Rep. Bobby Rush upbraided for wearing a hoodie on the House floor

Remember when Geraldo Rivera said the hoodie was as much responsible for the death of Trayvon Martin as George Zimmerman? Perhaps because of Rivera’s comments, the apparently lethal garment has now become a kind of symbol of solidarity for Martin sympathizers in the case. Illinois Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush took it so far as to wear a hoodie on the House floor today. It wasn’t well-received:

Mr. Rush was promptly cut off as he attempted to address the House floor. Rep. Gregg Harper (R., Miss.), who was presiding over the chamber, ruled that wearing a “hoodie” violated the rule that prohibited wearing a hat on the House floor when it was in session. It wasn’t clear what Mr. Rush was saying since Mr. Harper was urging him to stop talking. He stopped speaking after a member of the House security staff approached.

Democratic lawmakers have been spending much of the week calling attention to the shooting of Mr. Martin, who was wearing a hoodie at the time he was shot. George Zimmerman, a member of a neighborhood watch patrol in Sanford, Fla., allegedly shot him, and the Department of Justice is investigating the incident. But Mr. Zimmerman, who has said he was acting in self defense, has not been charged by state or federal authorities in the shooting.

Mr. Martin’s parents were in Washington Tuesday, speaking at an unofficial hearing of the House Judiciary Committee held by Democrats on the panel.

Trayvon Martin’s hoodie is a very small piece of the overall puzzle. Perhaps in unclear cases like his, though, we cling to the tiniest details in an attempt to make sense of something. We’re unsure about the essential question: Was Martin’s shooting actually an act of self-defense by George Zimmerman? Similarly, we’re unsure about the role — if any — race played in the event of Martin’s death. But we know Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie.

It seems ridiculous to fixate on clothes when someone has died, but maybe it’s not so ridiculous. The truth is: Clothes do have connotations. A business suit connotes professionalism. A low-cut blouse or short skirt connotes openness to sexual advances. A sweatsuit connotes either a commitment to fitness or sheer laziness. Sometimes, the messages our clothes send are at odds with the messages our words, actions and facial expressions send. I’d argue that clothes should be the last thing we consider when we size up another person, but it doesn’t serve any point to deny that they do affect other people’s perceptions of us.

Ed really had the final word on this when the issue first came up: “I had this conversation with my nephew when he was a teenager, explaining that clothes are a statement of values that get communicated instantly to the people around him, especially to those who don’t know him. That doesn’t mean that baggy pants or a hoodie makes you complicit in your own death when someone shoots you for no other reason, however, and it’s a blame-the-victim impulse to make that argument.”

Not really sure what Rep. Rush was trying to accomplish.

Update: Apparently, there has also been some controversy as to whether wearing a hoodie really does violate House rules.’s Craig Bannister found the answer:

I contacted the House Rules Committee and asked about this. Here’s the committee’s reply:

“Please see below – the highlighted portion is what Rep. Rush was in violation of…

From opening day this year:

6. Decorum in Debate

The Chair’s announced policies of January 7, 2003, January 4, 1995, and January 3, 1991, will apply in the 112th Congress. It is essential that the dignity of the proceedings of the House be preserved, not only to assure that the House conducts its business in an orderly fashion but also to permit Members to properly comprehend and participate in the business of the House. To this end, and in order to permit the Chair to understand and to correctly put the question on the numerous requests that are made by Members, the Chair requests that Members and others who have the privileges of the floor desist from audible conversation in the Chamber while the business of the House is being conducted. The Chair would encourage all Members to review rule XVII to gain a better understanding of the proper rules of decorum expected of them, and especially: to avoid “personalities” in debate with respect to references to other Members, the Senate, and the President; to address the Chair while standing and only during, and not beyond, the time recognized, and not to address the television or other imagined audience; to refrain from passing between the Chair and a Member speaking, or directly in front of a Member speaking from the well; to refrain from smoking in the Chamber; to wear appropriate business attire in the Chamber; and to generally display the same degree of respect to the Chair and other Members that every Member is due.”

This clause calls for House members to respect the authority of the chair, and to wear appropriate business attire – which Rush clearly did not.

So, no, wearing a hoodie doesn’t make you a hoodlum.

But, if you do it on the House floor while disrespecting the session’s chair, it does make you an embarrassment.

And from The Blaze’s Benny Johnson comes the answer about what Rep. Rush was trying to accomplish. He wanted to demonstrate outrage at Trayvon’s murder — and emphasize that “the reason he was killed was because he was a black man wearing a hoodie in a white neighborhood.”

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