Thanks to an acidic mix of harebrained punditry, blame-the-victim ethos and our national talent for self-distraction, America has been suckered into a debate about hooded sweatshirts in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy.
Why the hoodie and why now? Do some clothes really suggest stronger criminal tendencies than others? The hoodie allows its wearer to hide under a little mobile shadow and enjoy a measure of anonymity. But if Martin had been shot in a pea coat with the collar popped, we wouldn't be debating the sinister implications of wide lapels.
The hoodie is not the most vilified garment in American history -- that can be gauged by the fact that no member of Congress has shown up to work in a burqa, along the lines of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush's hoodie stunt last Wednesday. In the past century, the lineup of suspicious clothing has included trench coats, jeans and stiletto heels. And they are all presumed innocent until proven guilty.