I will admit that Geraldo Rivera has a point about the perils of minority youngsters dressing like gangsters. But everything about his scolding that Trayvon Martin’s hoodie was “as much responsible for his death as (shooter) George Zimmerman” smacks of opportunism – his own and Fox News’ – more than any concern for preventing any similar tragedies in the future. It’s certainly not likely to help the Martin family – or any of the millions of Americans feeling sympathy and solidarity with them – during their hour of grief. More likely, it will help Fox News move the narrative away from a host of pitfalls for its conservative agenda (gun violence, racism, police malfeasance toward people of color) and back to the more comfortable ground of blaming minorities for their problems. Oh, yeah, and it’s gotten Rivera a lot of extra attention, too.
In the first place, hoodies are pretty darned mainstream. Even Rivera wears them. Fox News sells them or used to sell them until recently. Second, as far as we know, Trayvon Martin was dressed neatly and like any other American teenager. Yet Rivera jumped at the opportunity to suggest Martin had done something to bring suspicion on himself by walking down the street wearing a hoodie.
During an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor Friday night (3/23/12), Rivera threw down the hoodie into a discussion about controversial searches by the New York City Police Department. Rivera tossed aside public concerns about reasonable cause in order to suggest that anyone wearing a hoodie is a legitimate suspect:
I’m telling you, half of it is the way young men look. What is a reasonable suspicion? It’s based on a subjective judgment. If a cop looks at three kids on the corner and they’ve got those hoodies up – and this is where I got in trouble with the Trayvon Martin case. If they’ve got those hoodies up, and they’re hanging out on the corner, the cops look at them and say, ‘Hmm, hoodies. Who else wears hoodies?’ Everybody that ever stuck up a convenience store, D.B. Cooper, the guy that hijacked the plane…the Unabomber – who wears these hoodies?
I’ll grant that looking like a gangster throws off a different impression than dressing like a preppy but there’s a lot more to the look than a hoodie. More importantly, there’s no evidence that Martin was hanging around a street corner, looking like he was up to no good. He was walking home – alone – from a convenience store with a bag of candy and holding a can of iced tea. Neighborhood “watchdog” Zimmerman thought Martin looked suspicious, mentioned the hoodie on the 911 call, and wound up shooting him to death.
Furthermore, Martin is reported to have put on the hoodie because he was scared by Zimmerman’s aggressive behavior toward him.
Funny how Rivera slid over those facts to focus on the hoodie.
Nobody really knows the actual impetus that led shooter George Zimmerman to shoot. But here’s Rivera ready to lead the charge over an item of clothing that just happens to be an item of clothing favored by young minorities.
I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that Rivera’s focus on Martin’s attire served to distract from the issues everyone else had been talking about – but that Fox ordinarily steers clear of: accusations of a bungled police investigation that seemed to favor the shooter over the victim, the possible use of racial slurs by the shooter, and the reconsideration of Florida’s “stand your ground” law that police cited in their decision not to charge Zimmerman. We’ve previously noted attempts by Fox to fix the case around their agenda. There’s no reason to think they’d stop now, just because they’ve had a few discussions that were actually fair and balanced.
I’m going to make a prediction that just as Kirsten Powers’ leap into the Sandra Fluke debate fortuitously allowed Fox to change the subject from Rush Limbaugh to liberal hypocrisy over Bill Maher, Rivera’s sudden concern about Martin’s hoodie is going to grant Fox the opportunity to make the Martin shooting a debate over African American behavior.
Already, The Daily Caller has seized the moment to race-bait against President Obama over his comments about Martin. How long before Fox hosts dismiss the shooting with a quick acknowledgment of the tragedy and then find one of their favorite African American conservatives to attack debate the role of gangsta culture, liberals' “double standard” toward minority crime and/or reverse racism from our president? If you don’t believe me, think Professor Henry Gates. Fortunately, the Gates incident - in which Professor Gates was arrested for breaking into his own home – ended without anyone getting hurt. But it took Fox no time to turn the policeman into the victim and Gates into the wrongdoer.
Rivera said on The O’Reilly Factor he doesn’t care about the criticism he’s receiving because he’s trying to save lives of minority youngsters. “People know that I’m the one that punched out the KKK and the Neo-Nazi,” he boasted. Yeah, we all remember those theatrics. What I’m not recalling is any other time he’s spoken out “to save lives of minority youngsters.”
Rivera tried to explain his stance by saying, “People take you at what you look like. It is unfortunate but if you dress like a wannabe gangster, some knucklehead is going to take you at your word.”
Guess what, Geraldo? The same thing goes for the way you present with an issue.
Video of Rivera on The Factor available at Mediaite.
Chinese hoodie manufacturers
But people need to be on guard here and not just condemn Geraldo’s remarks but be aware of how they will be used.
So, does this mean that it’s better for people to wear three-piece suits—you know, the look that gangsters like John Gotti (as well as fictitious ones like the Godfather as interpreted by Brando or “Fat Tony” from "The Simpsons) tend to sport?