Micropolis: Pondering the Many Meanings of a Hoodie, After Trayvon

Friday, March 30, 2012

Supporters of Trayvon Martin rally in Union Square during a 'Million Hoodie March.' (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The hoodie has become synonymous with the black Florida teen gunned down by a neighborhood watch captain as he walked through a neighborhood wearing the sweatshirt.

Politicians from members of Congress to the City Council Speaker have sported the hoodie to show solidarity with Trayvon Martin, whose death in February sparked a nationwide debate over race relations.

Hoodies have become universal. And this is where kids in Harlem — and other predominately African American neighborhoods — see what they say is a double-standard at work.

“There was this guy talking on TV and he was Caucasian, and he was saying that he could wear anything, he could sag his pants, and have a hoodie on, and most likely cops wouldn’t bother him, because of his race,” said Duane McMillian, 13. “It’s very unfair.”

During a recent afternoon in Harlem, NYPD officers approached a group of black men on Frederick Douglass Boulevard and asking them to clear the corner.

“It's not about the hoodie,” said Richie Minelli, who was among those approached. “It's about being black in a society where they think we're all just ghetto people, and we don't have a life.”

Edward Lesane, an 11th grader, said he is viewed with suspicion when he sports a hoodie.

“They think that thugs wear hoodies,” he said, “so they assume that every black person who wears a hoodie is a thug.”

Paul Clement, a professor of economics at the Fashion Institute of Technology who is black, said he stopped his son from wearing hoodies after Trayvon Martin's death.

He said they live in a largely white enclave on Long Island, and already stand out.

“The garment itself conceals identity,” he said. “And it is for this reason that it acquired its sinister meaning.”

But what's perceived as sinister on black teenagers, he argues, is made to seem glamorous on others, a way of creating mystique for those who frequent stores on Fifth Avenue.

(Photo: David Cotton, a 49-yr-old Harlem resident, says his hoodie regularly draws attention from police officers in midtown, even as "drunken white frat boys" in his midst are overlooked. Arun Venugopal/WNYC)


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Comments [3]

Will from new york


Sunny Sheu, was a mortgage fraud victim who alleged that a NY Supreme Court Judge was complicit in the theft of his home. Sunny was illegally detained by NYPD detectives and, he claims, threatened with death if he went to the press or "the authorities".

He went to WABC news in New York and to the FBI requesting witness protection. He also made a Youtube video predicting his death

On July 26th, 2010, Sunny was found bludgeoned to death in an alley on July 26th 2010

Hours after his death, the NYPD illegally removed Sunny's body from the hospital, and sent it to the Medical Examiner for immediate cremation, with a note saying he died of an aneurism "with no criminality".

The M.E. disagreed, ruling that the cause of death "blunt force trauma to the head with skull fractures and brain injuries" and calling for an investigation.

Sunny's body was authorized for cremated by a fraudulent executor with no relation to Mr Sheu, his family or friends.

Two years since his death, there has been no investigation.

The entire case is documented at

Apr. 01 2012 12:20 AM
Agnel from Queens

Wearing a hoodie is part of black/teenage culture, same as preppy dressing for certain populations. Objecting to a style of dressing, ostracizing it or singling the hoodie out for condemnation as Geraldo did on Fox is discrimination against a style of dress and cultural expression. The point of the story was that only certain people are viewed with suspicion when they wear the hoodie and not others. The point is that clothes do not make the man or black teenagers...

Mar. 31 2012 12:40 PM
bkpeg from nyc

I haven't yet watched the blog above--if true, just shows home some news stories "catch" attention and we are bombarded with them, while others disappear.
Mu comment on the "hoodie"--I always thought the hoods on my winter jackets were just that: hoods.
Hoodie must mean something else--worn by hoods?, worn in the hood?--without casting any aspersions,
when it's cold, I wear a hat, a scarf (or two) and whatever hoods are on my jacket or pullover. I never wear a hood when it's 70+ degrees and don't understand why anyone would, short of a hurricane. weather conditions..
I don't know what the weather was like in Tampa last month so am not commenting on that instance in particular--but on the fact that when I see boys, men or groups of same,regardless of race or nationality, all covered up and walking the streets in NYC on a warm day or night, I'm worried and keep my eyes open and cross street if I can. I don't understand the commments about "if I don't want to talk to anyone, I wear a hood" -why not just stay home, or walk somewhere else.? Meanwhile, this entire report sounded like an excuse for a bad design, a bad style choice, a bad habit, and some people with bad intentions. I doubt if you wear your hood Arun, in hot weather when covering a story.
I still want to know why people are riding around in cars with extra-darkened windows...I thought that became illegal years ago.

Mar. 31 2012 06:28 AM

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