• Christina Peña

The Power of a Hoodie

Today I woke up rather early. I decided to be a good house guest and get bagels for my family, before everyone else got up. I'm in California currently. So at a crisp 65 degrees, I grabbed a hoodie with my mask in hand and ran out the door. As I was walking down my street, I decided to put on my hoodie. One hand over the other. I pulled it down and of course my head got stuck in the hood. I started to pull it through and as I was standing there, I thought what a privilege it is to wear a hoodie. What a privilege it is to not be stopped, and killed for wearing a dark hoodie. It's early and I'm not fully awake, but that thought in my head will never leave me again.

If the hoodie metaphor is lost on you. Then there's probably more privilege to unpack in your life than just this hoodie. But let me start here. In the BIMPOC community, people are killed far too often for doing things that other people, white people, would not have to think twice about. For you it might just be putting on a hoodie. But for me putting on my hoodie made me think about the fact that I'm in a small town in California right now. On a street where everyone knows my name. But if I was in New York City in the dark. Wearing my dark ratty oversized UC Davis hoodie. I would be looked at, more than once for walking in a neighborhood that isn't mine. Or even a neighborhood that was mine. This is simply what happens to people. This is the reality of many people's lives.

So today when I got to put on my hoodie. I didn't think about the memories that it held. I didn't think about the fact that there was a hole in the armpit. I thought about the fact that people die from wearing a hoodie, more days out of the year than anyone should. It should be ZERO. Zero people should die for wearing a hoodie. Yet, so many people have died for doing something as simple as that.

I asked you to think about that the next time you put on a hoodie. Will you be followed? Profiled? Will the police be called on you for simply existing? Will your hoodie become a symbol for life taken too soon? Like Trayvon Martin. His hoodie inspired marches and a movement. My UC Davis hoodie won’t. But my existence might.

We talk about lives taken too soon far too often in the magical land called the United States. But that’s what our country is built on. The backbones of people that were already here. People that were doing just fine before we got here and took it all away. People killed for simply existing because they did not fit into the narrative of what America should be. “Land of the free and home of the brave” was written by a man who was held captive and witnessed an attack. It was meant to give hope for the future. Barack Obama ran for president on the idea of hope. Hope for a better tomorrow. Could hope save us now? Or are we far too gone to even try?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a beautiful analogy for you to feel better. I don’t have clarity for what our future looks like. But I have a story about my hoodie. I have a lived experience that makes me have to encounter stories like this constantly. I have the space and ability to share them with you. I hope you listen.

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