Why I Will Wear A Hooded Sweatshirt Tomorrow

I am wearing a sweatshirt tomorrow. I will at least be wearing one in the morning seeing that it will be fairly chilly. I will not, however, be participating in the “hoodie does not mean hoodlum” demonstration.

I’m not participating not because I don’t think what happened to Trayvon was a tragedy, nor because I do not think that American racial prejudices might underly the incident. I will not be participating because of what this sort of movement really says about our generation.

This sort of movement is akin to the widespread viral sharing of the KONY 2012 video on Facebook and other social media.  Aside from the flaws of the charity that created the video, the movement seemed to signify that our generation’s preferred means of supporting a cause was to simply click a few buttons. In this model, charity could not be easier: push some buttons, perhaps even change your Facebook profile picture, and you have already taken steps to change the world.

Tomorrow’s demonstration is no different. Wearing a hoodie around a college campus might show solidarity with the Martin family or even show support for ending racial biases in America, but it ultimately achieves very little. Yes, you will make a statement, for what that’s worth, but will simply really wearing a sweatshirt bring real change?

Alan Bloom once said, “the students [of the 1960s] substituted conspicuous compassion for their parents’ conspicuous consumption.” If you are going to wear a sweatshirt tomorrow in support of Trayvon, I am not discouraging you from doing so. I do, however, request that you also make a donation to the ACLU or a similar advocacy group.

20 thoughts on “Why I Will Wear A Hooded Sweatshirt Tomorrow

  1. right, because absently donating money is taking a much more active role than wearing a hoodie in a show of solidarity. i don’t even think you believe what you wrote in this article, i think you’re an exhibitionist who’s taking advantage of the anti-Kony movement outcry to try and make yourself sound smart.

  2. ok, so I’m in agreement with your point. Wearing a hoodie tomorrow is a fairly empty gesture. It’s also going to be very difficult to distinguish those who are wearing hoodies to support justice for Trayvon and those who are wearing hoodies because that’s what they wear when it’s cold out. Somebody made the point to me earlier today that the gesture itself is actually doing something. I completely disagreed at the time (somewhat due to my contrary nature) but upon further thought I realized that a gesture can be something. I’m sure everyone (at least everyone reading this) is familiar with the black armbands worn by protestors of the war in Vietnam. That was a gesture that made people notice. It made people notice to such an extent that it ended up in the supreme court. I’m not saying that a gesture has to be so controversial as to enter into the legal system to be meaningful. But it should be an obvious, conscious choice. It shouldn’t be something that could just be happening because you’re coming back from the KAC. However, I also agree with James when he remarks that absently donating money is not much better than the simple donning of a hoodie. I would suggest that if you would really like to do something, write a letter. Write a letter to lawmakers in Florida and anywhere else they have laws like the Stand Your Ground law. Because what failed in this case, in the end, was our justice system. Yes, George Zimmerman is a racist, but we have a system to deal with his crime. Let’s fix the system.

    P.S. I’m all over the place in this thing. It’s probably since I haven’t been sleeping enough.

  3. Matt,

    Thank you for so articulately spelling out why this hoody day is nonsense. I haven’t been able to express my sentiments exactly, and I think you hit the nail on the head; it’s another example of the slacktivism of our generation.

  4. Matt,

    Thank you for so articulately spelling out why this hoody day is nonsense, despite coming from the right place. I haven’t been able to myself. Like KONY2012, it’s another example of our generation’s slacktivism, though that’s not to denigrate other activism and service we have done.

  5. I’m with you Matt about not participating and I’m black! It’s not just the potential, and likely emptiness of it all; it is also the fact that I don’t know all that exactly happened during the night of Trayvon’s death. I do think however that racial prejudices did play SOME part in the incident: the police’s handling of the situation, Zimmerman’s decisions, or any other possible angle you can take. It’s just hard not to let personal prejudices subconsciously, or consciously, impact our decisions in all types of situations. There is a problem with issues of race and racial prejudice in our country and that is what we need to fix. Wardrobe choices can quickly distract from the issue at hand. It can give the people who really can make a difference the option of discrediting the cry for social change as a trivial one-sided (solely justice for Trayvon and not possibly Zimmerman, since we can never know EXACTLY what happened) support for Trayvon’s family.

    • Brittney well said!

      As a flip-flopper on slacktivism I think such movements can be helpful without diverting attention from more direct ways of change. But because there are essential facts that are still not known in the Trayvon Martin case I find this sort of movement of little value. Racism in America is a real issue that persists but I think this movement has more to do with publicizing a particular example of this racism, while any discussions of the causes of racism and the structures which allow it to flourish are secondary or non-existent in the movement.

