But that’s not what happened in my case. On Aug. 1, at the end of a long work day, my boss called me into his office. Apparently, during the two weeks since I had selected the hoodie image for my computer desktop, some of my co-workers had complained. They felt that this image, which could be seen only when I logged in or minimized all the windows open on my screen, was inappropriate. My boss, looking distressed, told me that I had to change it.
There was no room for discussion between him and me or me and them. There would be no way to explain, to anyone who felt frightened or threatened by what I had done, that I wasn’t making some call to arms, or a black-power salute, or in fact trying to express any anger at all. It was merely an image of a piece of clothing worn by a young man who was wrongfully killed. By displaying it, I was simply saying that I was sad.
Despite Obama’s request that we work to advance the conversation on race, I’m sorry to say that I was complicit that day in halting our progress on this task. An opportunity that should have been a prelude to a real discussion on the symbolism of the hoodie or the anxiety it provoked was lost.
That’s because I left the short meeting with my boss knowing that I couldn’t take the image down. I knew that he had every right to ask me to take it down, but I would not have respected myself if I had.