Bobby Rush & His Hoodie: Do Clothes Make the Man?

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Mark Twain said.

Indeed clothes have been in the news lately, particularly hoodies, or sweatshirts with hoods.  Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was fatally shot in Florida Feb. 26.

As the nation struggles to understand this senseless death, seek justice and extend its condolences to Trayvon’s family, the hoodie, a prerequisite of college students, athletes and teenagers like Trayvon,  has become ubiquitous.

In a show of solidarity and to memorialize Trayvon, “Million Hoodie” marches have occurred throughout the country. Capitol Hill staffers donned the sweatshirts over their business attire and Illinois Congressman Bobby L. Rush, defying Congressional protocol, wore a hoodie on the floor of the House yesterday. Escorted out for his infraction, Rush has garnered attention. Did wearing a hoodie harm or help the Martin investigation?

I’ve never been one for uniforms or dress codes. Yet I think there are places where the selection of clothing should be considered. I’ve only recently become comfortable going directly from yoga class to errands, stopping in to the library, bank, post office or grocery store before returning home to shower and change. I still worry that I might see someone I know. Then I look around. Everyone is wearing workout clothes; I fit right in.

Many public schools are adopting uniforms, following what parochial and private schools have required for ages.  As a teacher, I felt the uniforms did accomplish what they were set out to do: there was less attention given to clothes, less primping, and less competition about who wore what brand. A colleague of mine vehemently disagreed. To him, uniforms sent a message: preparing students for fast-food work or the military.

I certainly didn’t want a uniform for teachers and cringed when I saw staff in some schools attired like the students in khaki pants and polo shirts, looking more like camp counselors than professional educators.   I opted to dress artfully, but conservatively. Lots of colors and patterns, fun jewelry and tights, but skin mostly covered.  I don’t think glimpses of thong underwear, pierced bellybuttons, and Stieg Larsson tattoos befit the workplace.

Which brings me back to Representative Rush. I think he could have better used his allotted time on the House floor to demand justice, to demand gun control, and to demand an end to racial profiling. He didn’t need to wear a hoodie to do so.

As Mark Twain said,  “Where prejudice exists it always discolors our thoughts.”

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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3 Responses to Bobby Rush & His Hoodie: Do Clothes Make the Man?

  1. I have to agree. We had Spike Lee sending bad tweet information and putting an innocent family at risk. We need the eloquent bold statements. Where’s the eloquence of MLK when you need it. I wish he had read a statement or presented a resolution banning guns or racial profiling. However, I can understand the frustration many are feeling. They feel powerless so they can act in inappropriate ways to try to make a point. Us mothers are scared and fathers uneasy about their sons and their safety.
    My son does have a list of what he will not wear. It includes hoodies, Chicago Bull caps and logo clothes. He has no logo’s on his clothes and when I asked if he still wanted that ear pieced, he said “NO.” He learned early what he had to thanks to his father.

    Like

  2. Barbara klein says:

    Right on! Mom.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Remembering the Children | cyclingrandma

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