Ok, calm down. Yes, Geraldo Rivera’s remark about “the hoodie being as responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman” ranks among the most idiotic statements I’ve ever heard.
And yes, Rivera has been called arrogant, pompous and narcissistic, all of which I believe are true. But now he’s being called a racist, which I believe is absolutely untrue.
Let’s back up a bit. After teenage African-American Martin was killed by neighborhood vigilante Zimmerman, Rivera went on an impassioned, five minute diatribe on TV’s Fox and Friends, which included the unfortunate statement quoted above.
But if you watch the entire video, it’s clear that Rivera was reacting emotionally and yes, protectively as a father of minority kids. The next statement was “I tell my son Cruz, who is dark-skinned, to stop dressing ‘gangsta’ in a hoodie and drooping pants, or you could be mistaken for a thug.” Rivera wasn’t saying this is right, just that it’s a fact of life.
If you look at any group photo of gangs (black or white, violent felons or political anarchists) you will see mostly young males in hoodies, bandanas or both. This dress code has been hijacked to represent violence and riots worldwide.
Rivera knows this as well as anyone. While liberals, moderates and even his own son have railed against his unfortunate diarrhea of the mouth, a fairminded person can see that Rivera was worried about the nondisputable fact that minority kids are unfairly profiled. While my girlfriend wears a hoodie to go out to the market at night and doesn’t think twice about being hassled or viewed with suspicion, she would have to if she were a minority male.
This is in no way a defense of Zimmerman, who has a history of vigilante behavior and when he called 911 about Martin, ignored instructions to back off. Emboldened by Florida’s frightening “Stand Your Ground” law, he trailed a bewildered Martin, who called his girlfriend to say some guy was tailing him.
None of us were there and we should wait until all the facts are in. But if this situation were reversed–if Martin had killed Zimmerman, then claim he felt “threatened”, do you think he’d be walking around free today?
All of which proves Rivera’s point.
I haven’t been a fan of Rivera for a while. That being said, I know damn well that Rivera is not some Newt Gingrich, some heartland demogogue ready to exploit racist stereotypes.
Born in Brooklyn to a restaurant worker and a waitress, Rivera earned a law degree, then represented the Young Lords (a Puerto Rican activist group roughly equivilant to the Black Panthers) in the 1960s.
After being interviewed about the group’s occupation of an East Harlem church to protest discrimination in 1969 on TV, Rivera was seen by the news director of WABC-TV and offered a job as a reporter.
Since then, he has made his mark in journalism, both in positive and negative fashions. He won a Peabody Award for his expose of the neglect and abuse of mentally retarded patients at Staten Island’s Willowbrook State School. He was made a laughing stock when he “excavated Al Capone’s Buried Treasure”, which consisted of a few broken bottles. On his show “Geraldo” in 1988, Rivera had his nose broken by white supremists in a tv brawl.
Now he is under the gun as never before. Stephen Colbert lacerated Rivera by saying that yes, Martin’s garb could make him “appear” to some as a “gangsta”, in the same way Rivera’s suit and tie could make him “appear” to be a journalist. I laughed at that, and I’m sure Rivera now wishes he had worded his remarks much differently.
But the intent of Rivera’s remarks were right on the money. Minorities are still unfairly profiled, and sadly must take extra precautions if they are not to be targeted and put in danger by racists– and it doesn’t just take place in Florida.
If you doubt this, just ask Hispanics in the state where Rivera attended college: Arizona.