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Harry Stein
Guilt, Innocence, and Hoodies « Back to Story

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AS a young man in the 50's, I favored the then-tough guy outfit of a leather jacket, tight jeans and a pompadour. In those days, "stop and frisk" meant a slap down and warning from the local gendarmerie. It didn't take long for me to realize that if I toned it down to khakis and a cotton shirt I'd not attract such attention. Sad, but true. Many young men would be well served by heeding my advice.
Martin was unarmed and not involved in criminal behavior of any kind.

Actually, by Zimmerman's account (which is supported by eyewitnesses and what physical evidence has come to light) Martin was involved in highly criminal behavior: aggravated assault. This crime is considered so severe by our legal system that a victim of it is allowed to use deadly force to stop it. Zimmerman did.

Your larger point is of course a good one. People affecting a criminal style to demonstrate solidarity with a larger class than criminals is stupid. They are, in fact, demonstrating solidarity with criminals. Normal people see this and think that our ruling class is too insulated in its bubble to realize what they are doing. The truth is more sinister.
The issue is not just a hoodie- it's a black youth in a hoodie, possibly with sagging pants and other markers of ghetto culture.

This is just plain dumb as many hipsters and gay men wear this style of clothing to
Harm: Talk about making up facts - the school suspension was for 10 days - and marijuana possession - yes, violent behavior for sure!
High School Teacher March 27, 2012 at 8:46 AM
The issue is not just a hoodie- it's a black youth in a hoodie, possibly with sagging pants and other markers of ghetto culture.
Sure a white kid can wear a hoodie, my white children wear them. But a black teen with a hood up and pants below their hips is a trigger for fear. Anyone who doesn't have this fear must have lived in a tony part of town for a good while. Also, for myself, ANY youth with hoodie up and pants down will make me cross the street quick.
This is why all hoods are banned at our school, and many urban schools that are trying hard to deflect the thug mentality in their students.
A hoodie is used to deflect rain and snow. any negative connotatioons are poor biases that corrupt and corrode law enforcement. Zimmerman was not a cop, and has a history of over-reaction. Racist or not, Zimmerman expected that Martin to simply stop walking just because Zimmerman was suspicious. the hoodie has nothing to do with anything. if anyone with a hoodie can be seen as a gangbanger, or thug, it is less the fault of those who perpertrate crimes wearing them than it is those who assume a hoodie, or outside of popular slang, a sweater-jacket, indicates some attempt at wrong doing. the presence of a bias can always have a grain of trutyh, but like so much else, it is the claims and falseitudes that demand attention. the million hoodie march showed what any one with common sense could tell: anyone can wear a hoodie, and do so for whatever there reasons. people do not capitulate to the will of those who deign themselves the purveyors of judgement, Zimmerman thought himself one. furthermore hoodies aside, the fact that Zimmerman is not hostile towards african Americans is not a sign of absence of racism, as many racists define their actions with patterns they alone see at specific times. Zimmerman probably is not a racist, but Mr. Stein what this piece fails to account for is the indignation that someone's judgement is taken as seriously as an experts opinion, in that Trayvon Martin was unseemly because of his wearing a hoodie. Before it was cloaks, than backwards baseball caps, now hoodies. there is no preference amoung the criminally inclined minority youth to wear a hoodie, they any everyone else wear them because they are practical and useful, something that has escaped the minds of egotists like Zimmerman and apologists such as yourself, always looking for a sign, or pattern, that can not be determined.
Do you just make up your own facts as you go along. The victim was serving a five day suspension from school for fighting at the time of the shooting.
If this is all you had to say, its better not said. Try giving us some insight on the topic.
Why this case smells badly is for the reasons you suggest about the victim - he was unarmed and had no questionable record as a delinquent or otherwise in trouble at home or school. Apparently, the shooter (and that he killed Martin is beyond any doubt) did.

In ANY OTHER case claiming self defense, with what the police know, they would have arrrested Zimmerman days ago and a judge and jury would decide whether the self-defense claims are valid or not.

Being central Florida, with a historical record (as with the rest of the state) of racial discrimination by officialdom, that is why even the most pro-law and order person HAS to question the motives and or abilities of the Sanford PD.
Harry - Aside from all those pointing out how many types of people wear hoodies (besides hoods), gang fashion changes. Hispanic gang-bangers often where Pendleton shirts and Chinos. In a lot of neighborhoods, you see black gangbangers styling with puffy down jackets. Literally, we are going to have to create the "fashion police" to keep up with all of this!
The Florida shooting death of a young black man by a white Neighborhood Watch bozo is indeed tragic. But should black people be terribly worried with getting murdered by white bigots and vigilantes? Or is the REAL danger other black males?

