The hoodie has become the symbol of protests regarding the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

From images of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm wearing a hoodie, to the “million hoodie march,” to Havard law students wearing hoodies with a sign “Do we look suspicious?,” to Congressman Bobby Rush appearing on the House floor in a hoodie, the hoodie has come to symbolize alleged racial profiling by Zimmerman which led to the shooting.

The symbolism is powerful, and addresses wider concerns about racial profiling and actual use of hoodies by gangs and criminals of many races.

But as relates to the Zimmerman-Martin case, the hoodie at best is speculative symbolism, not based on any known facts connected to the shooting.  While Martin was wearing a hoodie that night, there is nothing other than surmise to suggest that Martin was considered suspicious by Zimmerman for that reason.

In the 911 call (audiotranscript) in which Zimmerman reported a suspicious person, the clothing Trayvon was wearing was not initially mentioned:

Dispatcher: Sanford Police Department. …

Zimmerman: Hey we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy, uh, [near] Retreat View Circle, um, the best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

A hoodie was mentioned but only in response to questioning by the dispatcher as to what the suspicious person was wearing (emphasis mine):

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy is he white, black, or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

Dispatcher: Did you see what he was wearing?

Zimmerman: Yeah. A dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie, and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes. He’s here now, he was just staring…

Dispatcher: OK, he’s just walking around the area…

Zimmerman: …looking at all the houses.

Dispatcher: OK…

The suggestion that Zimmerman found the wearing of a hoodie suspicious simply is not supported by the 911 call, made at a time Zimmerman could not have known how the evening would end or how the case would gain national attention.

It may be that a black teen in a hoodie made Zimmerman suspicious, but that’s just speculation.

So where did the hoodie connection come from?

The case began to get national attention on or about March 18.  The hoodie theme took off soon thereafter, and was widespread by March 20-21, when the “million hoodie march” in NYC was organized (only 2000-5000 people attended).

But the hoodie was thrust fully into the public debate when Geraldo Rivera made his now famous comments about hoodies on March 23:

Rivera projected certain stereotypes into Zimmerman’s mind and motivation not based on facts but on assumptions, as have a lot of people.

If Zimmerman was motivated by racism or racial stereotypes, would it have made a difference what Trayvon was wearing?

Maybe Rivera and others are right and this was a case of hoodie profiling.  Or maybe they’re wrong.

But as of now, it’s all just speculation motivated by factors other than the known facts about this case.

Like so much else about this case, the symbolism is way ahead of the facts.


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