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Trayvon Martin: the crime of being black, male, and wearing a hoodie

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Third, landmark studies by political scientists and communication scholars have demonstrated that local television news viewers tend to identify blacks with crime and vise-versa – so much so that viewers’ beliefs about black male criminality are exaggerated far beyond the evidence of actual crime reports.

Fourth and finally, dark-skinned black male criminals are the most memorable perpetrators of violent crimes. Research indicates that images of black men committing violent crimes stick in people’s minds longer than those of white criminals.

It’s no surprise then that 72 percent of 100,000 participants in Harvard University’s long-running Project Implicit study – which measures automatic attitudes about race – automatically associate blacks with weapons, and whites with harmless objects. And this is the case for people from all racial backgrounds, not just whites (which, by the way, we should keep in mind as we try to assess George Zimmerman’s motivations).

In concert with media, state and local government entities throughout the United States frequently criminalize styles of dress worn by black males through local ordinances. The most frequent and pervasive of these has been ordinances against “sagging” – a style of dress where pants hang below the waist. Such dress is almost exclusively associated with black males in particular and hip-hop culture more generally.

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