For just a second, I thought I might die.
It was just dark enough outside that the lack of lights on our street made average people akin to shadows and the shadows from the puppy I was supervising look slightly like monsters. So when I came around the corner from the back of our house to the sidewalk and saw 5 well-built mexican dudes in mostly white hoodies silently walking towards me, I panicked.
My body tensed and immediately, I was prepared to fight for my life. I had already considered that they were armed and that taking the first one down quickly could put me up close and personal with 4 knives or firearms.
Waiting would be best. I’ll let them move first and respond-
Somewhere in there, rational thought happened, “Maybe they’re just bored, so they’re out kickin’ it tonight.”
“They don’t actually seem aggressive.”
“It is kinda cold, I wonder how I look to them?” (I was wearing a hoodie too)
The entire time I hadn’t stopped moving. As I came to them, I stepped off the sidewalk into the dirt and, nodded, “What up?”
No answer. They just kept moving along.
I listened carefully for anything that might signal a sudden change in behavior and as I walked through the gates to our yard, I watched them disappear into the night just as suddenly as they appeared.
I relaxed as I realized that I probably over reacted, but I suddenly related to white people from the suburbs stuck in the hood after dark and women who for half a second realize that a unfamiliar man may be walking across the parking lot towards them after a closing shift at work. Even if it turns out to be unwarranted, fear like that should never be belittled, because sometimes it does turn out to be true.
I’m not saying that it’s acceptable to shoot kids just because thy’re wearing hoods. (in fact, I’m sure that the situation is a little more complicated than that) I just don’t like to see us act so ignorant as to suggest that hoods have never been associated with elliciting fear in people. It’s a reasonable fear, no matter how we look at it:
Should George Zimmerman have fired that shot? Should the police be doing more? Is our justice system broken? Should Trayvon’s hoodie have been brought into the conversation? You’ve probably answered those questions on your own. Are the hoodie jokes being respectful and considerate to a population that has good reason to be somewhat threatened by them from time to time? Are they promoting open, honest, and respectful discussion about this case and encouraging differing perspectives? If not, they aren’t helping. Please THINK before you tweet, post, or tweet.
If not, it may be better left unsaid.