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Image by: Kati Garner
When I saw the flier for the One Thousand Hoodies Unite 4 Justice march, I was very inspired. The march was designed to be a show of support for the Martin family. Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Florida citizen, was shot and killed on Feb. 26 by a self-appointed neighborhood crime-watch captain while on his way home from a convenience store.
Trayvon was wearing a dark hoodie sweatshirt that caused George Zimmerman to assume he was “up to no good.” What followed this tragedy was what many claim to be a lack of justice for the murder of an unarmed kid.
What originally drew me to the event was an overwhelming sadness that I, with my skin coloring and look, could wear that same article of clothing and raise no suspicions. I wanted to write about this event to raise awareness of the dangers of stereotyping. When I first arrived at Land Park, I was overwhelmed by how many age and gender groups were coming out to show their support.
Old and young, women and men, mothers, fathers, siblings, students and friends all united by one article of clothing that morphed into a symbol. What I really loved about the hoodies was that it didn’t matter who was wearing them. We were all make the same statement. Then one of the neighborhood leaders started the chant.
“Show me what democracy looks like! Show me what democracy sounds like! This is democracy! Democracy is us!”
It was really inspiring, because what we were doing was what democracy was intended for. We didn’t like or agree with the decisions made by the appointed government officials and we were taking the time to tell them.
Slowly, though, the chant changed. It started to become about how justice would have been served immediatly if it had been a white kid who had been killed. It became about color again. And then all of a sudden I was no longer a person in a hoodie supporting their cause. I was an intruder simply because of the color of my skin.
At first I thought maybe I was imagining it, but as the crowd became more riled up by comments made into a bullhorn, I started to notice more and more people looking my way. It got to the point where I was noticing other people with my skin color start to become uneasy and leave.
I view Trayvon as a U.S. citizen who deserved every right and privilege given to everyone else. I viewed him as a kid who had just started his life before it was tragically ended. Black, white, green, or purple, Trayvon is a person who matters and who deserves justice. He was someone’s son. And I view George Zimmerman as a U.S. citizen who needs to be held to the same laws and standards that we should hold everyone to.
I still believe in the overall message. I want to be a part of the change. I want to be judged as a person who believed in the march enough to head straight to the park after work alone and stand among a group of strangers in my hoodie. The only way for lasting change is if we do it together.