Are images of African-American men in a hoodies “tasteless” and offensive? Apparently they are, but only if individuals promoting those images are conservatives. That is the standard established on Monday when one MSNBC host described an image of President Barack Obama clad in a hoodie “tasteless” because it appeared on a conservative website.
Last week, many MSNBC anchors and guests were praising images of black leaders in hoodies because it was symbolic of the supposed profiling that they insist George Zimmerman engaged in when he confronted Trayvon Martin.
In a discussion on President Obama’s address on race issues in America on Friday, MSNBC host Alex Wagner observed that Matt Drudge‘s website posted a “tasteless” photo of the president wearing a hooded sweatshirt:
She and her guests went on to predictably indict conservatives in the media for stoking racial tension.
Strangely, though, Wagner’s network spent the better part of last week featuring a widely shared image of Martin Luther King Jr. wearing a hoodie which garnered universal praise:
Early last week, Anchor Thomas Roberts listed the image among the number of ways people outraged over the Zimmerman verdict expressed their righteous anger in social media venues.
MSNBC anchor Chris Jansing observed that the image had gone viral, prompting Columbia University Professor Marc Lamont Hill to note that he appreciated the sketch, “because it reminded us of is this idea that anyone could be Trayvon.”
“He didn’t see somebody who may have been raiding houses,” Hill speculated about Zimmerman. “He saw a black body he immediately saw as a suspect and ultimately worthy of lethal force and that is scary to me.”
In a discussion about what the hoodie represents on MSNBC’s The Cycle, civil rights attorney Maya Wiley said that the garment has come to represent “implicit bias.”
“It’s a really great example of how people are standing up and saying we’re going to challenge the symbols of racism and the symbols here are that subconsciously,” Wiley said of the many people posting images of themselves on social media clad in a hoodie. “You will think I’m a criminal because I’m wearing a hoodie, when it’s a fashion issue.”
“So, black folks are appropriating the hoodie to challenge the notion that we should be feared,” Wiley insisted. She added that a number of white people are also wearing the garment and confessing to crimes they have not been punished for simply because they are white.
So, the hooded sweatshirt is whatever thing you want it to be whenever you want it to be that thing – at least, for the nodding, agreeable cast of characters on MSNBC.