      Similarly to KONY, if the Hoodie march were to be a march for greater understanding of the intersection of racial identity and political institutions, I don’t think many would show up. You always have to sacrifice nuance for popularity (or almost always). In this case, because the Martin case is still in such flux I think it may do more harm than good.

  6. I find it extremely offensive to compare this initiative with KONY 2012 . I despise KONY 2012 but I will be proudly wearing a hoody tomorrow to support the movement to end racial profiling. Now, let’s get a few things straight:
    1. There is no white-savior neo-imperialist overtone in this initiative. We’re not trying to save any brown people here, but constructively improve our own reality and express solidarity with a movement that is seeking to fight racism.
    2. Trayvon’s death took place in Florida- this isn’t some distant country we’re trying to fix from afar with a childish grasp of the situation. This is our justice system, our norms, and our institutions we’re dealing with.
    3. This isn’t organized by some questionable NGO with an even more questionable Executive Director. This is a true grassroots effort seeking to demand justice.
    3. In light of Geraldo Rivera’s comments this is called for. This is people responding to other ludicrous statements that try to smear Trayvon and blame him for his own death while denying the racist institutions and practices that plague this country. Wearing a hoody makes a difference because people have been doing it to show that they care. To show that they care that Zimmerman receive justice and that racial profiling and racism is still a problem. That is a powerful statement. When the Miami heat take a photo with hoodies on to make this political and cultural statement that means something. It says people should care about these issues and do something about it. Putting on a hoody isn’t all you do- no one is saying that. But it says that you care. And when you have to listen to all the racist crap that goes on in this country and this campus on a verbal and institutional level and feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, that image of solidarity is extremely powerful.
    Congressman Bobby Rush was kicked off the house floor for wearing a hoody in support of justice for Trayvon and six NY senators also wore hoodies to protest the NY born racial profiling they think set the stage for Trayvon’s death. This is a movement, it’s not some misinformed video. Seeing people band together and successfully make a statement by garnering media attention, sparking discussion and interest in an issue as deeply entrenched in this nation’s history as racism is inspiring.
    Not to mention, when it’s made clear that people care about something and everyone’s eyes are following a story, our elected officials and everyone else whose ass is on the line takes notice and shit gets done.
    The prevailing attitude towards these issues is apathy and ignorance. That can probably be applied to a lot of other issues as well. That is why seeing so many people get up in arms about something and express that anger in a productive way that garners attention and creates solidarity is reaffirming. It reaffirms my interest in social justice and activism. It reaffirms my desire to talk about these issues on a predominantly white campus. When you work on issues like this (institutionalized racism in this example) it’s really easy to feel defeated and as if nothing will ever change. Most people don’t care because it doesn’t affect them or they believe that we live in a post-racism era or whatever other popular reason you’d like to cite. But movements like this prove to you that there are other people who care about these issues that go unspoken in everyday conversation.
    Also, organizing an event on this campus, mobilizing people to get together and do something and care about an issue makes a significant impact. A different kind of impact than donating the ACLU. Not to mention, not all of us can afford to simply throw money at issues and let others deal with them. Personally, I’m too broke. I’m also personally invested in these social justice movements and fights against racism. I don’t want to let others do all the work so I’m going to do the best I can on this campus. And I applaud Tess for organizing this event and doing the same.

    • Hear hear! Call the hoodie day “slacktivism” if you want to, but remember that “slacktivism” is not the same as trying to push US military involvement in another country. Or, if you feel that wearing a hoodie doesn’t actually achieve anything, then join in other conversations. Work actively to educate yourself and others and to change the flawed US legal system that ignores the murders of black youth like Trayvon or homeless gay and trans kids.
      Hoodie day is about saying that folks are paying attention when wrong things happen–the more people in power who see that, the better.

  7. I pretty much agree with everything Kenyonstudent is saying. Giving money as a sign of caring about an issue is, indeed, also an easy way of making oneself feel like making a difference in the world. Granted, that donating money to non-governmental organizations is important but it should not be done to buy oneself good conscience. Also, not all of us can just donate money to appropriate charity every time we witness injustice.

    I would not be as critical about clicktivism, though. Firstly, all the petitions available online that so many organizations solicit us to sign do not differ that much from the traditional pen and paper petitions that our parents were writing. I also do feel that flooding politicians’ e-mails with messages generated by a single website can, at least, bring up issues much like calling your congressman. Secondly, working online is an efficient way for NGOs to collect a large member base and gather numbers concerning their behaviour to gain credibility. The internet makes it easy to count how many times the organization’s website has been visited, which of their e-mails have been most read and how many people, in general, are interested and supportive of the organization’s actions. These numbers can, then, be used to add a bit more weight when lobbying about the issues of interest. Clicktivism may not be much more than a gesture but it does not at least hurt the organizations performing it.

