what is a hoodie?

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by Anthony Paul Farley

what is a hoodie?

hooded sweatshirts are very warm.  i am almost always freezing.  in fact, i’ve been cold ever since my childhood trek from jamaica to tanzania to puerto rico to libya to upstate, ny, america’s cold northeast shoulder, roundabout age seven.  i have a lot of sweatshirts.  the current one says, “obama 2012,” the early ones, from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, say, “brockport high school,” “university of virginia” or “harvard.”  all of this leads to my question:

is a hooded sweatshirt the same as a “hoodie?”

i thought hooded sweatshirts had *been to or going to-go-to college* as their cultural meaning.  when i was in college, hooded sweatshirts said: “person in hood is a student, not a hood.”  very bourgeois, or so i thought.  i am even listed somewhere in the “thank you” section of one of bourgeoisie author lawrence otis graham’s early how-to-not-be-too-black-for-business-and-pleasure books because the “harvard law school” hooded sweatshirt in which he was photographed for the publisher’s promotional materials actually belonged to me — i handed it to him somewhere outside of the harkness as he headed off to take his photo.  hooded sweatshirts, it seemed to me, and to experts like larry, have always been as white a shade of pale as you can wear without becoming a total freakshow (bowties / blue blazers / sweatervests, like MJ’s glitterglove, take wanting-to-be-white to an unrecognizable place).  hooded sweatshirts, unless i’ve been wrong for the entirety of my american experience, have always been white.  but now, suddenly, with the velocity of a bullet, the hooded sweatshirt has a new meaning, and, i guess, a new name, “hoodie.”

what is a “hoodie?”  the question is important.  we cannot ignore it.

feel the middle passage chill in the air?  what to wear?  white hoods?  obviously, something strange has taken place.  wearing a “hoodie” can actually get you killed, just like everything else; it is, it seems, as robin coste lewis suggests, a problem of:

“walking while black, talking while black, pissing while black, eating while black, breathing while black, crying while black, snoring while black, thinking while black, brushing my teeth while black, holding a wallet while black, eating skittles while black, playing double-dutch while black, being black while black, wearing a hoodie while black, holding a woman’s hand while black, reaching into the glove compartment while black, not putting on my indicator while black, going through customs while black, watching someone look at my four year old son curiously while black, using lapd bullet shells to play hopscotch while black, touching the bullet holes in our walls while black, being told you’re not black enough while black, being told you’re too black while black, loving being black while black, wanting to get the hell up out of here while black, realizing there’s no place to be black while black, loving being black even more because of that while black, sitting on the rim of the pacific getting blacker while black, finally giving up on being accepted while black, which is blacker than all blacks while black, thinking about all the little boys who disappeared when we were children while black, and the little girls who disappeared too while black, and watching our mothers tremble, wondering which of us children would not come home that day while black. at seven, coming home to them even blacker because of that while black. and staying.”

robin lewis’ suggestion is the perfect manifesto for a new movement:

“free trayvon martin.”  no justice, no peace.  let’s all join hands and demand trayvon martin’s unconditional release from the undiscovered country.  until he’s free, not one of us is free.