The PJ Tatler

Geraldo Rivera: The Hoodie Is Also Responsible for Trayvon Martin's Death

Stopping by Fox and Friends this morning, Geraldo Rivera suggested that while it’s clear that Trayvon Martin’s death is a tragedy and George Zimmerman should be investigated for it, the apparel worn by Martin the night of his death played a role in his killing.

“I believe that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain, should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted. But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was,” Rivera said.

Rivera continued: “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.”

Rivera has followed up the comments with an editorial at

Remember when my friend and colleague the estimable Juan Williams got fired from NPR for saying that Muslims formally garbed freaked him out at airports? Juan is among America’s sharpest commentators. He wasn’t justifying his reaction, he was copping to it. Maybe shock therapy or a semester of sensitivity training could change it, otherwise It is what it is.

No one black, brown or white can honestly tell me that seeing a kid of color with a hood pulled over his head doesn’t generate a certain reaction, sometimes scorn, often menace.

When you see that kid coming your way, unless you specifically recognize him you are thinking ghetto or ghetto wannabe high-style or low-brow wise-ass. Pedestrians cross the street to avoid black or brown hoodie wearers coming their way.

Because this is a teachable moment let me speak plainly.

Whatever Reverends Sharpton and Jackson say in Florida Friday, after listening to the 911 tapes and hearing the witness’ testimonials, I believe Trayvon Martin would be alive today but for his hoodie.

The left is likely to pounce on Geraldo for this. Perception and snap judgement certainly have much to do with this terrible story’s trajectory. Who, when they first heard the name “George Zimmerman” associated with this story, didn’t think that the name belonged to a middle aged or older white man, maybe a retiree? It turns out, Zimmerman is a young, Spanish-speaking half-Hispanic man who reportedly has many black family members. Race may have less to do with this story than first appeared, going to both Zimmerman and Martin. Or race may have everything to do with what happened, we just don’t know yet and rushes to judgement don’t help.

A young man has lost his life and his family rightly wants answers and justice. From what we currently know, Zimmerman should be investigated, and at this point an investigation could end up clearing his name or confirming that he went well beyond the Florida “stand your ground” law and he should therefore stand trial. We just don’t know at this point. Finding out what happened would be the point of investigating.

The one thing we don’t need is a “million hoodie march” to reinforce the gangster image. But such a march is exactly what we’re getting.