You ever watched a basketball game where the home team is making a comeback? They make the bucket that puts them up by two and the crowd erupts into cheers. The crowd is going bananas, ringing cow bells, singing fight songs, and spilling beer during high fives and chest bumps. Everyone in the building is on their feet glued to the next play, hoping the home team can get one more stop to win the game. The opposing team usually calls a timeout to regroup, and refocus. Then the best player on the opposing team calmly gets the ball, ignoring the immense noise in the arena and drains a 3-pointer with two defenders draped over him. The crowd is immediately silenced. It’s a phenomenon called “hush mouth” and America is experiencing it now. After being bombarded with all these pictures of a young Trayvon Martin juxtaposed along a non emotional mug shot of his shooter America believed the hype. America was the home crowd madly cheering for a comeback. Then these pictures come out. Trayvon as Zimmerman saw him, gold fronts, thugged out persona, seemingly employing the negative stereotypes that accompany Miami’s troubled black youth. HUSH MOUTH! None of this of course makes what happened that night ok. It doesn’t justify Zimmerman’s color-aroused agitation of an unarmed child that eventually led to that child’s death. Nothing anyone says will ever make that right. There is no hoodie, gold grill, or baggy jeans that will ever justify a violation of some ones civil liberties and the taking of their life.
Now, with these new details, America sits hush mouthed; waiting on the “facts” to come out and let justice prevail. My anger has not dissipated, nor has my call for justice lessened. My anger is still very close to the surface. But I want to take a moment to speak on the powerful images we face.
Young black men of America let this be a reality check. Cause those tend to be the type of checks that cash more often than not. The truth is, when you dress a certain way, talk a certain way, and act a certain way, I fear for my safety. When you look and act like a goon I treat you as such and keep my pistol ready. Sadly, I sometimes fear you. Because the record shoes that when you fit bill you act the part and I suffer the consequences. Maybe I have been conditioned to believe that a young AA male with gold teeth, a mean mug, and his pants hanging off his ass is a misfit. If I have it was not media, at least not in totality, that perpetuated this frame of mind. It was the images we put out there! The images I saw growing up in the Go. The images I saw on the corner of 95th and Halsted, up and down State St., the Wild Wild 100’s, Ida B. Wells, Cabrini, and every other project torn down because they had literally been commandeered by gangs and drug dealers as their very own private compounds. The images I saw when I moved to the H. The images from The Tree and The Nickel, South Park, Shakers Acres, and now Cypress! My conditioning stems from witnessing cats on a college campus come to parties with gold fronts and HOODIES on mugging looking to box. From watching Omegas brag about dragging cats out of the club after knocking them out, baiting people into fights only to relish in the mêlée that ensued. These images are powerful and stay in my brain, just like they do the brains others.
Presentation is power! Heck they give Academy Awards for best costume and design. The clothes help set the mood and tone of our interactions. Suits to interviews, tux to a wedding, fresh fitted to the concert, sweats to the gym. What we wear gives clues to our intentions. I am not afraid to be honest and admit that if no other factors are present, I determine how to handle people based on how they are dressed. I don’t mean that I’m going to be in awe of a brother in a suit and tie and disgusted by the brother with jeans and sneakers. However, when I see someone dressed like the cats I used to see at the GD meeting in front of Drew Middle School in Chicago, IL. The cats that the police just drove by and didn’t mess with because they knew better; it heightens my senses and puts me on my toes. Just like I distrust cats on Wall Street in their $2,000 suits, I am leery of anyone that looks the part of trouble. The kid with spiked hair, tattoos, and piercings wearing all black and a spiked collar, makes me nervous as hell. I watch them more carefully than I do others. When you dress the part, what do expect? As I write this post I am conflicted. My closest friend might smack me for writing this, because he dresses how the hell he wants to dress and got a gold tooth. He is one of the most intelligent and caring people I know. But I think he is an exception, proving the rule more so than nullifying it.
I know that there are great young brothers out there creating change and instigating thought. High Schools of young black men graduating and enrolling in college 100% of their seniors. These things are becoming more of the norm, part of the comeback. The crowd is going wild!! But every time I see a brother with his pants at his knees, a 6x shirt (when he weighs 150 lbs), and noticeably high as a kite….HUSH MOUTH! I don’t dare ask young black men to apologetic about their culture or their fashion. I am not encouraging you to fit into a certain mold or uniform that makes people around you feel safe. I am asking you be cognizant of the fact that what you wear makes a difference on how you are perceived.
Can we be honest in the comments today…when you see people dressed a certain way do you make judgments? Does certain attire cause you to be more aware of your surroundings and situation than others?