A Hooded Manifesto

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Trayvon Martin. I hope that name is forever synonymous with the continued existence of racial injustice as Rodney King has been for the past twenty years. These tragic and completely reprehensible events should remind everybody who lives a peaceful day-to-day life that the ills of hate and prejudice are far from over.

How this hatred could be so pronounced in the mind of George Zimmerman, a man of my generation – of my age – still baffles me on some level even though it’s always been apparent that racism is alive and well. I’m not familiar with how this continues to get indoctrinated in children and young adults as they shape into the world around them because in my development the message has always been clear. A string of tweets I made this afternoon explains:

“Recently one of my sibs commented that, retrospectively, our elementary school was pretty hippy-ish and progressive.”

“This is probably one reason why socially backwards events and rhetoric (blatant sexism/racism/classism) break my heart to this magnitude.”

“I guess I assumed my whole generation was educated this way, and would be more accepting of diversity and actively fighting prejudices.”

“Basically: I thought everyone wanted to fight inequalities, but a surprising number of people want to deny and/or outright perpetuate them.”

I’ve written about the prevalence of overt racism before. I work around it and I live around it. I benefit from both the clear and hidden manifestations of inequality and prejudice simply by being white. I can wear hoodies without being profiled. People don’t veer away from me on the sidewalks. When I drink, or even just appear to be having a good time in public, people don’t scorn me through common stereotypes and deem me a menace.

Life has been a far smoother ride for me than for most from the means provided to me through an educated middle class upbringing. The access I had to an enlightening primary education isn’t guaranteed for anybody. I’m comfortable in the gender corresponding to my sex and attracted to the opposite. I speak the dominant language of my area. I have functioning limbs and senses and a healthy immune system and intellect.

But I still have limitations in ability that alienate me from the majority’s lifestyle that has laid foundations the structure of society in ways that inhibit me from its amenities. I’m expected to be sensitive and want children and maintain a good home. If I go by the high-heels-and-mini-skirt standard of dress I owe a man access to my body, and if there are any unplanned consequences of such access (consensual or not) I owe the public access to my body, according to the latest politics of social conservatism. None of these battles against prejudice are even close to being over. Vigilance remains, and will always remain, a necessity to ensure basic gains aren’t lost again.  We need to keep demanding equal rights – the right of everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, class, sexuality, ability or age, to walk with their hood up in public.

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