Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 6:55 AM

Trayvon Hoodie Okay for Obama; but Not for MLK

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

It was poignant enough when President Obama declared last year that the racially profiled and murdered Trayvon Martin could have been his son.

imagesBut this poignancy increased exponentially when he declared the following yesterday – during a remarkably personal and heartfelt reflection on the Zimmerman verdict and the legacy of racism that gave rise to it:

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son.  Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago…

(Whitehouse.gov, July 19, 2013)

Then, as only this first Black president of the United States could do, he put the dark shadow of race that hovered over the Zimmerman trial into the following context:

When you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store.  And that includes me…

I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida and it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.

(Whitehouse.gov, July 19, 2013)

UnknownThat said, I fully appreciate why Obama has no problem identifying with Trayvon – even to the point of wearing the hoodie that has become a symbol of the prejudicial assumptions Whites make about Blacks, which led to Trayvon’s death. But it’s taking this symbolism too far to be superimposing hoodies on images of Martin Luther King Jr.

There are more than enough historically accurate symbols associated with MLK’s struggles against these prejudicial assumptions without defiling his image in this way. I just wonder why it’s his publicity-seeking, right-wing niece, Dr. Alveda King, and not any of his children who are speaking out against this misuse….

Finally, civil rights activists are leading hundreds of marches/rallies across America today pursuant to a clarion call for a “Justice for Trayvon Martin National Day of Action.” If previous ones are any guide, these will seem more like vigils or funeral processions than political protests – with emphasis more on pleading for justice than venting anger.

If at all possible, I urge you to participate – especially if you’re White.  After all, this Trayvon tragedy is far more about the propensity of Whites to engage in racial profiling than the propensity of Blacks to engage in criminal behavior.

Related commentaries:
Zimmerman verdict

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