had been a white girl in a hoodie and pants, he would be alive today. Zimmerman would have never followed a white girl in a hoodie and pants walking around the neighborhood. And that’s how I see it. Ditto for a white male teenager. And many blacks see it the same way. So no, it was not the hoodie that got Trayvon Martin killed. That hoodie on a white person walking around the neighborhood would have been no cause for alarm. That same hoodie on Trayvon Martin caused George Zimmerman to profile, follow and ultimately kill him. It was not the hoodie’s fault. It was the race of the person wearing the hoodie that caused Zimmerman to act in the manner that he did. If you don’t believe me, watch ABC’s show What Would You Do.
What happens in the trial of George Zimmerman depends on whose lens is viewing the evidence.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. She also contributes to the Huffington Post.