While I salute the passion and creativity of artist Nikkolas Smith in reference to the image of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wearing a hoodie, I feel compelled to cry “foul, shame on you” to the media moguls and civil rights legends who want to stir up a controversy where there is none.
I am not angered by the artistic expression. I am just plain hurt and saddened to see the message of my uncle reduced to a debate over an article of clothing. I would love to talk with artist Nikkolas about my uncle.
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”
– Martin Luther King Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963
My grandfather was always a meticulously dressed and well groomed man. He encouraged and actually insisted that his family follow his lead, because he was grooming us all to represent Jesus, our family and our community.
Uncle M.L. and my daddy grew up to become leaders and did their best to honor and respect their father’s teachings. Like all humans, they sometimes fell short, but not for lack of trying.
I am no way suggesting that hoodies are a bad thing. The young folks in my family wear them. They are actually handy on the rain. Yet there are other ways to remember Dr. King. Perhaps most importantly that way would be found in his sermons and letters.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speech in St. Louis, Mo., March 22, 1964
As to the controversy, George Zimmerman seemingly never explored the content of Trayvon Martin’s character. Rather he identified and profiled Trayvon Martin according to Trayvon’s choice of attire which was a hoodie. We as African-Americans should never be racially profiled. We must advocate as Martin Luther King Jr. advocated – for defining ourselves by the content of our character rather than according to the color of our skin or choice of attire. This should be the standard for every ethnic group, every family and every individual.
Unfortunately, the trial was about finding reasonable doubt in a murder case, as to what happened the night Zimmerman shot Trayvon. Reasonable doubt was established, and thus human justice was served in a human court of law. Yet, was everyone so concerned about serving man's legal system that we forgot to serve God?
Sadly, the legal aspects of the trial were not about whether or not George Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon Martin. That issue now becomes a matter of civil rather than criminal law. The criminal legal process was not about hoodies and candy. It wasn't even about smoking marijuana. By the way, two United States presidents admit to having smoked marijuana as young men, one says he inhaled and one says he didn't.
This leads me to wonder what kind of man Trayvon Martin would have become if he had been allowed to live.
By observing his parents during the time of his tragic and fatal shooting and this trial, I am sure that Trayvon would have turned out just fine. His parents have called for justice and peace during their suffering and loss throughout this entire ordeal. My prayers continue to go out to them.
In the final analysis, Trayvon Martin represented humanity, life and purpose as ordained by God for all persons, in and out of the womb. He deserved not to be profiled, but rather regarded as precious soul.
Trayvon wore a hoodie not because he was black, but because it was his choice of style for teens in this time in our society. His clothing should never have been a factor in defining him.
As Martin Luther King Jr. was called to greatness, you, I and yes, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were called to greatness, purpose and the right to live in America. The difference is that MLK lived long enough to answer his call.
Trayvon was killed before he could live out his call and dream, which is buried with him. George Zimmerman made a decision that has changed his life as well.
Every human being is part of the one single human race. We are one blood. One race. We are created with a dream inside, and when we are allowed to be born and to live out our God ordained lives, we have a chance to be great.
Would Martin Luther King Jr., as a teenager, wear a hoodie in the 21st century? I may not think so, but who knows. Would Martin Luther King Jr. weep at the tragic loss of the life and dream of Trayvon Martin, and the now deferred dream of George Zimmerman? Most likely.
Alveda C. King, LL.D., is the daughter of the late slain civil rights activist the Rev. A.D. King, the niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., founder of King for America, Inc., a mother of six, a doting grandmother, and consultant to the Africa Humanitarian Christian Fellowship.