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The hoodie. As I walked around our nation’s capital on an unexpectedly cold and rainy day I couldn’t help but notice hoodie after hoodie. Hoodies with skulls and bones, hoodies with a favorite collegiate team or mascot, plain hoodies, pink hoodies, and of course, in D.C.- a ‘HOPE’ hoodie with the president’s face bedazzled in the beloved red, white, and blue. How could this universal clothing item become the centerpiece of a murder? How could wearing a hoodie make someone “suspicious,” and if it could, why would everyone be wearing one?

The murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has evoked so many emotions, but mostly outrage. And as the natural grief process would have it, deep sadness. How is it that in 2012, with an African-American president, a young boy is gunned down and no arrest is made? Black families reveal to the world that this tragedy exposes their biggest fear. With accusations of racism being thrown around, we should do as the president suggests and soul search. The president knows all too well what it means to be a brown man in America. His own grandmother admitted to clutching her purse tightly when a black man passed her by. But did that make her a racist?

As evidence is slowly leaked to the public we are still unsure of what happened between the time young Trayvon talked to his girlfriend and informed her he was being followed (the same time George was informing police he was doing the following), and the time the trigger was pulled. But we know one thing for sure -George Zimmerman thought Trayvon was suspicious. The 17-year-old was looking around and walking around in his own community. Why did Trayvon seem so out of place to George? Why didn’t Trayvon belong in there? We’ve recently discovered that another brown boy, a 13-year-old witness, lived in the community. Would he have been murdered if Trayvon hadn’t decided to go to the store that day for his now infamous Skittles and iced tea?
These are the questions the soul ponders.

We all have damaging preconceived notions of different ethnic or religious groups. We are pummeled with a constant equation of Islam to terror, Black men to thuggery, Mormonism to child brides and polygamy; we are flooded with images and theories that over generalize. While most of us will never use these notions as an excuse to kill, we have to ask ourselves: would I hire a black man? Would I trust a Muslim man? We cannot allow ourselves to let our secret prejudices prevent us from partaking in other customs and cultures. We most definitely cannot and should not let our biases impact someone else’s life in any negative manner. We have to face them head on as any other fear. We must open our hearts and minds and allow ourselves to learn. In the end we will find that we are all uniquely complex individuals. We do not fit into a box or stereotype. Every race commits crime, every culture has brilliance-but we’ll only begin to heal when we shine a light on the positive versus magnifying the negative.  

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