POLITICO Arena: Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) plans to send House Speaker John Boehner a letter requesting that the House chamber’s dress code be more strictly enforced after Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) was booted from the House floor yesterday for wearing a hoodie.
Rep. Rush sported the sweatshirt and a pair of sunglasses to bring attention to the shooting of Trayvon Martin. However, some members argue that Rush was unfairly treated as it is fairly common practice for members to ignore attire rules.
Is this incident a sign that the Trayvon Martin case has become too politicized? If so, who is responsible?
BENJAMIN: It seems that the longer the case remains unresolved and the subject of daily rumors, the more politicized and polarizing the circumstances surrounding George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin becomes. The feverish media coverage, especially the instant reporting of each rumor or unauthorized leak, fuels the emotions surrounding the case.
As a former NYS legislator, I don’t believe political theatrics are appropriate on the floor of any chamber. Proper decorum (including dress) should always be maintained. This week, several of my former colleagues wore “hoodies” underneath their suitcoats after checking with counsel regarding interpretation of each chamber’s dress rules. Apparently, Rep. Rush failed to do likewise.
Rep. Rush could have made his point without wearing the hooded sweatshirt and dark glasses. Black men and youth, whether dressed in a suit and tie or “hoodie” is subject to racial stereotyping and bias. There are still those in our country who when asked, “what do you call a black Member of Congress?” will answer, “Ni***r.”
That being said, I think the recent congressional hearing into the handling of the Trayvon Martin case was premature and helped to further politicize the tragedy. Seeing the Florida Attorney General, the special prosecutor, the funeral director, Trayvon’s school record, surveillance video of George Zimmerman’s arrival at the Sanford PD, etc. on TV does not serve justice.
Some politicians have politicized the case. The news media have over-sensationalized the tragedy. And the Sanford PD and the Seminole County prosecutor’s office bungling have imperiled obtaining justice for either Martin or Zimmerman.
As a former NRA member, I urge the NRA to pull its Stand Your Ground “hoodie” because it’s inflammatory. They need to be reminded that freedom of speech does not include falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater (Schenk v. United States). The NRA ad unnecessarily contributes to the further politicizing of the case.
Justice is best obtained when the atmosphere is not inflamed.