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On Wednesday, New Yorkers outraged at the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the 14-year-old candy-carrying, sweat shirt-wearing African-American boy gunned down while walking home from a 7-Eleven in Florida, participated in the Million Hoodie March to protest his killer’s freedom. Now, instead of a symbol, hoodies have become a central part of the conversation.
By and large, the media has scrutinized gunman George Zimmerman‘s history of false alarm 911 calls, alleged racism and tendency toward violence, which has led to a Justice Department investigation into the matter. But Friday, Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera stunned many when he said that, by wearing a hooded sweatshirt, Martin was making himself a target.
“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!'” Rivera said on Fox & Friends. “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-Eleven, the kid’s wearing a hoodie,” Rivera continued. “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 wannabe? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace. That’s what happens. It is an instant reflexive action.”
The reaction was fast and furious. Questlove sent a long series of messages at Rivera. “sorry @GeraldoRivera, what i gotta stroll around rocking a tux 24 7 so i can put others who are ignorant at ease? what about the OTHER side of that coin?” he tweeted. “How about parents drill into their kids that not everybody is “on drugs” (how does zimmerman know that Tray was “high on drugs”? that far away from his house? ice tea makes you walk staggering drunk? im sorry, i respect you but i have to disagree. youre basically saying there is a dress code for black & latin youth to put others at ease.”
With more brevity but just as much furor, Aziz Ansari, who has spent most of his time on Twitter promoting his new stand-up show, wrote, “It’s really appropriate to tweet this any day, but seriously – F–k you Geraldo,” then continued berating the host.
Rivera followed up on Twitter, defending his position despite familial dischord.
“My own son just wrote to say he’s ashamed of my position re hoodies-still I feel parents must do whatever they can to keep their kids safe,” he wrote. “Its not blaming the victim Its common sense-look like a gangsta&some armed schmuck will take you at your word… Its sad that I have to be the one reminding minority parents of the risk that comes with being a kid of color in America–channel the rage.”
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