May 23, 2012


By: Cheryl Contee --


Why not invoke Charles Dickens given the dramatic times in which we are living? Two young men -- one still a minor. Two hoodies. One dies in his hoodie and the other becomes an overnight billionaire.

Trayvon Martin and Mark Zuckerberg both sported the hooded sweatshirts, known as hoodies, that are near-universal gear for those under 30, and beyond. Hey, even I've got a couple and maybe you do, too. People who support George Zimmerman claim that leftists want to make Trayvon Martin's death into a race issue when it is not -- even to the degree of blaming the victim for being killed by Zimmerman because he was wearing an ubiquitous hoodie, as did Geraldo Rivera.

Geraldo Rivera's own son said that he was ashamed of his father's position after Geraldo stated that Trayvon had somehow been to blame for his own murder because Martin chose clothing that made him look suspicious. Despite the public outcry and personal confrontations, Geraldo recently doubled-down on his position on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show saying:
I think what's far more significant is what Trayvon Martin looked like on that night, Bill. Aside from the fact that he's dressed in that thug wear -- look at the size of him, he's not a little kid.
Never mind that George Zimmerman outweighed his teenage victim Trayvon by about 100 lbs, reportedly. The hoodie made Trayvon look like a hood justifying an attack by a neighborhood vigilante. Yet when Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Wall Street during the roadshow run-up to Facebook's IPO, his choice of a hoodie instead of a stiff suit was lauded as culturally cool.

Sure, Zuck caught some static from Wall Street haters who wear ties, but most saw his casual attire represented via hoodie as a nod to Silicon Valley style where what's in your brain is more important than what you're wearing. Indeed, Zuckerberg's hoodie is standard issue at Facebook's Palo Alto headquarters and bears a special mandala design inside that expresses FB's design construct and flow.

Star Jones recently pointed out the double standard inherent in how two young men wearing hoodies were treated in the public eye by the media. She was dismissed as just another angry black woman by others on the show, and right-leaning bloggers on the 'net.

But does Star have a point? Trayvon committed no crime -- he was merely walking home one fateful night after a trip to 7-11 for Skittles -- yet was accosted by a stranger as suspicious in part, it's claimed, because of his hoodie. When Mark Zukerberg wore a hoodie to launch Facebook's public stock offering, he was praised as an icon of a new generation representing the best of American values.

We can see this mirror in law enforcement practices. Study after study shows that young whites are more likely to use marijuana than blacks or Latinos, yet blacks are at least seven times more likely to get arrested for the same offense. Mark Zuckerberg was probably not a victim of New York City's terrible "Stop and Frisk" policy during his recent trip to Wall Street's halls of power. But who's the real gangsta here?

Some Wall Street analysts are questioning possible unethical behavior by Facebook's executives and its partner Morgan Stanley in "selective dissemination of information" that gave insider knowledge to some large investors but not others. FB's stock is being called "muppet bait for the masses" who didn't know that Facebook's quarter one earnings estimates had been cut mid-launch. The stock is now sinking like a stone in the NASDAQ stock echange. It's not clear how much Zuckerberg himself knew about the alleged financial shenanigans and shakedowns. But we all must be left wondering -- who would Geraldo name as the hood wearing "thug wear" now?

It's a tale of two hoodies where guilt and innocence are turned upside down, where one young man ends up rich and another ends up dead -- depending on whether you're white or you're black.

Cheryl Contee writes as Jill Tubman for the award-winning & top-ranked black political blog JackAndJillPolitics.com, which she co-founded in 2006. She is also the co-founder of Fission Strategy, which provides innovative social media & mobile services to nonprofits and foundations. Cheryl specializes in online advocacy, engagement, and communications. Follow Cheryl Contee on Twitter at @ch3ryl.

1 comment:

  1. I actually watched the segment of Today's Professionals where Star Jones mentioned the difference and I was disappointed at how her fellow panelists outright dismissed her. Sure it was a tangential point she was making. They were not talking about racism and profiling. But the topic was why didn't Mark Zuckerberg wear a suit? Considering the Trayvon Martin case is so current and the hoodie was such a symbol, the fact that the other panelist could not or were not willing to at least acknowledge the difference as an interesting point for a different discussion was pretty telling.

    I think this is a conversation worth having. The same piece of clothing on two young men, one black and one white, generates two distinctly different reactions. Not to get super-spiritual but the idea of these events occurring so close together, I'd say we ought to not miss such a teachable moment. But not surprisingly, yet disappointingly, the larger society can't or won't see it.

    ReplyDelete