Hoodies, Hoodlums & Threats

Welcome to Format Free Fridays at AskDrDarcy.com, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited advice.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, leaders and followers alike have weighed in on what may have contributed to George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shooting and killing 17-year old Martin, a black man wearing a hoodie sweatshirt, after perceiving Martin as a threat.

The killing has sparked a national debate about the extent to which black men are scrutinized, often with the presupposition that they might be of physical threat to their white cohorts.  Men in the black community have shared personal stories about having taught their sons to preempt this threat bias by behaving in a submissive manner, particularly when police are involved.  Walk, don’t run.  Keep your hands on the steering wheel until you’re told to put them down. And while I wish we lived in a world where black men didn’t feel the need to teach such lessons to their sons, I can’t help but wonder if maybe this is a teachable moment for men of all races.

What if it’s not bad to be aware of one’s body movements? What if we taught all our sons to be aware of the physical discrepancy between men and women?  What if we taught boys to be sensitive to the inherent threat that men pose (if only because of their gender) to women?  Would that be so terrible?

Personally, I’d love to live in a world where men understood that it’s disconcerting when you walk close behind me at night, particularly when I’m alone on a quiet street.  All you have to do is walk to the left or to the right of me so that I can see you.  Essentially, just get out of my blind spot.  Or let me walk 4 paces ahead so you’re not riding up my ass.  Or, if you’re in such a hurry, just fucking pass me.  Don’t get me wrong: I handle this myself.  I’ll stop dead in my tracks and let you pass and then begin walking again when you’re a few paces ahead of me.  But why should I have to? And why is it that men, generally speaking, are oblivious to this issue?

I have no doubt that I’m going to piss off many men with this post.  But I’m making the following prediction:  Those men who I offend most will be the same men who believe it’s reasonable to feel threatened by a black man simply based on the black man’s clothing and appearance.  You can’t have it both ways.  And I guess I can’t either.  I’m just not sure what the solution is.