Geraldo Rivera recently made some controversial remarks blaming the wardrobe choices of dead Florida teen Trayvon Martin for Martin’s shooting. On Fox and Friends this morning, Rivera told the hosts that “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.” He continued with the following:
When you see a kid walking down the street, particularly dark-skinned kid like my son Cruz — who I constantly yelled at when he was going out wearing a damn hoodie or those pants around his ankles. “Take that hood off!” People look at you and what’s the instant identification, what’s the instant association? It’s those crime scene surveillance tapes. Every time you see someone stickin’ up a 7-11, the kid’s wearing a hoodie. Every time you see a mugging on a surveillance camera or they get the old lady in the alcove, it’s a kid wearing a hoodie. You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a “gangsta”… You’re gonna be a gangsta wanna? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace. That’s what happens. It is an instant reflexive action.
Remember Juan Williams, our colleague? Our brilliant colleague? He got in trouble with NPR because he said Muslims in formal garb at the airport conjure a certain response in him. That’s an automatic reflex; Juan wasn’t defending it. He was explaining that’s what happened when he sees these particular people in that particular place. When you see a black or Latino youngster, particularly on the street, you walk to the other side of the street. You try to avoid that confrontation. Trayvon Martin, you know God bless him, he was an innocent kid, a wonderful kid, a box of Skittles in his hands. He didn’t deserve to die. But I’ll 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.
These comments, which have been perceived by many as blaming the victim, have engendered severe blowback against Rivera. In fact, the anchor took to Twitter shortly afterwards to announce that his own son had disowned the comments:
Rivera has since remained steadfast, claiming he’s trying to tell parents of minority children how to keep their children safe from assault. He has repeated this explanation to his son, telling Politico:
“I wrote him, and I’m telling you that my mission is to save kids’ lives in the real world,” the Fox News host said. “We can bluster and posture all day long about the injustice of it all, but despite what Roland Martin or even my son Gabriel Miguel Rivera says, every hoodie should come with a warning like cigarettes, ‘caution wearing this could get you killed.”[…]
“Gabriel wrote back to say I’ve gone viral for all the wrong reasons,” Rivera wrote in another email, with an unhappy face icon at the end of the sentence.[…]
But even despite his son’s anger (Cruz, unlike his older brother, isn’t mad at him about the comments, Rivera said), the TV and radio personality said he has no intention of taking back what he said. “No I don’t retract a word of it because I’m concerned with saving kids lives,” he said
Is Rivera’s remark really just hard-nosed realism, and even if it is, has his means of expressing it actually furthered the message? Weigh in below.