Everyone knows the answer, but doesn’t want to talk about it. Certainly Obama doesn’t.

Consider these factoids quoted from Wikipedia:

-- A United States Department of Justice report which surveyed homicide statistics between 1974 and 2004 stated that of the crimes surveyed, 52.2% of the offenders were Black, 45.8% were White, and 2% were Other Races.

-- Of the victims in those same crimes, 50.9% were White, 46.9% were Black, and 2.1% were Other Races.

-- The report further stated that “most murders are intraracial” with 86% of White murders committed by Whites, and 94% of Black murders committed by Blacks.

If you do the grisly math, each WEEK over 110 blacks are killed by other blacks.

Where's the outrage?

Where's the black leadership?

NOTE: For more stats and facts on this issue (plus some lively exchanges of insults), go to the comments section of this blog:
It is important to investigate this tragedy thoroughly, and to determine what exactly Zimmerman did wrong (even if it might be well short of murder). We need this information to determine whether the training required of people with concealed handgun permits needs to be improved. We need to prosecute Zimmerman for whatever he did wrong so that it cannot be said that liberal firearms and self-defense laws facilitate injustice.

If necessary, we will have to make the self-defense laws more explicit so that we can encourage people to shoot muggers and burglars WITHOUT at the same time encouraging bad behavior that endangers innocents.
Leftist nutjobs on this comment section interpret criticism of wearing a hoodie as a future mandate for women to wear period clothing a la "The Handmaiden's Tale" . Their denial of black social dysfunction and pathology and their responsibility for much of it is bizarre. Something is not working in the liberal brain-synapses are misfiring, dopamine is running low, or maybe the small frontal lobe just makes them more susceptible to suggestion. Who knows, but they are the front lines in any struggle to reform America's moral abyss, and like alcoholics and drug addicts, they need to be held responsible for their fifty-year experiment on minorities that has gone haywire. Making the rectification much more difficult is their massive vested interest in keeping the death machine running. From govt. welfare workers to teachers' unions, they have everything to lose by forfeiting their minority kindergarten. The inevitability of a showdown is certain.
I second the idea of taking this down. it is stale. The facts are slowly coming to the fore and it seems less than clear that what happened and best that speculation and federal interference stop. Let the local authorities investigate without interference.
Harry! Glad to see your most recent article. We continue to be pariahs here in Hastings. If you come this way, let us know. Greetings to Priscilla.

Sally and Nick
The extraordinarily high number of idiotic comments only corroborates that which is patently obvious: Leftards are out in force to pursue their usual political agenda, since normally they do not read here, let alone write. All right, let irrationality rule OK & see what happens.
" Yes,of course, there are still vestiges of racism in American life ..."
This quote from Mr. Stein is all the reader needs to see how casual people are about institutionalized racism in America, Vestiges?!? Only someone who is deliberate in their ignorance or willful in their stupidity could write this statement.
Reading many of the comments posted here is a deeply saddening experience. For some, facts are of no consequence. Everything must be viewed through the prism of race -- and racism.

Consequently, for those people, it is offensive to speak the incontrovertible truth: Those who choose to dress like "gangstas" will be seen as gangstas, and will be perceived as a threat.

Obviously, that doesn't justify a shooting, but just might explain it.
Harry Stein is making the point that a hoodie does carry associations and increases the risk of being negatively stereotyped. He does not argue that wearing a hoodie justifies shooting someone for wearing it. How difficult is to separate those two points? Yet many commenters seem to have difficulty with separating them.

All the counterexamples of "nice" people wearing hoodies are a bit foolish (how come nobody mentioned Mark Zuckerberg yet?) as nobody argues that just wearing a hoodie guarantees such associations. As usual with such attributes, it's a combination of them which may become fatal -- wrong dress, wrong time of day, wrong neighborhood, wrong behavior, and ... yes .. "wrong" color of skin. Unfair? Yes. So is life.
@TNC: "I think what makes this story so disturbing--as opposed to black-on-black crime--is most of us expect neighborhood watch members to act better than two-bit thugs. When thugs kill each other nobody blinks an eye. When they kill an innocent bystander it might make the papers for a day or so. But when someone supposedly dedicated to upholding the law behaves in this way, it sends a shock through the country, as it should."

