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McCormick Reflection #1: If Only He Hadnt Worn a Hoodie

Rashawn Ray starts the piece by outlining the event leading up to the shooting of
Trayvon Martin. Martin was a 17-year old African American male walking at night while
George Zimmerman a Hispanic man and vigilant resident in the neighborhood became
suspicious of Martin. Zimmerman called 911 and was told to excise himself from the
situation and let the police handle it. However, before the police could come he got into
an altercation with Martin which left the teen dead and Zimmerman with some wounds.
Zimmerman was questioned and released based on Floridas law that shooting in selfdefense is justified. Only after a national public uproar was Zimmerman charged with
second degree murder, a charge that he was ultimately acquitted from.
The article then seeks to delve into why Zimmerman targets Martin. A Fox News
correspondent, Geraldo Rivera made the claim that it was the hoodie that had made
Martin suspicious and therefore a target. Others claimed that it was that he was black
and male, a combination that is stereotyped by some as automatically dangerous by
some. One poll seemed to show that this divide in the motivation for the shooting was
divided by race, with 40% of whites saying that the killing was unjustified, i.e. that a
black man out at night somewhat shrouded in a hoodie is potentially life threatening. On

the opposite end of the spectrum, 80% of blacks said that the shooting was not justified,
i.e. that blackness is not a sufficient threat for use of deadly force.
From here, Ray delves into the social psychology of racial stereotyping. He
explains that stereotypes are a way to oversimplify a groups characteristics in order to
have a basic script to read the world. Ray makes the case that the fear of a hoodie is a
stereotype because the belief behind the fear is that black men who wear hoodies are
Ray makes this point stronger by bringing up Pettigrews (1979) research on
ultimate attribution error. This is when an in-group or member of the dominant culture
sees characteristics of the out-group or non-dominant culture and assume that those
characteristics that they perceive to be negative are biologically or culturally-based. He
makes the point that these attribution errors are, as their name suggests, wrong and
created by the in-group when they dont have much information on the out-group and
therefore are ready to make assumptions to fill in their lack of information, which is a
process called subjective uncertainty. Similarly, he brings up the process whereby ingroup members seek information that confirms their stereotypes; this is called selective
perception. Research shows that people unconsciously seek to preserve their
stereotypes by avoiding encountering or accepting information that is counter to their
belief. They do this to avoid cognitive dissonance. Ray also highlights the role the media
plays in perpetuating these negative attribution errors. He offers several concrete
examples of it, such as the fact that black criminals are more likely to be the focus of
news items, whereas white criminals tend not to receive as much attention.
Ray goes on to explore the argument that it was the hoodie that was threatening.
He debunks this theory by giving examples of in-group upper echelon leaders who can
wear a hoodie without comment. He therefore concludes that it is the race of the
wearer, not the hoodie itself, that is the macro-culture finds threatening. From here he

constructs an argument that it is blackness, and, more specifically, black maleness, that
that is perceived as threatening. To support this argument he cites the disproportionate
stops of Black and Latino men in stop and frisk programs, as well as qualitative examples
of Black men having cabs refuse to pick them up and of being mistaken for criminals in
their own homes and driveways.
After offering support for the idea that the larger American culture finds Male
Blackness threatening, Ray introduces a concept term that reflects this; it is
criminalization. This is the phenomenon where people have trouble separating a
persons individuality from criminality that they may associate with that persons group
identity. Ray goes on to make the case that while not all Black men may have as extreme
reactions to their identity as to lose their lifeas with Trayvon Martin they do all suffer
the effects of criminalization psychologically, educationally, economically, and physically.
Finally, Ray introduces contact theory, which is the idea that one way to remedy
stereotyping to is get people to interact. He emphasizes that the quality of the contact
and the type of contact determine how well these interactions are actually able to break
down stereotypes. For instance, he indicates that the social status of those in the
interaction, a collaborative nature to the interaction, and whether the contact is
voluntary all play a key role in creating a positive interaction. He also emphasizes that
the diversity of ones contacts are of more importance than how well you actually get to
know the person who is different from you.
To conclude, Ray reminds us that Zimmerman was not convicted of Martins
murder in court, but that the jury is conflicted in the court of public opinion. He sees as
well-meaning those who have made the hoodie a symbol of protest, but ultimately
chides these do-gooders for misunderstanding whats actually at issue in Martins death;
it was not the stereotyping of an item of clothing, but the stereotyping of a portion of the


Social Construction of Identity

GRADE: 10th-12th

TIME: 100 minutes

In this lesson students will do an activity examining their identity. This will serve as a launch board to begin to talk about
privilege, the social construction of identity and intersectionality, all high level concepts. During this lesson students will
journal and work in jigsaw groups to examine these new concepts more fully. They will finish by creating their own
cartoon commentary on identity.

