Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hoodlum bedlam

In the video above, US Representative Bobby Rush (D-Illinois-1) tries to make a point about racial profiling, especially the tendency of police in many US jurisdictions to assume that a young Black man wearing a hoodie is automatically suspect, or even criminal. It’s part of what’s at the core of the debate around the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Daily Kos described the stunt this way:
“As Rush began speaking against racial profiling, he removed his suit jacket to reveal the hoodie underneath, flipped up the hood and donned a pair of dark sunglasses. Immediately, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), acting as speaker, repeatedly banged his gavel and called Rush out of order.

“But the congressman raised his voice and ignored the effort to silence him. He spoke in solidarity with ‘the young people all across the land who are making a statement about hoodies, about the real hoodlums in this nation, particularly those who tread on our laws wearing official or quasi-official clothes. Racial profiling has to stop. Mr. Speaker, just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.’ He then recited two Bible verses. He was still speaking as he was ushered away from the podium.”
Obviously, Rush knew something like this would happen: He’s been in the US House long enough (19 years) to know the rules and the consequences for breaking them, but he was trying to make a larger point. I say, good on him for trying, but think how much more effective it would have been if a rich white Republican had done it instead—would never happen, I know, but still.

Bobby Rush is an interesting fellow. A former Black Panther, he was present when Fred Hampton was shot and killed in a violent 1969 Chicago raid that is argued about to this day. Rush ended up an Alderman on Chicago’s City Council when Harold Washington was Mayor, later running for US Congress. In 2000, he defeated a then mostly unknown Barack Obama in the Democratic Primary and then won re-election. In this video, I thought Rush looked like he was getting quite old, though he’s only 65; not nearly as vibrant as I remember him from two decades ago. But, then, I’m probably not either.

The larger issue of racial and ethnic profiling is a big one for which no one has yet found an answer. The far right wants it used all of the time, the far left says it should never be used, and the vast majority in the middle are all over the ideological map. But Rush’s stunt may at least help get the debate going, which would be good. Discussion and debate are always good, even when it takes stunts to gain momentum.

Tip o’ the Hat to Roger Green, who sent me the Daily Kos link because knows I’m always on the lookout for stuff like this.

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