From Hoodies to Hijabs: Who's Responsible for Hate?


Dr. Abdulrahman El-Sayed argues in an opinion piece for PolicyMic that, following the hate-driven murders of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi, we need to pay attention to messaging around fear and hate of "others."

It’s been a month since the fatal shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African American boy who was walking home from a convenience store with skittles and an iced tea. His crime? Being black, male, and wearing a hoodie — looking “suspicious” in an upscale, gated Florida neighborhood.


And then a few days ago, we heard about (or maybe we didn't) the beating death of Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year old mother of five. She was a Muslim Iraqi immigrant who had only recently moved into the neighborhood in which she was murdered in California. Having been repeatedly clubbed with a tire iron, her 17-year old daughter found her in the dining room of their home with a note by her side: “Go back to your country, you terrorist.” Her crime? Having the courage to wear a Hijab in a society where Muslims are openly vilified for the crimes of others.

Trayvon and Shaima were both murdered in cold blood. Why? Because Trayvon, a black kid in a hoodie, and Shaima, a Middle Eastern woman in a hijab, both fit archetypes indicted by American society as foreign, dangerous, and evil. And rather than take the time to learn what either of these victims were up to — Trayvon getting a quick snack during halftime, or Shaima raising an upstanding American family — their assailants assumed them into the roles society teaches about them, everyday.

George Zimmerman, Trayvon’s confessed murder, as well as the despicable person who took Shaima’s life are certainly hateful people who should be punished to the fullest extent of the law for their crimes. But the shame of these murders doesn’t stop with them. Rather, these despicable acts represent only the tip of an iceberg of racism, xenophobia, and hate, the base of which is founded upon some of American society’s most trusted institutions.

Our news media has a long history of profiteering on symbols, like hoodies and hijabs, by teaching us that they should elicit fear, contempt, and hatred.

Read Abdulrahman El-Sayed's entire piece at PolicyMic.