Iowa Core Social Studies: Essential Concept and/or Skill: Understand the process of how humans develop,
learn, adapt to their environment, and internalize their culture. (SS.9-12.BS.6)
Literacy Common Core: Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies: Cite specific textual evident to support
analysis of primary and secondary sources



Small note cards or slips of paper, 8 per student

Markers or pens
Copies of vocabulary graphic organizer sheet, 1 per student
Copies of
(Optional) Copies of Why Intersectionality Cant Wait

Tell students that today is about examining their identities and exploring a few new concepts.
Explain that students should work individually on the activity so that they have privacy. Follow
the directions below to guide students through the activity, reflection, new vocabulary and group
jigsaw using graphic organizers.

1. Students make their own identity cards of the The Big Eight. The Big Eight are major characteristics of
identity: race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class, religion, sexual orientation, ability (physical &
mental), age, and nationality.
Next, students write how they identify with each identity trait on the card. For instance, on the race
card the students might write white, black, Latino, or straight, bisexual, gay for sexual orientation.
Let students define themselves and be open to more than binaries or even learning new vocabulary
from your students.

Next, they rank the cards in terms of their pride around these different aspects of their identities

(most important, positive things about their identity)

Next have them rank their cards in terms of their awareness of these identities (what groups are them

most aware of being a member?)

Then have them fill in the sentence the top three pride cards
My name is ______ and I am _______, __________, and _________.
Then have them fill in the same sentence with the top three identifiers from their most aware

Ask students to journal about these two sentences: How are these sentences different? How do they

make you feel?

2. Introduce new concepts. As you introduce concepts, ask students if they can think of examples from their
own life. So students should hear each new vocabulary word defined and put into context. Additionally, tie
each concept back the exercise above. The three concepts are:
Social construction--All of the Big Eight categories have certain meanings in our culture. This is NOT
because these identifiers actually have a real value, but because our society has constructed them to mean
something. This meaning doesnt say the same; it evolves over time. Look at womanhood and how it has
changed over time. Tie-in to activity: look at the Big Eight, which of these identifiers are socially

constructed? (Note: all of them have at least some aspect that has a socially constructed meaning)
Privilege pointsThese are the identity traits that society automatically ascribes points to based on how
they perceive you. Examples for this might be times when a person in authority treated you different
because they gauged you to be safe or harmless, often because of identity markers related to race or

gender. Tie-in to activity: look at the Big 8, which of these identifiers carry the most privilege points?
Intersectionality This concept teaches that people are made up of overlapping and intersecting identities
that hold different statuses and interpretations in our society. The concept teaches that that understanding
the intersectionality of our identities can help us to better understand power, privilege and marginality in
our society. For instance, we cant look at a poor black woman and try to understand all her problems
and challenges as a result of sexism. We would be ignoring the economic obstacles and racism that have
also contributed to her struggles, since these are other parts of her identity that hold a socially
constructed meaning in our society.
Tie-in to activity: look at what you put down for the Big 8 and list the three traits you think others judge
you by the most. Change one to something else. How much do you think this would change the way
people perceive you?
i. Optional: Have students read the article Why Intersectionality Cant Wait for a great

example of the intersection of race and gender.

3. Make jigsaw groups and have students complete graphic organizers to help them to define one of the new
vocabulary/concepts in their own words. Each student in the group will complete their own sheet but
groups can discuss & work together to gain clarity of what the word means. These graphic organizers ask
students to master the meaning of a word by examining and using it in a variety of ways.

4. Mix up the jigsaw groups so that each small group has at least one person who mastered each of the three
terms. Let the groups have a few minutes to teach/explain the examples they came up with for their term
and the pictures they drew to remind/explain to themselves of what the word means.
5. Next, students look at the cartoon Street Calculus and explain how it connects to
the idea of social construction of identity and intersectionality. They then need to
create their own
6. Students get a chance to start their own cartoons that reflect on identity and a term
they learned today (social construction, intersectionality, privilege points). If you
have students who dont want to cartoon they can response to a writing prompt, such as:
Examine an interaction youve recently had. Explain how the situation might have been different if youd
changed one aspect about your identity. (For instance, instead of being a Hispanic woman in that situation
youd been a white woman.)



Intersectionality was a lived reality before it became a



Use it in a sentence