Zimmerman's defenders are trying to blame hip-hop—but we don't believe the hype. By Touré
They're trying to make this about hip-hop. We haven't heard that word yet in the Trayvon Martin situation, haven't seen hip-hop blamed the way it got blamed when Don Imus referenced School Daze to diss the the Rutgers University women's basketball team. No, they're trying to do it more subtly by mentioning signifiers of hip-hop culture.
The big one is the hoodie that Zimmerman tried to use to justify his fear of Trayvon. I'm proud of the way so many Americans have seized on the hoodie, turning it into a ubiquitous symbol, saying everyone wears hoodies—so is everyone suspicious?
Zimmerman is trying to put Trayvon on trial in public by linking him to hip-hop. This is because hip-hop remains, for the uninitiated, a repository for America's fears of Black men.
We're robbing it of its power to be an excuse by wearing it everywhere from Twitter avatars to MSNBC to the floor of the House of Representatives—a perpetual nationwide hoodie march where donning a hoodie is a defiant political gesture, saying everyone wears this so it can't be considered come-shoot-me clothing. And also: Fuck you. We stand with the boy you tried to dehumanize.
We know hip-hop loves hoodies, even though in the better dressed skinny jeans and "What's that jacket—Margiela?" era it seems a bit of a throwback, as if their vision of hip-hop had calcified a decade ago. But make no mistake: Linking Trayvon to a hoodie is a coded way of saying to Americans "he was from hip-hop so you understand why I was afraid of him."
Of course the hoodie isn't the only way hip-hop is being brought into this by Team Zimmerman, which bizarrely includes the Sanford PD, which keeps leaking information to the media in an effort to defend itself. Those leaks have told us that Trayvon was suspended from school for having an empty baggie with marijuana residue in it, and that he was suspended for writing graffiti on a wall—he wrote WTF. WTF indeed.
None of this, obviously, justifies his murder, but Zimmerman is trying to do just that, putting Trayvon on trial in public by linking him to hip-hop. This is because hip-hop remains, for the uninitiated, a repository for America's fears of Black men.
The gangsta era is dead and gone and hip-hop is led by the middle-class prince Kanye and the actor turned lover man Drake and the cop turned studio gangster Rick Ross and the performance artist Nicki Minaj.
Still hip-hop remains shorthand for fear in too many minds. Even as millions of white boys worship hip-hop culture, still their parents use it as a symbol of fear. For them hip-hop is where America's boogie monsters are (there and Al Qaeda).
It's still America's favorite scapegoat. This is not just silly. It's tragic. We know there's no reason to fear. We don't want to rob you. We want to get paid. When will they realize that?