testThere was a time when the ‘hoodie’ was commonly known as a ‘parka’ – a
garment mostly used by athletes and the military. The slang term
‘hoodie’ came out of the black culture, and over the years has been
widely associated with suspicion and crime. Whenever news reports show
surveillance video footage of a robbery or break-in with the
perpetrators wearing hoodies, chances are viewers reflect on images of
popular black Rappers and Hip/Hop artists who popularized the fad. As
in any generation, the youth – just like 17 year old Trayvon Martin –
want to be in (peer) style. No blame there, but unfortunately
Hollywood and the music industry have seemingly conspired to bombard
society with images of the bad boys in the ‘hood wearing hoodies.

There’s now a national – even international –  outcry for justice in
the Trayvon case, but why has there been no such outcry against
foul-mouthed so-called artists and other icons who spew extreme
profanity and contempt? Where’s the outcry against the glamorization
and glorification of illicit sex, drugs and the rampant acts of
violence in the mainstream? Why can’t the organizers of these
nation-wide rallies for Trayvon, rally a product-boycott of the
unfiltered, unsanitized mockeries of ‘freedom of speech?’ Hollywood
and the music industry continue to place profit over decency and
morality, and ignore the consequences of the negative influences they
traject.

Some people are comparing the tragic killing of Trayvon to the
historic case of Emmett Till, but I think this may be a teachable
moment for a broader comparison, and I say this without speculation
and with sensitivity to Trayvon’s family as details of the incident
are still unfolding. During the Civil War when President Lincoln
signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the freed slaves (known as
Freedmen) were ill-prepared for what was beyond their familiarity on
the plantation, and there were severe consequences including murder at
the hands of white southerners who could not and would not accept the
edict. Now today, since the historic election of President Obama, the
illusion pervades that America is now post racial – that the election
of a black president is proof that America is not as prejudiced and
bigoted as in its dark past. That’s simply not so. There is still a
lot of anger, hatred, and resentment out there. What has been created
is a sense that black children can reach new heights and come and go
as they please with the perception that it’s now an even playing
field. However, many of them (if not most) are just as ill-prepared as
the post-slavery Freedmen. To say the least, some parents are not even
teaching their children the beatitudes and common courtesies like
‘please,’ ‘thank-you,’ ‘excuse me,’ and other interpersonal skills.
Lack of these attributes coupled with a sense of entitlement is a
formula for disaster. How can they feel entitled to anything? How can
they think they’re entitled to a job when they’re speaking improper
English, their bodies are pierced from head to toe, and their pants
are sagging? Our misguided youth are being shut out and excluded due
to lack of training, discipline, and humility. They may be grown in
size, but not in character, and misconstrued negative behavior could
be responded to as if they were an adult and not a mere child.

The disrespect and presupposition of the black experience is only
fueled and fostered by images of today’s self-proclaimed black ‘role
models’ whose vulgar messages devalue and denigrate women. How can
anyone respect Black America if Black Americans do not demonstrate
respect for themselves and others?

The outcry for Trayvon has reached cross-cultural and ethnic
proportions. A poster at one of the rallies read, “Trayvon today, who
tomorrow?” Speaking to a CNN reporter, one woman who appeared to be
white said, “We need to stop criminalizing black men in America.” So
while we clamor for justice in Trayvon’s case, we should also examine
ourselves to see what we can do individually first, then collectively
to help prevent such tragedies in the future. May God help us that the
outcry will echo beyond Trayvon.

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