I joined countless other teachers today in wearing a hoodie for Trayvon Martin. We wore this symbolic item of clothing in solidarity against racism, against brutal misusage of power, against silence. It was another way to express the disgust and sadness that so many of us feel about Trayvon’s murder and what it represents, and, importantly, to continue to talk about it. And it reminded me of another time that I wore an item of clothing in solidarity with a group.
As an undergrad at Princeton University in the mid-90s, I remember participating in Gay Jeans Day — a day instituted on many university campuses to raise awareness about LGBTQ rights. It was simple: if you were in support of gay rights, you wore jeans; if you weren’t, you didn’t. I remember deliberately wearing jeans all week, so that my solidarity was never in question. I also remember being confused that not everyone was participating in such an important, yet simple, act of support.
While the contexts are different in many ways, they are also quite similar. There is something uncomfortable about standing up, about acknowledging that people can be so cruel to one another, about imagining that a tidal-wave-type shift in the status quo might actually be possible. But if we don’t use our voices — and, when necessary, our clothing — to push back at the injustices that so many of us face every day, then we are seriously missing the boat when it comes to dismantling racism, sexism, and bullying of any kind.