Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Million Hoodies in SL - Justice for Trayvon Martin

So: I was invited by Renoobed to join her Flickr group - a million hoodies in SL - which is to raise awareness of and protest about the tragic shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. If you don't know what I'm talking about then you are seriously news shy and should google it forthwith. Anyway, the purpose of the group is to get us all to wear hoodies in a gesture of solidarity - Trayvon, like most teenagers, was wearing this fashionable item of clothing, and it has been suggested in the media that this went a long way towards prejudicing the reactions of the guard who shot him. That, and the fact that he was black. 

So here's my hoodie pic:

Scary, aren't I? :P

Featuring the gorgeous Racoon Hoodie from ChiChi's Pocket (a Dangerously Cute Hunt gift) this avatar has several nuances of meaning.

1. This hoodie, with ears and tail, has connotations of the Furry. Now, I'm not going to suggest that any group in life has suffered as much mistreatment as black people throughout history, but Furries certainly come in for their unfair share. There are whole groups dedicated to carrying out mass griefing raids on Furry sims; and even if you mark this down to a minority of dedicated trolls, it's my bet that anyone who is Otherkin (the whole range of not-quite to completely inhuman species including Furries, Ferals, Dragons, Fae, Demons, Nekos, Vampires, Werewolves, Aliens and so forth) will have encountered abuse at some point during their SLife, unless they are a hermit. It ranges from casual jokes (even by well-meaning friends!) to the outright disrespect and prejudice of total strangers, and even exclusion from public property. But light-hearted to malicious, it all has one thing in common: someone has seen you, in an avatar which isn't human, and they have made a judgement upon you, without knowing a thing about you except the way you look. This strikes a parallel with what happened to Trayvon; he was young, male, black, and wearing a hoodie, and so he was judged: erroneously, and with tragic results.

2. I hope I don't offend anyone by bringing this up, but it is a sad fact that 'coon' (generally taken to be an abbreviation of 'racoon') is one of the worst (i.e. most disgusting, degrading, insulting) slang terms for a black person. So here I am, with a black skin, in a 'coon hoodie, just juggling with metaphors really. People can be awfully prickly (and understandably so) over racist issues, so I really hope nobody gets the wrong end of the stick here and accuses me of ill intent. I assure you it is quite the opposite.

3. As anyone who has been following my blog will know, I myself am NOT human - I am a Fae-Dragon shapeshifter, and although my inventory houses hundreds of different forms, there will always be some small detail to mark out even the most human looking (generally the eyes). There are very, very few where it isn't immediately obvious, in any case. This is one of them. Horns, wings and a tail would have conflicted physically with the hoodie itself, and since I wanted to wear a black skin, my usual coloured fairy skins and dragon scales were out. It is another testament to the adage that appearance is only surface-deep. You look at the photo above, and you see a young, urban black girl, casually dressed in jeans, hoodie and beach sandals. I'm not very young, I'm not black, I identify as Otherkin, and I hardly ever dress this casually - my thing is formal dresses and period costume. 

Now, because I'm in SL, I get to look how I want and indulge my tastes, and craft a unique identity. This isn't really any different to what teenagers are doing when they follow various RL fashions, including that of the hoodie. Trayvon had a hoodie when that guard shot him - but the hoodie itself says nothing about Trayvon except that he wanted to wear it. Unlike in SL, he couldn't do anything to change his skin (if he'd even wanted to) but clothes - as any actor, any fashion designer/retailer, any model, or any teenager will tell you - have a remarkable transformative effect. Unfortunately for young Trayvon, costumes signal different things to different people, and this one - to this particular guard - apparently signalled Dangerous Criminal Target. 

There are many who say "well, people should be careful, they should conform, they shouldn't wear things which might trigger controversy". And a sad, dreary world we would live in if we all followed this policy - besides which, you can never know for certain what kind of impressions a stranger will form from the most banal and benign appearance. Instead of limiting people's creativity and freedom of expression, we should all better take care to limit our own impulse reactions to what we see. The clothes do not 'maketh the man'; they make only a fleeting, illusory glimpse into that man's (or person's) wardrobe. And nobody was ever put in danger from a wardrobe.*

Outfit Credits:
Incidentally, if you would like to jump on board this campaign, and you don't already possess a hoodie, you might like to purchase the one Renoobed found on the SL marketplace which  has R.I.P. Trayvon Martin on the back, with his picture. The seller brought the price down to only L$10 so that everyone could afford it.

ChiChi's Pocket Racoon Hoodie (Dangerously Cute Hunt gift)
PurpleMoon Boho Jeans in Dark Blue (group gift pre-release)
SSUS Tiedye Gypsy Sandals (group gift, store sadly closed)
Schadenfreude Vitalle jewellery (the one item I paid good money for, besides my nails!)

W&Y (Waka&Yuki) HAIR 30 - short punky spiked (mahogany) - store freebie, demodded to fit the hoodie (YAY for moddable hair!)

Splendor Ruined Tower Cocoa skin (freebie)
*aN* Pop Star Cat Eyes Sunny Yellow (my 'real-me' eyes, so old I forget the obtaining)

Alady Island free prim lashes & Linden lash killer alpha mask
Sensations nails (claws - not that you can easily see here)

Location: "Subvay" shop (hehe) in City of Dangerfield urban rp sim. Obviously, I have just been out to the snack machine for sweets.

*Yes, unless it was falling on them from a removal hoist, now shush :P


  1. Such a good post about this and it is horrible to consider the reasons that poor kid maybe have been shot for... The shooter didn't like the young, black guy in a hoodie, but what was he trying to prove. He'd called the police, why did he have to take matters into his own hands? I'll say that sometimes groups of guys in hoodies, no matter the colour of their skin, will sometimes make me feel a little nervous but shooting a guy for wearing a hoodie when he was just out to the local grocery store seems crazy. I wear hoodies every day in my RL, even though I am a white female, would I be the one shot next?

  2. Really thoughtful post. And good of you to bring some attention to this, because I hadn't heard of Renoobed's initiative yet.
    Time to wear a hoodie of my own now.

  3. Perfect photo and great post.

    We all relate to situations differently, in ways that are uniquely our own, and that's what makes reading other people's thoughts so special. Thank you for sharing yours.