Dissecting Geraldo Rivera’s Hoodie Comment

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Geraldo Rivera is a FOX News correspondent.

Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black Florida teenager killed by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman, was wearing a hoodie at the time of the shooting. Zimmerman, who hasn’t been charged with a crime, told a 911 dispatcher that Martin “looks like he’s up to no good, or on drugs or something,”

As the case has captured national attention, many have focused on the hoodie. It’s being used as a symbol to stand in solidarity with the Martin family, and now, it’s being partially blamed for the incident. Controversial television personality Geraldo Rivera said on the March 23 edition of “Fox and Friends” that:

I believe that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted. But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.

Rivera went on to say that he tells his “dark-skinned” son Cruz to not leave the house wearing a hoodie because “people look at you and they — what do they think? What’s the instant identification, what’s the instant association?”

Many then took to Twitter to criticize Rivera, who then tweeted this:

Its sad that I have to be the one reminding minority parents of the risk that comes with being a kid of color in America--channel the rage
Geraldo Rivera

Rivera’s advice shifts responsibility from aggressors to victims, much like saying rape victims were “asking for it” because of what they were wearing. But Rivera’s statements also somewhat allude to the painful decisions that many parents have to confront, of how to protect their black and brown children in a world where racism exists and can costs lives.

A more nuanced approach comes in a TIME piece entitled “How to Talk to Young Black Boys About Trayvon Martin” by Touré. The fourth point (emphasis mine) reads:

You will have to make allowances for other people’s racism. That’s part of the burden of being black. We can be defiant and dead or smart and alive. I’m not saying you can’t wear what you want, but your clothes are a red herring. They’ll blame it on your hoodie or your jeans when the real reason they decided you were a criminal is that you’re black. Of course, you know better. Racism is about reminding you that you are less human, less valuable, less worthy, less beautiful, less intelligent. It’s about prejudging you as violent, fearsome, a threat. Some people will take that prejudice and try to force their will on you to make sure you feel like a second-class citizen and to make certain you get back to the lower-class place they think you’re trying to escape. The best way to counter them involves not your fists but your mind. You know your value to the world and how terrific you are. If you never forget that, they can’t damage your spirit. The best revenge is surviving and living well.

Still, many parents fear that no matter how well they prepare their children, they can still become the victims of violence because of their appearances. Liz Dwyer of GOOD writes one of her sons doesn’t think he can be gunned down like Trayvon, partially because of where he lives:

I’m glad he believes he’s safe, but Trayvon was in a gated community, not an urban ghetto. Ruha Benjamin, assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at Boston University, says middle-class black Americans cannot “buy our way out of racial violence.” Benjamin, who has two boys of her own, says the reality is that our sons, “no matter how well-dressed, how well-spoken, might be in the wrong gated community with the wrong bag of threatening Skittles and get mowed down by someone who has decided, essentially, they are out of place.”

Martin wasn’t targeted simply because he was wearing a hoodie, because a hoodie, in of itself, isn’t a symbol that an individual is up to no good. It matters who is wearing it and where. Would Zimmerman have called 911, reporting a “suspicious” person in his gated community, had Martin been a white girl wearing a hoodie? What if Martin hadn’t been wearing a hoodie at all? Martin could have been wearing different clothes, but he couldn’t change the fact that he was young, black and male.

  • footmaster12

    The comment he made was stupid, but it wasn’t racist. Blaming it on racism and playing the race card is just as bad – if not worse – as blaming the victim’s hooded sweatshop

  • Be

    i’m not sure why we’re not blaming it on a psychopath that hunted down a child then shot and murdered him.
    but yes, of course, the hoodie……
    the framework of this entire conversation seems wrong to me. 

  • Jamesbrown

    Actually the comments is entirely racist  as it alludes to and justifies racial profiling. 
     ”when you see a black or latino youngster, particularly on the street you walk to the other side of the street.” That’s a direct quote from Rivera made in the same breath as his comments about wearing a hoodie.  And since he himself has been photographed in a hoodie on various occasions he’s showing that he feels the problem isnt with the hoodie itself, but with the color of the person wearing it. The reality is Treyvon could have been wearing anything and Geraldo would have used that as a talking point, as its obvious he’s only making these statements to garner attention for himself. 

  • Anonymous

     What does a guy have do or be, for you guys to consider it racist, had shot Megar Evers?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000634117607 Charles Gray

    Geraldo forgot to add to his advice to his son….”also don’t buy any skittles, or ice tea if you are dark in colar. The police might mistake you for a skittle bandito and think the ice tea is rum and coke. Word!”

  • http://twitter.com/stanchaz stan chaz

    Blame the Hoodie? GIVE ME A BREAK. It was raining…. the kid was running…..and ….SORRY… but we don’t ALL use Totes umbrellas when going to the corner grocery store for a snack. Nor should we risk losing our lives while doing so!  And by his own admission, Mr. Zimmerman, the gunman, was stalking unarmed Trayvon – against the advice of the police (via cellphone contact). Mr. Rivera: you should be ashamed of your inane, insensitive comments, and your attempts to create “excuses” for the inexcusable actions of judge-jury-executioner Zimmerman. We are becoming a society that sees threats under every rock; a society that sees danger  with every “other” that is not like us;  a society with power hungry control-freaks (whether politicians or mayors or police chiefs or individuals) that are only too eager to take advantage of our fears; that are only too eager to get away with anything that they can, as they deprive us of our our liberty (and sometimes our lives), in the name of defending it. This is part of a slippery slope that includes the worst provisions of the Patriot Act, police spying on innocent people, papers-please and stop&frisk gone wild,  the “right” to indefinitely detain Americans without trial, and homicidal “vigilantes” such as we have tragically seen here. It’s a slippery slope that leads to a police state/Orwellian mentality that is typical of places such as China, Cuba, or 1960′s Communist Eastern Europe. We used to stand proud and free, and contrasted our open society to such places. Now we imitate them. Our country is better than this. WE are better than this.

  • Elijah405

    Geraldo’s comment was reckless-insensitive at best. As a journalist (albeit yellow), he should know that his comments will be a part of public discourse. He ought to know that no matter what framework his statement came in, this is an emotionally charged issue.

  • Herpaderpaderp12

    “Rivera’s advice shifts responsibility from aggressors to victims, much like saying rape victims were “asking for it” because of what they were wearing. ”
    Acknowledging the fact that wearing clothing can affect how people treat you does not mean rape-endorsing or blaming the victim. Yes, clothing shouldn’t affect if people rape or profile you, but it DOES. Geraldo is speaking truth to power to the multicultural academia industry and your comment shows they aren’t taking it well.

  • Lagunadeb

    I am a white grandmother with a hispanic last name..I wear hoodies all the time because it is cold in San Fran and foggy and the hoodie is comfortable and protects well in my climate. If I was walking in that gated community with my hood up I seriously doubt zimmerman would have shot me to death. therefore solid reasoning says that it is not the hoodie it is who is wearing it. Geraldo made the bigoted remark, when he himself, is hispanic , and it reflects his worldview only. Zimmerman shot and killed a black boy in cold blood and should be tried for murder, not made a victim and let free. He knew what he was doing.