Trayvon Martin and the Hoodies

The Washington Post updates the story of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida with an interview with Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin.

Family picture of Trayvon Martin“Martin and Fulton said they are moved by the outpouring of support from people across the nation. They said they were particularly touched by  the actions of Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), who on Wednesday donned a gray hoodie and sunglasses and spoke from the floor of the House of Representatives about the need for a full investigation of the death.

“I applaud the young people all across the land who are making a statement about hoodies, about the real hoodlums in this nation, specifically those who tread on our law wearing official or quasi-official cloaks,” Rush said on the House floor.

“Racial profiling has got to stop,” he said. “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”

As he spoke those words, he removed his suit jacket and lifted the hood over his head. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), presiding over the floor as Rush delivered his remarks, began to gavel almost immediately. Shouting over Rush, who began to recite Bible verses, Harper said the congressman was out of order for donning the hood. Rules bar House members from wearing hats in the chamber. Rush was then escorted from the floor.

Race and hoods in America never go away. Hoodies have a long history. Sometimes those who wear the hoods wear them by choice; sometimes the hoods are put over their heads. Occasionally those who wear them are ushered out while they recite Bible verses…or sing a hymn, like the 38 Dakota men hanged in a mass execution following “the Sioux Uprising,” as they called it then in 1862, at  Mankato, Minnesota.

Douglas A. Lindner provided this eye-witness account in The Dakota Conflict Trials:

In Mankato, at ten o’clock on December 26, thirty-eight (one person was reprieved between the date of Lincoln’s order and the execution) prisoners wearing white muslin coverings and singing Dakota death songs were led to gallows in a circular scaffold and took the places assigned to them on the platform.  Ropes were placed around each of the thirty-eight necks.  At the signal of three drumbeats, a single blow from an ax cut the rope that held the platform and the prisoners (except for one whose rope had broke, and who consequently had to be restrung) fell to their deaths.  A loud cheer went up from the thousands of spectators gathered to witness the event. The bodies were buried in a mass grave on the edge of town.  Soon area doctors, including one named Mayo, arrived to collect cadavers for their medical research

Last night a Lakota friend filled out the story. According to Wally Ripplinger, the men on the gallows were singing a Dakota hymn, as they had done throughout the day. They were singing in unison, under their hoods, of their impending release into Paradise. It might have sounded something like this. Click below to listen.

I cast my vote with the Dakota and Lakota singers, Trayvon Martin, the lynched victims of hooded Klansmen, and the rebellion leader (mis-labeled by tradition as “the thief” – he was not a thief!) executed along with Jesus, who heard the words of divine mercy that would be remembered long after a Roman public execution: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”