An onslaught of new interest can easily see a serious matter shift into something of a spectacle. Understandably, that draws the ire of those who want to make sure the real message doesn’t get lost in all the madness. As people work to see Trayvon Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, brought to justice, a few are starting to wonder aloud whether a symbolic and well-meaning gesture has gone too far.
By now you’ve seen it on Twitter, Facebook, gossip blogs, sports sites, and even on your TV screens: people donning a hoodie to signify the item of clothing Trayvon wore when his life was taken away by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman. Members of the Miami Heat, news anchors, city council men and women, state senators, and now even a U.S. congressman have all been spotted wearing one in solidarity.
But while Trayvon’s parents commended Rep. Bobby Rush and others for pleading their case, some are considering it a silly and increasingly empty form of symbolism.
WATCH REP. BOBBY RUSH’S TRIBUTE TO TRAYVON HERE:
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On a segment on The Daily Show that aired this week, Jon Stewart noted how much of a symbolic gesture it seems coming from stars of the NBA and ordinary citizens, but not so much “these guys” — meaning MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, CNN contributor Roland Martin, Current TV host Keith Olbermann, and former Michigan governor turned TV host Jennifer Granholm.
It made for a funny Star Wars-themed spoof (Stewart compared the hoodie-clad anchors to Jedis and Sith Lords), but it doesn’t do much in the way of convincing me that those anchors should not have joined LeBron James and your average Joe in rocking a hoodie out of respect.
In fact, even Stewart declared at the end of his rift, “Clearly if all this newfound focus and attention forces a more thorough and just investigation of this tragic incident, we are all be better off.” And that, if nothing else, needs to remain the focus — particularly if one is starting to question the hoodie wearers’ overall effectiveness.
I could focus on people posing topless with hoodies on Twitter, which obviously makes it more about them than the fatally shot teen. Or those stupid parties postured to be in Trayvon’s honor, or maybe some of the more overzealous members of the press. I choose not to, though.
A few empty-headed folks don’t negate the overall benefits this brand of symbolism has brought forth. At a time when society increasingly becomes “me, me, and me” focused, it’s moving to see people use the forum of social media to influence traditional media to shed light on the atrocity of a young black man losing his life. Such a feat is still often hard to attain in the mainstream media.
Even when it comes to the likes of Geraldo Rivera, who seems convinced that Trayvon’s attire prompted Zimmerman’s actions, that sort of point of view is necessary. Though I found his comments banal, Geraldo merely reflects a mindset that many minorities of his generation believe and instill in their children.
WATCH ‘ED SHOW’ COVERAGE OF GERALDO’S REMARKS HERE:
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It’s the notion that a willingness to assimilate makes a black or brown person less of a target to the public at large. No matter the countless examples we have to argue the opposite, some still cling to that, and they deserve addressing so that we might perhaps all evolve from that archaic stance.
I understand the creeping cynical mindset that we’re inching closer and closer to the verge of “silliness.” However, the more we see the other side try to vilify Trayvon Martin and play to every negative stereotype about black men imaginable in this ‘blame the victim’ mantra, the more you must ask yourself: which is sillier?
People with good intentions want to stand in solidarity. This is their way. Let them be.
Follow Michael Arceneaux on Twitter at YoungSinick