Thursday, July 18, 2013

Back, After A Long Hiatus, 

With A Few Non-Knitterly Thoughts About Hoodies


A lot has happened -- and by a "lot" I mean a staggering amount of stuff -- in the last year, since I closed the knit shop entirely.  Some good things, some less pleasant, a new job, and mostly, just time-consuming things. I will catch you all up on that later.

But today I am thinking about hoodies.

I have a handknit hoodie -- my own version of the "Wonderful Wallaby" by Cottage Creations.  I also have a couple of basic athletic hoodies, in exciting shades of navy, grey and charcoal, for brisk morning walks on chilly days, or a quick chill-chaser on a damp, rainy day -- you know, just something to pop over my uniform on my way to work. 

And, I can remember, some years back, not long after the Unabomber was caught (Google him if you are very young or if your memory is short), causing a bit of concern in the local post office when I completely and entirely forgot that I was wearing a hoodie on a drizzly, chilly day, and that I was also carrying a stack of packages and wearing black aviator sunglasses.  I'm certain that I looked exactly like the Unabomber's long-lost sister.  It was spectacularly not a good idea at the time-- truly inconsiderate, actually -- but I just didn't think.  I wear hoodies with jeans quite often when it's chilly and drizzly and not cold enough for a proper coat.

A few people peered at me suspiciously.  I think, at that particular point in time, that my local post office employees in particular had every right to be a bit edgy about bespectacled, hoodie-clad people with armloads of packages to mail. I can't blame the other customers for looking at me nervously either.  I might even have been a bit concerned if I'd seen myself in a mirror.

But even with all those perfectly legitimate reasons for postal employees and patrons to be put ill at ease by my attire at that point in time, nothing happened.

Specifically, no one followed me out into the parking lot and shot me dead.

And today, I finally understand something.

When I was in college, I used to kid around with my African-American friends for taking so long to get dressed to go anywhere -- out for a pizza or burger, going to study at the library, even walking over to the A&P grocery to pick up some beer. "Come on," I would say.  "We're not going to a fashion show. We're just going to the library to study, for Pete's sake!"

I was a white hippie kid.  Jeans, Birkenstocks, run a comb through my long black hair, toss on a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, and I was ready for anything: class, happy hour at the pool hall off campus, a casual date, going to the mall or to a movie, or hunkering down over chemistry books at the library. 

I always thought my black friends (as well as some of my white friends who didn't step out without makeup) were still a little too tethered to Establishment ideas as to how women should look, or maybe a little too eager to look overly glamorous in case a cute guy strolled by.   

But now I understand.

It wasn't about being far too fashion conscious, or a bit frivolous, or a little too silly about how guys might perceive them.

It was about having the bar raised higher -- much higher -- in order to enjoy the same privileges I could enjoy in jeans, Birkenstocks, a ponytail and a T-shirt.  

I could walk into the A&P dressed like that and not have the manager follow me around -- just because I was white.

I could walk into the bookstore and not be eyed suspiciously in that attire -- just because I was white.

I could walk down the street in that attire and not be considered "up to no good" -- just because I was white.

But even in the middle of a college campus, a HUGE state-university campus throbbing with students of all colors and ethnicities dashing to and fro at all hours, wearing all sorts of clothes, my black friends still felt the need to sport an appearance standard several rungs above my own choices on the fashion ladder, simply in order to be perceived as "normal."

Which primarily translates to being perceived as non-threatening. 

I didn't understand it at the time.  I got along with just about everybody, so I thoughtlessly bought the casually tossed-off explanation of "it's a black thing, I just can't go out anywhere without looking nice." Different strokes, different folks, I thought. Like, whatever. I rarely dress up; they do ... I don't wear makeup; they do ... whatever makes people happy.  To each her own. 

Now I realize that perhaps it didn't make them happy.  Not at all. 

Man, was I wrong. 







3 Comments:

At 12:10 AM, Blogger Rene said...

Welcome back! I'm not sure if you'll remember me but on Ravelry I go by Wiste. This reminds me of the saying about walking a mile in someone else's shoes

 
At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dez - Marietta here - - as another child raised in the south, I was privileged to ride the school bus in Richmond, VA when the first African American child was enrolled in my high school. She was a sweet, terrified very brave 9th grader. I remember with great pride that those of us who rode the bus with her became her protectors - on the bus & in the hallways and classes at school. I'm very sure that there were times when we were not around and she was intimidated by bigoted fools who enjoyed the feeling of power she gave them. It did not happen when her "bus-buds" were around!! We all have the ability to behave well - to do the right thing. It's really not hard to imagine how someone else feels in an intense situation. We've all experienced it at some time or other. One of the most important characteristics of a well developed, evolved human being is to have empathy for another. We really are all in this world together & we can do the best thing - we just have to stop and think about our words before they're spoken & our actions before they happen. Intentional behavior (as opposed to reactional behavior) is almost always smarter & better.
So glad you're back on the blog. Hope your knitting is fun & calming. It's always my "go-to" therapy.

 
At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband found that out when we started dating 15yrs ago. He said it really opened his eyes to how subtle racism has become, and how blind he had been.

 

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