I'm not sure I agree with that. Isn't it clear that black-on-black crime is actually the far greater threat? It is very rare that a police officer would act in this way, but it is depressingly common to read about poor innocents killed by gang violence. So why focus on this one outlier? Why not address the far more grave danger posed by gangs? Far from being racism, this is what someone who genuinely cared about blacks would do. Because Al Sharpton and the Million Hoodie people don't, I think it is quite legitimate to question their sincerity.
This article marks a new low for City Journal. Worthy of a Rush Limbaugh broadcast, perhaps, but not City Journal.
I wear a hoodie at least three days a week and if it unexpectedly started to rain (as frequently happens in FL) I would probably flip up the hood. So I guess I better watch my back.

Wait. I'm white. Never mind.

This is blaming the victim, pure and simple. Prefacing hateful "analysis" with of-course-this-is-a-tragedy-but... does not excuse the absurdity of your conclusions.
@Monica, probably because it doesn't fit the political agenda of the left. In the Tampa area About a year and a half ago a black man shot not one, but two police officers after they stopped him for speeding. Just like that, in cold blood. Both these men were family men, one left a pregnant wife. The murderer was hunted for several days--his community feared reprisals and would not cooperate in finding him.
As Mr. Stein said in his response, it's time we actually discussed these topics instead of throwing accusations. Just as Nero fiddled as Rome burned, we continue to argue as our citizens (reardless of race) kill each other.
There's no coverage of this awful crime, why not?
@Seamus. Have you considered that in your statements you have summarily painted an entire race and an entire subgroup within that race with the same brush. Isn't that being just as bigoted as you are accusing the white/rich white people of being?
roger in florida March 23, 2012 at 3:31 PM
It is not established that the young man was "not involved in criminal behaviour of any kind". For someone who just went out to 7-11 he was in a strange location, nowhere near the path from his house to either 7-11 he would have gone to. Unfortunately the wearing of hoodies, baggy pants and walking in a slouching fashion are indicative of gangbanger behaviour, and would warrant interest from a security operative, given the criminal activity going on in this neighborhood.
I am very sorry he is dead, that is an appalling waste of a young man, but don't let's jump to any conclusions.
When I went to take my Engineer-in-Training exam, the first step in becoming a professional engineer, the exam began at 7am. As I was walking in an hour earlier to get situated, I noticed that almost everyone else in the room was wearing a hoodie. They are practical and comfortable. I have a hard time imagining myself telling my child not to wear a hoodie.
Must say, I am disheartened, if not entirely surprised, by some of the posts. I knew what I wrote would rub some the wrong way -- that I'd be accused of blaming the victim -- but also hoped the piece would generate some important back and forth on a difficult topic. It seems to me that one of the reasons we have trouble meaningfully addressing the intractable problems of the black underclass in America -- poverty, single-parent homes, horrific dropout rates, crime -- is that we refuse to move beyond the all-too-familiar "root causes" explanations: racism and too little government money. Yes,of course, there are still vestiges of racism in American life -- and, yes, occasionally there are tragic consequences, as it appears there were in this case. That the life of a 17-year old with such obvious promise was so callously snuffed out is painful beyond description.
Yet what also struck me as I followed the protests was that the tragedy was being used, notably (but not exclusively) by Al Sharpton, to gin up the familiar America-is-irredeemably-racist cry. Indeed, at today's Florida rally, angry comparisons were made to the Emmett Till case, as if this is the same country it was fifty years ago. It was, lest we forget, the protesters who first raised the hoodie question, their point being that assumptions -- unfair assumptions -- were made about this young man based simply on the fact he was wearing this particular article of clothing. I think that's absolutely right. Where we differ is in whether the negative assumptions associated with the hoodie are grounded solely in irrationality and hatred or whether they are at least partly a consequence of experience. Interestingly, Geraldo Rivera made the same point this morning, when he observed that he warned his own teenage son not to wear a hoodie. Why? Because, he said, having seen countless videos of convenience store robberies where the perps were in hoodies, too many people were apt to jump to the wrong conclusion -- especially if the wearer was a young hispanic. Is it racist to say that or is it simply an acknowlegement of real life?

