Under My Hoodie


Under my hoodie lies the mind of a man that has absorbed knowledge and self-awareness like a sponge….

I have read and listened in school about who I am.  I also learned about who my heroes are, and what my enemies look like.    I learned that a man came to these shores and discovered this land, even though people were already here.  I learned that I was to dismiss my common sense, and simply ignore that anomaly, and any like it.   And so I listened to my elders, and learned something else entirely.  I read on my own, and discovered that “truth” has more than one perspective.  I discovered that no school can teach me who I am, but that I have to discover that for myself.  I discovered that I am responsible for my own education; for feeding my own mind.

I carry that under my hoodie….

Under my hoodie beats the heart of a champion….

I am the product of a single-parent home in a depressed economic community.  I’ve heard the naysayers as they glanced my way, shaking their heads and telling me I have no chance in this world.  I listened as the Bursar at my University opened my files and told me about all the paperwork I was missing.  When I responded that I had submitted the necessary papers, and wondered why she waited until the beginning of the Spring semester to call my attention to all of this, she shrugged her tired old shoulders and simply said: “That’s y’all’s problem.  Y’all don’t know how to take care of business.”  I remember sitting astounded as I wondered who “y’all” was.  And then it dawned on me why she insisted I meet with her alone.  And then I knew precisely who she meant.

And so, a Master’s degree, Fulbright Scholarship, Army service, teaching and public school administrative career, Malik Shabazz Human Rights Institute Scholarship, non-profit Executive Directorship, talk show pilot, nationally syndicated talk show hosting gig, motivational speaking business and various other accomplishments later, I think of that old Bursar, and, with fist clenched firmly, pound the heart pumping proudly under my hoodie.

Under my hoodie are raised the eyes of a man that can see.

I see the little boy who stood in front of the mirror, towel draped about his neck, and who, to his horror, realized he looked nothing like Superman.  I see the woman who doesn’t look like me that clinches her purse to her side as she steps onto the elevator I’ve been riding.  I see the ads in the magazines.  I see the television commercials.  But I don’t see me.  What I do see is the face of the security guard who follows me through the large department store with furrowed brow and right hand at the ready.

I see an America that doesn’t see me.

I see an America that refuses to look under my hoodie.

What do you see?

Sound Off!

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13 Responses to "Under My Hoodie"

  • Huni Bak Atun says:

    Excellent post, thanks for sharing!

  • ShaunaMonique Carter says:

    This article is so true, & should be read by many! Great great job!

  • Ben Owen says:

    I see a man congratulating himself on his superior insight that cannot see the basic unassailable facts before him. Zimmerman never stated or implied that Travon Martin’s hoodie was a factor in his suspicions. The only mention Zimmerman ever made of the hoodie was in response to the 911 operator asking for a description of what he was wearing. There is no evidence that Zimmerman found hoodies on black youth suspicious. Your article is quite well done, except for having nothing to do with the reality of the situation. Perhaps your profiling of the security guard you think is suspicious of your hoodie is as imaginary as your false assertions of Zimmerman’s suspicions about a hoodie.

  • steveberlack says:

    Huni Bak Atun and ShaunaMoniqu: thank you for reading and commenting! I appreciate it!

  • steveberlack says:


    Perhaps in your zeal to answer you processed “Under My Hoodie” so quickly that you missed the point. As an author, I typically don’t explain my pieces, but in this case I’ll make an exception.

    1) You may notice that this piece is written more as poetry than as prose. Given that, you may also notice that this piece is rife with symbolism.

    2) Though this piece includes elements of my life, “Under My Hoodie” isn’t about me. My life experiences are symbols that support the main theme.

    3) You may also notice that neither Trayvon Martin nor Zimmerman are mentioned. That’s because “Under My Hoodie” isn’t about them, either. They are instead implied symbols that also support the main theme.

    4) THE HOODIE IS A SYMBOL. I actually don’t wear them.

    Perhaps now, armed with this information, you can re-read “Under My Hoodie” and absorb the true spirit and message of the piece. As an added bit of advice, you’ll need to open your mind to experiences and perspectives you may neither have nor share. If you cannot, there’s not much else I can do.

