Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Politics/Poetics of Re-Homing, XVI

for Trayvon Martins

a hooded
black teenager hops
on the street car
a Muslim girl and I
stand beside him

Atlas Poetica, 15, July 2013

Note: you can read its preceding tanka or the whole sequence here

1 comment:

  1. Below is excerpted from Hoodies, Color Lines, and Black Visibility by Paul Mullins, a historical archaeologist who studies consumer culture, focusing on material consumption and the color line and the relationship between popular culture and contemporary materiality. I am Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University

    Observers concerned with Zimmerman’s gaze have persistently fixed on Martin’s mundane hoodie. This week the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen painted a chillingly sympathetic portrait of Zimmerman: Cohen sympathizes with Zimmerman’s anxiety over an anonymous Black teen marked by a hoodie, and he rationalizes Zimmerman’s apprehensions with the reasoning that “the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime.” The Post contributor concludes that he “can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize.”

    The link between hoodies and Black criminality has been echoed by the likes of Pat Robertson and Geraldo Rivera. In March 2012 Rivera concluded that “the hoodie is as responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman.” Rivera eventually apologized for arguing that “Trayvon Martin, you know God bless him, he was an innocent kid, a wonderful kid, a box of Skittles in his hands. He didn’t deserve to die. But I’ll bet you money, if he didn’t have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way.” In contrast to Rivera’s atonement, this week Pat Robertson weighed in defending Zimmerman’s apprehension of a stranger in a hoodie, saying that “There had been some crime in the area, and the criminals were wearing these hoods, and so, it’s one of those things.”

    The hoodies’ untroubled link with criminality—and the suggestion that it is a “uniform” of Blackness–emerged quite recently. Hooded sweatshirts began to be produced by Champion in the 1930’s for warehouse laborers in the chill of upstate New York, and by the 1970s the hooded sweat-top was being worn by many athletes (in 1976, for instance, Rocky Balboa wore a hoodie as a working-class garment as he prepared to meet Apollo Creed). Hoodies began to secure an air of furtiveness in the 1970’s when graffiti artists and muggers seeking anonymity began to wear the top, but they were joined by hip hop and punk fans and skateboarders who embraced the partial cloaking of the hood without any substantial link to race or criminality.

    The Oxford English Dictionary credits Roddy Doyle’s novel Snapper with perhaps first using the term hoodie to refer to a hooded sweatshirt in 1990. In 1994 The Independent linked the term hoodie to criminals—but not necessarily race–when they noted that “Street gangs also favour goose-down parkas with large hoods. Police have taken to calling the gangs ‘hoodies.’” The New York Times may have used the term first in May, 1996 when a police officer indicated that the friends of a Long Island robber “`gave him a hooded pullover sweatshirt—what they call a hoodie—and he wore that into the gas station.’” In 2002 Adelaide’s Sunday Mail saw the hoodie as part of an American urban style, which was an implicit reference to a somewhat ambiguously defined “Black America”: “Coming to you from the streets of New York, ghetto chic is the last word in urban cool. Young and edgy, the hot new look in casual wear is not about fitting in. It is about standing out…. It’s all about street-cred cool with a touch of retro high school gymnasium, inspired by trends from NYC’s underground.” This notion of “ghetto chic” invoked Black authenticity, but for most people outside America (and many in the US) that image almost certainly came from popular and consumer cultural representations. For many of these earliest observers, the hoodie provoked some anxieties because of its link to anonymity; its racialized hip hop roots were acknowledged in an essentially complimentary if naïve form that could not clearly articulate what these styles were appropriating.