  8. Right, so writing uninformed opinions in a conservative political rag read by no one outside the cloistered walls of Kenyon is a proactive approach to the most pressing issues.

  9. Pingback: The Intent Behind ‘Hoodie Day” « Salaam

  10. In the past, students have raised awareness on discrimination by wearing pins that said “speak out”. This was very embraced by the student body. Doing this is a public gesture that lets others know you care about these kinds of issues and would like to have open discussion on them. Wearing a hoodie or a pin does not mean that people will not donate to the ACLU or do something with more of an impact eventually. It just gets everyone thinking about these issue which is why it is good. This allows a public voice. Donating is a great idea, but it is a private activity that is too easy these days, and doesn’t foster idea exchange. The fact that the hoodie demonstration has sparked this much dialogue is an indication of its success. Whether you find the issue relevant to discrimination or not – it got you thinking about it.

    • A big reason that there is increased dialogue on this issue is because of criticism and defense of movements like these. I feel like you missed the point which is that ideally people would both donate to effective advocacy groups AND engage in discourse about these issues.

  11. Pingback: Re: Why I Will Wear A Hooded Sweatshirt Tomorrow | The Kenyon Observer

  12. This article and supportive comments perpetuate Kenyon’s stagnant attitude toward activism. Don’t immediately jump to conclusions about why people are or are not wearing hoodies today. Ask! Let’s talk, Kenyon. This incident took place in our own country, not to people half way across the world with whom we will never interact. We encounter people with identities differing from our own in this country every day. For me, the hoodie is my way of showing solidarity, that I will never judge or abuse someone based on a stigmatized article of clothing or stereotype. May I reiterate Rebecca’s comment: This is a movement. Not a misinformed [viral] video. A rapid reaction for activism on this campus is rare and we need to change that. We obviously all have opinions about everything, and we came to this school to share them and better understand each other and learn how to function in a world that extends more than 20 feet off a gravel path.

  13. Ellen,

    This article does not perpetuate Kenyon’s stagnant attitude towards social activism. If anything, it encourages it through meaningful discourse such as writing congressmen or donating to advocacy groups that have a proven history of fighting discrimination. The only thing the article called into question was the sincerity of simply wearing a hoody to express solidarity with a cause. While solidarity is indeed a good thing, mine and other’s fear is that people will substitute a more effective means of protest such as donating to the ACLU or writing a politician with something that is seemingly more convenient. I am also glad that your expression of solidarity is your way of saying that you will “never discriminate against someone.” Aside from the logical extension of this argument that might draw offense to those who chose not to wear a sweatshirt today, this is the very problem that I am talking about. It is a good way to communicate your enthusiasm about the cause, and you should do so, but do not let it interrupt your pursuit of macro-oriented action as well.


    I think that you misunderstood the comparison to KONY 2012 and I am sorry if you were offended. In my posting I wrote, “Aside from the flaws of the charity that created the video” which was intended to draw our focus away from the criticism of the movement and more towards how people supported it. So while I appreciate your bringing to light the neo-colonial issues etc. with KONY 2012, you are missing the point that I am raising: people took to the cause by posting links, changing their facebook statuses and pictures etc. as a means of supporting the cause. The argument is that the trend activism is taking seems to be one that favors “raising awareness” or “expressing solidarity” oppose to other means of recourse. To my understanding, the people responsible for the “Wear a Hoodie” movement are also holding a petition signing in Peirce which is great. And while this is not mutually exclusive with wearing a hoodie to express solidarity, it is not impossible to imagine the more effective one without the other.

    As for the merits of “raising awareness” and “expressing solidarity”, I think that these are all well and good, but that doesn’t answer my original claim that these means of protest are replacing others which I believe to be more effective. The claim that you can’t give any money to the ACLU is absurd and your participation in the “wear a hoodie day” movement does not preclude you from doing so. We are all broke college students, but I bet everyone on campus has $10 that they could give to this cause. You are not just throwing money at an issue; the ACLU is a group that has a proven track record of combating social injustices on a macro-level. It is good that you are trying to combat social injustice on a micro-level, but that doesn’t stop you from helping some of the most prominent advocacy groups in the country.

  14. Hey Matt, I appreciate your apology. I feel that this argument is just going to devolve into a back and forth in which the other feels their points are misunderstood. We are all busy people and cannot devote as much time as we’d like to crafting these responses. It would more productive and fruitful to engage in a conversation about this. If you would like to do so, I invite you to contact me because I strongly disagree with much of what you have said, but I’m not going to spend hours arguing with you over this website.

  15. Pingback: Hoodies ≠ Hoodlums: A Social Movement at Kenyon College – NextGen Journal

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