    In either case, God bless you, and thank you for reading my piece and taking the time to comment.

  • Michael says:

    Brilliant piece of work Steve, congratulations! Having very similar experiences, I can relate. I can see you under the hoodie, not just simply because we look similar, but because our basic survival curriculums are comparable. Keep doing your thing!

  • Ben Owen says:

    Well that’s rather arrogant. I actually understood quite well that your article is symbolic and that you probably don’t wear a hoodie, except for perhaps jogging in bad weather. You are however latching on to a tremendous contemporary lie that is fueling significant racial angst to undergird your thesis. Closed-minded simpleton that I might be, even in that ostensibly impaired state I can see that your article is meant to eloquently highlight the broader frustrations of the black community feeling itself under siege by both real and imagined profiling simply because their race and appearance. Dancing around the edges of the controversy however by not directly naming Zimmerman and Martin does not absolve any of us of the responsibility to fan flames of racial animus very judiciously. Saying even symbolically that black’s feel themselves under siege does not inherently make it so. And then to the tired old saw that because I disagree with, or challenge you I cannot understand because my closed-mindedness and/or that I am not black; that is a rather lazy argument. If I cannot understand the black experience because I am not black, why can the black man then ostensibly understand my white experience sufficiently to project upon me an inherent racial animus that they understand better than I understand myself? Speaking of understanding each other, the black community should understand the racial divide being created by the constant drumbeat that whites are inherently and unknowingly biased and largely to blame for the contemporary black condition. What do you think such unfair allegations do? Do you think this sustained attack against the white race will somehow endear them to you? Since, by your challenge you think that we cannot understand the others experience I will tell you that the white race feels itself under siege by an amazing juggernaut of very powerful, while self-proclaimed victims. I can tell you that the white experience today is fear of the black race: not that they will harm us physically but that they will unfairly accuse us of institutional or disguised bigotry at every turn and whim and we are generally powerless to defend against such spurious claims. While there surely are a few fools who think they can profile or act in open or disguised racism, most of the white race understands today that they must tiptoe around the black race and be very, very, careful to never, ever give this amazing power-base anything to use against them. And that is hardly a recipe for racial harmony.

  • steveberlack says:


    Thanks for your honest response. I would point out two major flaws in your argument.

    1) You are caught in the age-old “chicken and egg” argument. You say the chicken comes first by stating that I am ” latching on to a tremendous contemporary lie that is fueling significant racial angst to undergird (my) thesis.” To which I have a simple retort: it is a fierce racial angst anchored in history and splattered on “The Soul of Black Folk” that has fueled what you perceive to be a tremendous contemporary lie.

    2) You’re arguing about my feelings and perceptions. I learned a long time ago that arguing someone’s feelings/perceptions is like running between raindrops to stay dry: pointless. As I said to you before: you either get it or you don’t.

    I am, however, very glad that you mentioned the fear that white people feel. I choose not to fall into the same trap I just pointed out to you, but I would like to share an article entitled “White Fear of Black Men” by Bonnie Berman Cushing of The Center for the Study of White American Culture. You may perhaps glean some insight from it. You can read it here: http://euroamerican.org/wordpress/index.php/2013/03/10/white-fear-of-black-men/

    As for my being arrogant, I can certainly understand that an intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, self-aware Black man who doesn’t stand down when confronted by a white man who challenges him may confuse some into believing he is arrogant. (The old term was “uppity”). Those that know me and love me, however, would beg to differ. They call me strong.

    Thank you again for taking the time to respond. You are appreciated. May those who have eyes to see and ears to hear understand. (Ref. to: Ezekiel 12:2)

    • *Author’s Note*

      Ben replied to this, but it was clear that the comments were more an effort to answer than an effort to listen.

      If there’s no listening, there’s no real debate. #Life #Lesson.

  • Detra Joseph says:

    Beautifully written~heartfelt

  • Nelson says:

    Steve, you did well to not argue with a nincompoop. When Ben wrote about this racial divide being created by black people, he actually said “… the black community should understand the racial divide being created by the constant drumbeat that whites are inherently and unknowingly biased and largely to blame for the contemporary black condition.” It was clear to me that this man is a nincompoop. Great job Steve.

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