Editor’s Pick
MARCH 23, 2012 7:57PM

Geraldo Blames the Parents

Rate: 14 Flag

I’m late to the conversation about Trayvon Martin. Or rather, I’m late committing to writing the conversation that’s been going on in my house and in the media and in my head for weeks. Last weekend, I read Leonard Pitts’ column to my husband at the breakfast table and choked on the last lines. I wept when I heard the 911 tape of the dispatcher telling Zimmerman to stop following him (I can’t bring myself to listen to the other one). And like anyone with a soul, I am more outraged the more I hear. It’s a tragedy beyond measure that fills me with despair. 


So, why wouldn’t I write about such an important thing? I could blame finals week, when I’m so busy grading portfolios and tracking down plagiarists and finalizing grades I can’t possibly find time to write. But if I’m perfectly honest, it’s not that. I’m a gifted enough procrastinator that I could have found time and place to write about Trayvon Martin if I really wanted to.  


It turns out I’m just chicken. I’m a white, middle-class woman who lives in the suburbs, and I am afraid to write about race. I’m afraid to get it wrong or to presume that I have anything at all to add to the conversation. I’m not the black woman whose son was shot in cold blood. I’m not the black woman who was mistaken for a prostitute when she was a guest at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I’m not the white mother of a black child who had to introduce her son to her new white neighbors so they wouldn’t think he was breaking into her house every time he got locked out. I’m not a woman who worries about what it will be like to have black sons or daughters.  


But this morning, I caught wind of Geraldo's inane, deliberately inflammatory Tweets. What sent me over the edge was that Geraldo blamed, of all people, parents, for not telling their children not to dress like “gangstas.” He went on to say, “look like a gangsta and some armed schmuck will take you at your word.” 


Finally, the free floating rage and despair that have been flickering around the edges of my conscience for the last couple of weeks congealed into a hot, white flash.  


It’s cringey and creepy enough that he actually used the word “gangsta,” but take you at your word?  What words would those be, exactly?  “I am a criminal?” “I don’t belong here?”  “I am up to no good?” “Please shoot me in the chest?”  Is that what the hoodie said, Geraldo?  It makes me so angry I shake when I write it.


Yes, as a mother, it is my job to try to keep my children safe.  I tell them not to walk alone in the dark.  I tell them to buckle their seatbelts, to say no to drugs, to call home.


But I do not tell them that wearing a hoodie -- which both of them, both girls, do with some regularity -- will get them killed, although I might tell them to wear one on a rainy night. Do I tell them not to wear short skirts or low-cut shirts? Sometimes, but that’s because I’m an uptight suburbanite who thinks it looks tacky, not because I think it is an invitation to rapists. Rapists are criminals who are motivated by violence, not sexual attraction, and George Zimmerman is a racist who was looking for an excuse to shoot a black man -- and settled for a black boy instead. Nothing that anyone does or does not wear justifies crimes against them, ever.


In the stream of verbal vomit that is Geraldo’s Twitter feed, he bemoaned the fact that he “had to be the one to remind minority parents that risk comes with being a minority kid in America.”


You know what? Fuck you, Geraldo. If you think there’s a single minority parent in this country who doesn’t know that already then you are even more of a self-deluded narcissist than we already knew.  


I can’t imagine what it must feel like for Trayvon Martin’s grieving parents to hear that they somehow failed their son by not warning him about the dangers of his sartorial choices. It doesn’t take a sophisticated understanding of race relations, or being a minority, or being a parent, to be outraged by that. All it takes is being human.  


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I didn't see those Tweets, but Geraldo has been "coming up empty" since 'way back in the day when he stirred up a bunch of hoopla about finding Al Capone's safe, and had this huge TV audience waiting to see what he'd find, and what he found, when it was opened on live TV was...nada.

He'll do anything to grab the spotlight. This, however, is absolutely the saddest stunt he's pulled in a long time.
All of this is just heartbreaking.

I teach high school kids who all go through a phase of trying to look like badasses, whatever their flesh tone. None of them should have to change their fashion statements just to avoid being targeted by a gun-toting crazy.

But a hoodie? Come on. I just looked, and my (56-year-old) husband's got one in the closet. They've been around for a loooong time.
All Geraldo wanted was another fifteen minutes. And he got it. The sad part is, he said out loud what a whole lot more people think, so maybe it's worth something that a useless bag of skin is talking on a national stage again. The fact that people think this is worth talking about, examining, facing.

