This morning I caught wind of comments Geraldo Rivera made on the recent shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. For those who aren’t familiar, the teen was walking in a Florida neighborhood toward his step-mother’s home with a box of candy in his hand when a neighborhood watch member called 911 to report a “suspicious” person in the neighborhood and proceded to follow Martin. He shot the teen (the 911 tapes present a case that appears as if he held Martin screaming for his life at gunpoint before shooting him) in the chest and claimed “self-defense.” Because of the gun laws currently in place in Florida, the shooter has not been charged or arrested for murdering this young man.
This has spurred some discussion nationally about gun laws, vigilantism, and race/racial relations (Martin was black. The shooter was, I believe, white or Latino). Geraldo Rivera weighed in on this event on Fox and Friends recently:
“I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly not to let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin‘s death as much as George Zimmerman was […] Trayvon Martin, God bless him, an innocent kid, a wonderful kid, a box of Skittles in his hands. He didn’t deserve to die. But I bet you money, if he didn’t have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way.”
In other words, in Rivera’s opinion, hoodies kill people. Yes, because some guy apparently decided to make the connection between an item of clothing that the majority of people across the nation have worn at some point–the hooded sweatshirt–and crime, black and Latino kids shouldn’t wear them. What??!
Rivera’s logic is akin to saying women shouldn’t wear short skirts because they’re “asking” to be raped. Clothes don’t cause crimes. They don’t. People commit crimes. People act in violent ways. People make the decision to kill, to rape. Not clothing. Blaming the victim gets us nowhere when the conversation should be focused on whether or not Florida’s laws protect its citizens from harm, or whether the way the laws are written prevent guilty parties from being held responsible for their actions. In this case, they seem to be preventing a man who stalked an innocent young man down a public street because he felt that the young man looked “suspicious” fro being held responsible for what he has done. Suspicion should not warrant cause to shoot and kill someone–ESPECIALLY a child–in cold blood.
Furthermore, why just “black and Latino youngsters”? If Rivera hasn’t cued us all in that race played a huge role in the relative “suspicion” of Trayvon Martin walking around a relatively upscale Florida neighborhood, then I don’t know what will. But why is he blaming minority youth for a problem that obviously lies in the perception of black and Latino youth by white America? It’s NOT okay for people to jump to conclusions based on race! Haven’t we had this conversation over and over? Do we really need to have it again because Rivera is giving racism a free pass by blaming hoodie-wearing black kids for being shot in broad daylight carrying candy and nothing else? Why are we blaming Trayvon Martin for his clothes when we should be charging a racist murderer for a heinous, disgusting, and deplorable crime?