Black Men and Hoodies
When “enlightened” White people still judge us by what we’re wearing.
A great poet once said (actually, it was Daryl Hall — and he was singing): Some things are better left unsaid. The other night, someone offered a tip to a friend of mine, and it definitely deserved to be filed under “Stop talking.”
My friend shared the exchange with me later that night as we were taking a Lyft home from a concert. Earlier in the evening, my friend had wanted someone to deliver a message to me in the crowded venue, and she described me to the messenger, who had never met me and who, like my friend, was White.
It would have been easy for my friend to simply say, “the only Black guy in the building,” but to her credit, that wasn’t the first thing that popped into her head. She instead cited several distinguishing characteristics. “He’s tall and Black,” she started, “and he’s wearing a white shirt with a hood.”
She meant a hoodie, of course, and the messenger immediately received the message.
“You can’t say a Black guy is wearing hoodie,” the woman scolded her.
My friend was still perplexed as she recounted the story later. She knew all about George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, and the current widening racial divide in the United States, but why, she wanted to know, was she not allowed to say I was wearing a hoodie when I was still wearing the same hoodie.
I like to think I stand out in most crowds, but if I don’t, I’d hate to think I might be lost and never found in a throng of people because a White person thinks they can’t say I’m wearing a hoodie. It’s just another way forced awareness and allyship can fall flat and pointless.
It was a good question — and I didn’t have a good answer. I see White guys rocking hoodies on the street and on TV all the time, and I rarely give them a second thought. Hell, if Harry Styles pairs one with a skirt at next year’s Grammys or if Timothée Chalamet sports one on the Oscars red carpet, they’ll likely get standing ovations from the fashion police.