How does this differ from singling out emo youth in Iraq? Or what about all of the white people who also wear hoodies? Are they also considered to be dangerous or do they not fall under your definition of,...."others who hold life exceedingly cheap; which is to say, under certain circumstances, it is apt to heighten another’s uncertainty and fear, and bring potential danger for the wearer.?

And about that letter jacket. Often times the wearers of these seem to think it gives them a sence of entitlement, the right to bully and a cliquishness that boarders on gang-like behavior - depending on which side of the jacket you are on.

Why not ban them or let's just move on to dressing as described in the Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Killing anyone based on dress or appearance is rediculous. What if we started killing white males who wore tats and long hair because they may be in a biker gang which we all know are clubs for racists and drug dealers?

This man was wrong. Regardless of his concern for his safety, he had options. He was the adult. He was in a car. He could have left. He could have done what he was told to do - do nothing. He is free and an unarmed youth is dead. Justify that.
City Journal, please consider taking this article down. I doubt that I am the only one whose admiration for your publication is being jeopardized.

Stein's point of entry to the discussion - hoodie connotation - is so dated (perhaps accurate in the early '90s) and bizarre that it feels like some convenient vehicle for less noble purposes. There isn't a demographic or socioeconomic segment in America today that hasn't (or whose kids haven't) adopted the hoodie as a wardrobe essential.
@seamus: "...attitude of entitled prejudice..."

A *very* accurate description of this specious and insensitive piece.
I think what makes this story so disturbing--as opposed to black-on-black crime--is most of us expect neighborhood watch members to act better than two-bit thugs. When thugs kill each other nobody blinks an eye. When they kill an innocent bystander it might make the papers for a day or so. But when someone supposedly dedicated to upholding the law behaves in this way, it sends a shock through the country, as it should.

This entire episode is sad and disturbing. Sad, because a family has had their child violently taken from them. Disturbing for a number of reasons, first and foremost the reaction. Besides media reports, none of us have much information on what happened. But we are quick to rush to judgement. In particular, the professional activist types were quick to point this out as an example of a racist white guy murdering a black teenager. But it turns out the shooter is Latino. Does that matter to the dead teenager and his parents? I don't think so. But it should cause these activists to rethink the way they are framing this tragedy. I doubt it will, they have too much invested in blowing up these sorts of things.

The more information that comes out, the more we learn this gated community is not some sort of forlorn backwater straight out of "Deliverance" or a place where blacks and whites and latinos live in fear or each other. It is a mixed development, with various races living side-by-side. We are learning that Mr. Zimmerman's black neighbors had him watch their homes when they were out of town. Would they allow a straight up racist (which is the way Mr. Zimmerman is being presented) to do this? I doubt it.

I am not trying to defend Zimmerman here. I do not think he was justified in killing someone. But presenting him as a racist murderer out for blood is not at all appropriate given the evidence available at this time, which is quite limited.
What Stein is really saying here is that if you are black and walk through his neighborhood, you better be wearing a suit and tie.
As long as the US legal system supports the multi-billion industry of putting young black and Hispanic men in prison for reasons no greater than them not being able to afford good legal representation, there will continue to be young men of color who resent this injustice and act out violently. But of course the story is deeper. The key is and always has been education. In order to meet pervasive, shallow, and politically correct 'inclusive' dogma, the US K-12 school system has since the late 1970s lowered standards in American schools. Along with feminist and 'progressive' ideology, political correctness has bankrupted our schools of moral principles, factual knowledge, and critical thinking ability. Since elements of all three areas can make 'someone' uncomfortable or feel intimidated or feel condescended to, then all elements that carry difficulty, challenge, or any uncomfortable reality have been expunged. This indeed has made a lot of young people in the US 'equal'; they are equally ignorant, intolerant, irrational, and impulsive. And, for the growing numbers of young black and Hispanic men, this has been a disaster. More than ever before we need a strong Primary Education system that prioritizes the leveling of the playing field for developing children (cognitively, physically, emotionally, economically, & socially). Currently, we waste enormous amounts of money putting young, poor men behind bars--which does nothing but turn them into monsters. We could, however, take a fraction of misspent government moneys to rigorously prepare ALL children to be good citizens and good thinkers, and to have sufficient knowledge to get a good job. This is a sea change whose time has come; it will take 40 years to redress, since it took at least that amount of time to develop. As long as we passively support those who make vast sums of money by fomenting social tensions in the US, instead of speaking out to influence minds through empathy and understanding, and thoroughly educating our children so that they will support a moral society, then these incidences will continue to occur.

about black killed weekly by black gangbangers? How do you expect anyone to take you seriously? Aren't you just racists, yousrelves, who will never condemn a black?

