Are You A Walking Stereotype? Dressing to Make Society Feel Comfortable

Trayvon_Martin_Occupy March 21

Trayvon_Martin_Occupy March 21 (Photo credit: Sunset Parkerpix)

I swear I didn’t want to join the bandwagon and post something about the Trayvon Martin case. I’ve already expressed my feelings towards this injustice on GaptoothDiva Radio and via twitter. I’ve already prepared my letter to be sent off to Florida, and prayed for justice for his family. However, after the recent opinions of Geraldo Rivera on Fox and then Sean Anthony of FlowofWisdom, I was compelled to ask the question. Are we walking stereotypes?

Geraldo expressed that he felt that Trayvon’s hoodie contributed to him being shot just as much as Zimmerman did. Surprisingly, shortly after that Sean Anthony posted a video saying that he totally agreed with Geraldo. Although Sean Anthony went into more detail about young men in the black community, specifically sagging their pants and dressed like rappers on television. I agree that it has become out of control with young men sagging their pants. It’s degrading and disgusting to see men walking around my neighborhood, cuffing the front of their jeans trying to keep their pants from falling, when all they have to do is, pull the damn things up. However, my disdain for this dress code is only because it looks disgusting, not because it could potentially get those men shot.

I never thought to myself, “Oh my god, he might rob me or kill me, because he has on a hoodie and sagging pants”. It never once occurred to me that only those in hooded shirts and sagging pants rob people. Every time I ever been attacked, abducted, or endangered, these individuals didn’t appear to be threats, thus making it easier for them to get close enough to me to attempt harm. Although, I’ve always agreed with Sean Anthony in the past, I can’t justify that what we wear could make us look like a threat to the next person. I feel like what we do, is the important factor. If our behavior is threatening or if our movements imply danger or harm, it doesn’t matter if we are wearing a prom dress or a full camouflaged ensemble, it’s not about what we wear.

I’m sick of feeling as if people (of any generation) have to dress to make others comfortable. It has always been a pet peeve of mine, to hear that your voice and talents are going to be unheard unless you fit the mold of what society wants to see. As a former employee of a corporate environment, I took pride in my tattoos and dress style. I was informed by my older colleagues that because of how I looked I would never be promoted to the next level. Although my skills and knowledge made me qualified, they didn’t want to promote someone who resembled the clients we served. Nevertheless, I was promoted due to my perseverance and ability to talk myself into getting my way, which eventually led me to be one of those, very few that the clients were able to relate to. Even though I was able to overcome that hurdle, there were an awful lot more that I wasn’t willing to jump over, which led me to letting that opportunity fall. It is because I choose to be myself no matter what, is why I strongly stand by people dressing and being who they are.

If you look at a man and see sagging pants, du-rag, and the stereotypical “thug” attire, do you see a potential threat? On the other hand, do you see a man dressed sloppy? When you see a woman with a dress two sizes too small and her cleavage out, do you see a slut or whore? Alternatively, do you see a woman just seeking attention? Are you stereotyping people based on their clothes, or are you basing your opinions on their actions, and what they say?

It so funny that during the video with Sean Anthony, the young man went on to explain why he himself wasn’t in a suit and tie that day, and how someone looked at him as not being as successful. However, based on what he said and how he presented himself, I saw nothing but positive things. Now if he spoke in a manner that was portrayed as a “thug” or gangster or if he behaved like a criminal then I can understand why an opportunity would just overlook him. It wasn’t about what he had on for me.

I really don’t condone the sagging pants or “thug” looks. I often remind my husband not to wear his du-rags out of the house and teach my son to always keep his pants up and wear a belt. My intentions are for my men not to look sloppy and unorganized, not because I fear them being shot or killed for being misinterpreted as criminals. I like a clean man who takes pride in his attire, but I don’t assume that every man that doesn’t is a threat to me or mine. The idea that we need to educate more men on how to look when they leave the house, is an excellent effort. However, to teach people that they need to dress to make other people feel comfortable with their existence is not only stereotypical, but also insensitive to self-expression. I’m educated, tattooed, and very much an ambitious businessperson. If any one ever said I looked like a hood-rat or “ghetto” because of my tattoos or my style, I would just assume they were small minded and ignorant. By judging a book by its cover, even if we are the same race, we take the very thing that makes us unique from each other and use it as a negative.

I don’t agree with the point that Trayvon’s hoodie made him susceptible to being a victim of murder because I’ve seen men of all races wearing hoodies and never had the urge to shoot them, or call the police. Period.

Black men should not have to dress a certain way in order to avoid being targets for ignorance and stereotypes, no matter who said they should. Murderers wear sweater vest and ties, too. In addition, ignorance comes in even the most prestigious packages.

You can dress to make the person next to you more comfortable if you want to, but if a person is full of unjustified stereotypes and hate, they are going to be that way regardless.

I’m off my soapbox…. God Bless.




**I don’t condone pants sagging on anyone, nor do I agree that its “apart of our culture”. It’s sloppy and unneccessary and unattractive. However, if one chooses to dress this way, I do promote free self-expression.


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