Thank you for voicing my thoughts, Kate, as a fellow suburban white woman.
I like that you acknowledge your own discomfort writing about race -- but you needn't worry. You have plenty of good things to say about it as a human being, as a caring mom, as a conscientious woman. Thank you for voicing the anger and sadness publicly. These are hard, hard days...
Geraldo has always been an opportunistic ass; and with this, he proves it again. This is on a par with saying "she deserved to be raped because she dressed so provocatively."
It is so frustrating to think that someone like Geraldo can voice thoughts like that and that others might think that way too. It is unbelievable and I am so glad you found the time to type it out.
You have GOT to be kidding! He actually said that. But hey this is the guy who was pulled out of Desert Storm for revealing troop movements. Remember. Lets hope cooler heads prevail!

Everyone should rest assured that Zimmerman will be prosecuted. The admitted facts (in his own words) and the plain language of the statute assure he is toast.

 Thank you for this perspective.

 This might also interest you. See Trayvon Martin: Defense a Pig-Sty Beneath a Racist Facade?
I watched Geraldo speaking about this and I thought well he's had "the talk" with his son because he recognized that his skin tone, which he described as dark made it necessary. That he still placed the blame on Trayvon's parents because their son decided in the rain to use a hood, which I believe was added for just that purpose is Geraldo being Geraldo. He is the guy who hyped the discovery of an empty vault as if he knew the contents it held. So we know that he is capable of placing value on empty words.

I found myself more anxious about the possibility that this case, and the stories it has spawned have made enough of an impression that people formerly not comfortable with discussing race, are finding their voice in the voices of others. That is important, not Geraldo. I've written on immigration and how it relates to race in this country. Zimmerman's father made us aware that his mother is Hispanic as if that precluded him from being a racist. I say that Zimmerman lives life as a white man whose mother is Peruvian, but I would venture to say she too lives her life as a white woman of Peruvian ancestory. We have conflated ethnicity with race and not for the first time in our history. This is why race needs to be discussed we as a nation need to understand that we don't understand race and ethnicity and how they differ. We need to understand how deeply ingrained race is in law and policy to fully understand what we don't understand. I'm glad you are stepping away from your admitted fear, because that is the only way those conversations will be had.~r~
You know what? Fuck you, Geraldo. Well said.
I'm amazed that more than one store, more than one restaurant in my town actually have signes that say "No Hoodies". Oddly, none of these establishments have a "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" sign. Odd, eh?
You said it so well, thank you.

As a biracial, middle class dad who lives in the suburbs, I appreciate when suburban, white, middle class women speak up...much in the same way that I believe that I as a heterosexual male have a duty to stand up for my homosexual counterparts. I honestly don't care if you ever get it wrong, at least you're not standing on the sidelines.

"Fuck you, Geraldo".

+1. Succinct. Eloquent in its own way. And three more words that that douchebag deserves.

A CNN report claims that 75% of people polled think that that Trayvon's *murderer* should be charged. WTF is wrong with the other 25%??
It always frightens me to see ordinarily intelligent, rationally dispassionate adults allow emotionalism to seize their minds and turn them into nearly hysterical rationalizers. In the Trayvon Martin tragedy we have a virtual perfect storm of emotional triggers that did just that:

1. 17-year-old teenage black boy is shot to death by 28-year-old self-appointed guardian of a gated community after being warned by a police dispatcher to stand back and not to follow the boy until police arrived to check him out. It is now alleged the armed vigilante, ignoring the dispatcher, followed the boy, got into a fight with him and shot him to death after the boy knocked him down.

2. A notorious self-promoting TV personality makes comments to the effect that young men, especially young black men, who dress in a manner popular with criminal hoodlums who call themselves "gangstas" shouldn't be surprised if they are perceived to be what they resemble. This "gangsta look" often includes a hooded sweatshirt and jeans sagging below the butt. Trayvon Martin is said to have been wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

That's all. Is it not true? Is it fair to expect that young men who wear hooded sweatshirts and their pants slung below their butts and perhaps other garb or accoutrements favored by a widely known criminally oriented subset, not be perceived to be what they are doing their damnedest to appear to be? Are we that naive, people?

