Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, you know that George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, on Feb. 26. That he was free until yesterday triggered a national uproar.
News reports have said the fact that Martin wore a hoodie apparently contributed to Zimmerman’s conclusion that Martin was “suspicious,” and led to far more high-profile defenses of the hoodie as a functional, innocent garment than mine here.
Still, I offer mine into the mix to add another angle. My six-year-old son has favored hoodies, well, forever. Hoodies are one way he copes with the sensory issues that accompany his autism.
When he was younger, his auditory sensitivity was worse. Take him to a coffee shop, for instance, and he’d clap his hands over his ears the moment the espresso machine started up. He freaked out at the swimming pool if anyone even got near the diving board, fearing the loud, echoing reverberations of the board’s springs. (Not coincidentally, hoodies aren’t practical at a pool, and we often wound up having to leave.)
It’s not so acute now. But the hoodie still provides him a measure of comfort and confidence that was, I thought, fairly benign, not to mention cost-effective, compared to the other ways of managing sensory issues (pharmaceutical, occupational therapy, etc.) Then came Feb. 26.
Yes, my son is white and not yet four feet tall. But he’s going to grow. And depending on your perspective — put pants on him in photo 2 above, for instance, — his race isn’t evident. In addition, his struggle to read social cues means he’s less aware of the
message risk of wearing a hoodie sends.
Re-reading that last sentence, I shake my head. The risk of wearing a hoodie. Unbelievable. And unacceptable.