Many boys in suburbia wear hoodies all the time, weather permitting. My son is one such teen, and he is particularly attached to the hoodie he got on Scout Day at West Point; it bears the logo of that institution's sports teams. Like wearing baseball caps backwards, the hoodie is now a mainstream symbol.
It's indicative of the mindset of many people that serious criminals are referred to as "children" or as "kids".

Like once-cute baby exotic pets, when the hormones kick in, youngsters at an age when historically they married and found productive work are now addicted to crime and cheap thrills.

We have millions of good job opportunities: however, few are available to lack-wits with poor attitudes and criminal backgrounds.
I like that Harry Stein is succinct in making his point. The downside is when that is the result of oversimplifying the point. The simplification here seems to be made possible by the ignorant attitude that his limited experience represents the TRUTH. A common truth we all know , or all could easily know if we were as brave & clear as he in admitting it. Since his interpretation of these clothes items is boldly apparent to him, he treats it like an objective reality. Rather than seeing that his opinion is informed by racism, he seems to have an arrogant smugness that seeks applause for a "no nonsense, telling it like it is" approach to the subject. I have had countless friends where this same "menacing" apparel & somehow we could all continue to go about our business as if we weren't in danger. Was this b/c they were white ? If they were black should we have reaching for our cell phones ready to dial 911 ? Mr. Stein would have me believe that this was non-sense. That any reasonable person would be frightened by anyone is such manner of dress. Does this not bring us back to the argument that the woman who gets raped brought it on herself by wearing a mini-skirt & a skimpy shirt. I appreciate that Mr. Stein is succinct, it's unfortunate that he's so blind to the causes of his fears & so proud of his bigotry.
Are you suggesting that we all stop wearing hooded jackets and sweats? That's too scary; to think that a child can be shot just for the clothing he/she's wearing! Come on-get real!
What a bunch of racist crap!!

"... hoodies are part of a style favored by gangbangers and drug dealers and others who hold life exceedingly cheap" Yeah, like Bill Belichick!
Grow up, CDM. We all know full well that it isn't just the hoodie. It's the association we all make (including blacks themselves) when we see black males wearing hoodies. And we all know why we make that association. Black males have a reputation for a reason. Even a vile race-baiter like Jesse Jackson spoke of the relief he felt when, walking late at night, he looked behind him and saw a white guy. That comment speaks volumes. Who knows what really happened in this case? The facts will come out in due time. Meanwhile, the truly reactionary left-wing press is always ranting and raving about "white racists" but the truth always ends up being something quite different. The most recent Islamic outrage in France illustrates the point perfectly. The left was just convinced that it was a white "neo-nazi". Thankfully the French police aren't so PC or that brown-skinned, Algerian, muslim murderer would have got away with it. As I said, time to grow up and get real.
Seriously? An unarmed law abiding teen is shot and killed by a self styled vigilante and you argue since other black teens commit acts of violence it's implied that this played into the shooter's decision to kill.

And that hoodies are associated with drug dealing. Apparently only when young black men wear them!

City Journal you should be embarrassed to publish this. Seriously.
Do you seriously mean to imply that wearing a hoodie is an indication of guilt of anything? My 14-year-old daughter, who has never committed any kind of crime or done anything bad or controversial, loves hoodies because they are fashionable and comfortable.
Specious. Do you even know any teenagers? They ALL wear hoodies, & hoodies do not represent anything ominous. Gah.
No one came to march in Tampa last year when a 17yo black man in a hoodie shot and killed a white police officer. I have to wonder at the opportunistic nature of Al Sharpton and his ilk.
Why does it not surprise me that the city journal responds to an outrageous act of racist violence with a self satisfying article of confirmational bias justifying its continued and repeated bigotry. This article is emblematic, not just of the comfort that rich, white america feels with expressing its contempt for working class people, but even more so with its attitude of entitled prejudice.
Here in Chicago hardly a week goes by without some poor innocent black child killed in gang crossfire. Where is the outrage over that?