In Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s children’s novel, “The Little Prince,” the title character encounters a Turkish astronomer. The scientist continues to tell the Prince a story of his astronomical discovery. When he first presents the discovery, he was wearing traditional Turkish clothing, and his fellow scientists regarded him as a fool. Years later, the Astronomer makes the same presentation to the same crowd, only wearing Western clothes and went on to be well-received and respected by the scientific community.
There’s no denying that we judge people by the clothes their backs. We will formulate preconceived notions and take the visual as a first impression based on the person in question is wearing. It is off these judgments we base our actions.
The most recent illustration of this mindset is Treyvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot and killed on Feb. 26.
All legal jargon and technicalities aside, what has become more of an icon–and, perhaps subsequently, more of a controversial issue–than Martin or the shooting, is what this teenager was wearing at the time of his death: a hoodie.
National TV news anchors have worn sweatshirts during broadcasts in protest. Lawmakers, lawyers, political pundits and teachers are wearing sweatshirts to work. There have been “Million Hoodie” marches throughout the nation since mainstream media has taken hold of the issue. But worst of all is the full-on war the conservative media has taken against the article of clothing.
Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera responded to this tragedy by urging minority families to discourage their children from wearing sweatshirts, as the article of clothing was to blame for Martin’s death.
Now, before I address the absolute ridiculousness of Rivera’s assertion, allow me to digress:
Remember last April when Toronto police officer Michael Sanguinetti said that if women didn’t want to get raped or sexually assaulted, they “should avoid dressing like sluts”?
That’s right, this guy actually argued that if “provocatively dressed” women were raped or sexually abused, it was their fault.
His vilifying words toward women are no better than the actual meaning, and I can’t help but compare the Martin case with Sanguinetti.
How has our society moved from blaming the doer to blaming the wearer?
Granted, as I previously noted, I understand one’s attire has an effect on our perception of them. However, Sanguinetti and Rivera have essentially asserted the same point. The difference? Rivera is garnering support from Fox News and like-minded citizens; Sanguinetti was metaphorically burned on a stake by women around the world.
In the minority world, do we just prefer women over blacks? Is it easier – or perhaps more acceptable – to remain xenophobic and racist than it is to be sexist? What do you think?
And is anyone really going to be banishing hoodies and mini skirts from their wardrobe?