Last week, Geraldo Rivera got into it with his comments on the Trayvon Martin killing. His exact words were, “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was. I am urging the parents of Black and Latino youngsters, particularly, to not let their children go out wearing hoodies.” Facing a backlash, Rivera walked back his comments a little bit earlier this week and offered an apology of sorts.
I remember when it was us that were afraid of men wearing hoods. Now, for many Americans, it’s the hooded black man who is the symbol of terror. There are plenty of Americans who would probably agree with Rivera’s sentiment. For them, the black teen in the hoodie is something to be concerned about and someone to fear. Our nation is so screwed up on racial issues that I am tempted to meet the profilers halfway: you get to be afraid of us, but we get to avoid being shot. Even that would be an improvement. Look how far we’ve come, America: Our children aren’t being judged simply by the color of their skin, but by the content of their clothing.
What Rivera said was insidious — but like most insidious comments, there is an element of truth to them. I’ve told my son not to wear certain outfits lest he be perceived the wrong way. I’ve grown up watching kids being killed over their Jordans, leather coats, jewelry or even if they were simply wearing the wrong color. When I transferred to Locke High School, I showed up wearing red because I assumed they were Bloods like in my neighborhood. Well, they weren’t. Those Crips chased me down after school and kicked my ass, black and blue.
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