OK, we can all agree that Geraldo Rivera is a buffoon, a narcissistic pompous ass, which is probably being unfair to clowns and donkeys and probably warrants ignoring anything Rivera might say unless it were a warning to duck or avoid stepping in an open street manhole. Maybe even except if he says something that makes sense, like what I've just attributed to him above.

Note: Rivera did not say that because Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie he deserved what happened to him, nor did he say that if anyone else wears a hoodie they deserve to be rousted by anyone in or out of authority for walking along a sidewalk or across the street - unless, of course, a nearby bank or convenience store has just been robbed by someone wearing a hoodie. We can always find exceptions to any rule.

But that's not what I see here, in this post or in the comment thread. I see ranting and snarking directed at the messenger, who I fully agree deserved all the disparagement he gets for his obnoxious presence in our airways and on our TV screens. Shoot the messenger, for all I care, but please don't let your enjoyment of this emotional orgy keep you from paying heed to the message itself. Zimmerman, the vigilante, had no business or right to approach Trayvon Martin in a threatening way for Trayvon's being where he was or wearing what he was. Yet, had Trayvon's appearance not aroused the beast in Zimmerman to believe Trayvon was a "gangsta," Trayvon might be alive today.

I have a right to wear anything I choose, provided it's legal. This is a free country, right? So why should I not expect to be hassled, harmed or even murdered were I to wear pink coveralls with a sign on my back that says "I voted for Obama, I'm gay and I'm here to take your guns away" and strut down a nice, pine-lined bucolic asphalt road in rural Mississippi?

Please forgive my interruption of your Geraldo-bashing party. I'll join you soon as I slip out of these coveralls and into my hoodie.
You nailed it with this piece. A suburb piece of writing on an impossible subject. We are indeed all human. When will we all realize it?
Thought you would want to know Geraldo's son tweeted his dad is an idiot. Bright kid.
As an urban black woman with white suburban female friends, I welcome and laud your perspective which is no different than mine. Thanks for adding your voice to the outcry against this heinous crime.
I am scared of what the US projects onto the world. White American Christians shooting each other for starters. It doesn't make sense. I don't get it. Maybe the guns should be taken away as Deadly Doright quibbed. Maybe having gay enforcement officers might actually humanise the police force and vigilantes as well. Gay women welcome. Or most women in general. How many homicides will it take until your society wakes up to the fact that your vision-thing is seriously flawed. Your date with Destiny is long past. Try to learn how other sane societies live. Maybe even visit them. [Middle East is optional].
I'm with Keka and Tom on this. He's trying to grab a moment in the spotlight, but what a repugnant way to do so.
Geraldo is slowly slipped into insanity. Really hoodies are the problem. No this may just be a case of racism. If the story is correct (I have no idea of the facts because I was not there) Zimmerman's suspicions are based on the color of Trayvon's skin not what he was wearing. On that racist presumptuousness he pursued Trayvon and whatever altercation that happened as a result falls on Zimmerman not the one being pursued.

If hoodies are partly to blame the blame is shared by Geraldo and the media for portraying criminals as hoodie wearing tugs which continues to bolster racist fears. Truth is hoodies are pretty popular with whites to. I would bet hoodies are 99.999% crime free. I have worn them for decades, but when I was a teen we just called them hooded sweat shirts and the feared article of clothing was the suit.
Ma'am, about you not having anything to say about race, go listen to the song by the very white Frank Zappa, "More Trouble Every Day." It's appropriate to this whole song, and the imitation ethnic guy Rivera pretends to be. But more important, the spoken part of the song applies to your right to speak...

Hey, you know something people?
I'm not black
But there's a whole lots a times
I wish I could say I'm not white
Correction. The song title is "Trouble Every Day." The one I mentioned is his jazzy 1970's version. This is the original version of the song from the album "Freak Out."

Geraldine would blame his own mother for ratings and a paycheck.
If I wear my hoodie and wander off into a neighborhood where there are people unlike me, do you suppose I'll be considered suspicious? If I meet up with an armed and dangerous gunslinger who fears me, do you suppose I'll end up being shot and killed? How does one decide what is suspicious is also a life or death scenario?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Fuck you, Geraldo, indeed.