An Open Letter To Geraldo Rivera

Mr. Rivera,


I mean, really?

I admit I’m not a minority so I don’t have first-hand knowledge, though I did get hassled by a cop just before writing this for matching a description of “a Hispanic male in a hooded sweatshirt” and you were Gerald Riviera when you had your Bar Mitzvah so I think we meet in the middle as far as qualifications, but if parents actually took your advice it would set racial equality and even civil rights back decades.

I’ll take your tweets one at a time:

Really?  That’s what you want to be drilling into kids’ heads?  That there are clothes that they aren’t allowed to wear because of the color of their skin and it’s their duty to respect that and accept abuses of power by police officers because they’re powerless to stop it?  Couldn’t they instead teach their kids what their rights are when the police stop them?

I respect what police officer do.  The majority of them are in the line of work for the right reasons and risk their lives to provide an essential service to the community.  But the majority is not all, like with any other group there are good and bad people who wear a badge.  Some are racists, some are violent, some are bullies who became officers to legally continue to be bullies.  The job is dangerous and essential but we can’t pretend they’re universally deserving of praise and completely beyond reproach, if for no other reason so the bad cops don’t make the good cops’ jobs more difficult.

If I had kids – black, Latino or anything else – this is what I would teach them: First, most importantly and above all else, be polite and respectful of police officers at all times.  Even if their actions don’t deserve respect they have the handcuffs and the gun so take the high ground.  That respect, however, does not mean they’re above the rules.  The fourth amendment to the Constitution says that the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.  You don’t have to let them frisk you if they don’t have a warrant.  They can’t arrest you without a reason, and if they do anyway the burden of proof is on them if they want to hold you.

In short allowing abuses of power is essentially condoning them.  Be respectful, be polite, be the bigger man, but be nobody’s doormat.  Wear whatever you want to wear and if police try to frisk you for it, it may not be easy, but the law is on your side.

Lisa Wrenn, the BANG features editor, put it best: Isn’t this the exact same thing as saying a woman deserved to get raped because she was wearing a miniskirt?  I’ll probably never see racial equality in my lifetime but I hope to see the day when people stop blaming the victim because of the clothes they chose to wear.

No, his hoodie did not kill him.  His hoodie kept him warm.  George Zimmerman killed him.  It was not the murder victim’s responsibility to wear a pink polo shirt, beige khakis and a white sweater draped over his shoulders so a racist vigilante psychopath wouldn’t stalk and kill him in his own neighborhood.

This tweet made me angrier than all the rest combined because it not only places the blame on the victim but partially absolves a murderer.  By in essence splitting the blame 50-50 between the killer and the killed’s wardrobe you’re saying that Zimmerman had no choice, the hoodie made him do it.  It makes the Twinkie defense look downright sensible because at least it didn’t implicate George Moscone and Harvey Milk.

So the lesson of subservience you’re preaching to others’ kids didn’t sink in to your own?  Good.  It’s like math, two negatives make a positive; if you’re a bad parent but you would have taught bad lessons you spare the poor kid a life of learning the wrong things.

I’m wearing a hoodie right now with the hood pulled up and everything.  I’m in a crowded coffee shop surrounded by people of a wide variety of ages, races and cultures.  I’m also white.  Does that make me look like a ‘gangsta’?  Is one of these people about to shoot me?  Next to me is a Japanese girl working on a high school physics assignment, she’s wearing a hoodie too.  Should I take her at her word?

Or does that only apply if my skin was darker?  If that’s the case, what wouldn’t make me look like a gangsta?  Are we back to the pink polo, white sweater and khakis?  Because actual gang members don’t wear uniforms, The Warriors was not a documentary.  They wear the same thing as everyone else since styles are pervasive so to avoid dressing like them you’d have to avoid dressing like, well, everyone.

I spent high school as a nerd so believe me when I say that dressing totally differently than your peer group’s current cultural norm is not advised.

Channel the rage!  Do what the violent racists want you to do, choose your wardrobe to make vigilantes comfortable with you, then channel the rage!  Into…conformity I guess?  You’re going to have to clarify.

He could add that, sure.  He didn’t of course.  And he wouldn’t.  This is what President Obama looked like in college:

I suspect he didn’t subscribe to your philosophy is what I’m saying.  And I suspect he still doesn’t.  Which makes it extremely disingenuous to say “he could have said” to back up your idiotic point.

I’ll give you an example: Geraldo Rivera said that black and Latino kids shouldn’t wear hoodies if they don’t want to get shot.  He could add, and they shouldn’t leave their ghettos.

See what I did there?  I put words in your mouth qualified with ‘could’ but implying you took a position that you didn’t publicly take.  (I originally wrote “a position you don’t hold” but that’s a pretty big assumption considering these tweets.)

This is the most recent and the most ridiculous, because it assumes three things that I don’t believe are true:

1) It assumes that a representative sample of black and Latino mothers follow you on Twitter, and that a representative sample of your followers commented.  I’m sorry but you’re Geraldo Rivera; your followers aren’t a representative sample of anything.

2) It assumes that the negative criticism was not from black and Latino mothers because they didn’t specifically state that fact.  You admit to an avalanche of criticism but never stop to consider that there may be black and Latino mothers included in that?  That the positive comments you got from them are the only comments you got from them?

3) It assumes that a life lived in constant fear of offending the delicate and arbitrary sensibilities of sociopathic vigilantes can be considered prosperous.

In short, Mr. Rivera, you’re not going to dig yourself out of this mess by repeating the same ignorant point.  I can’t wait to hear your long-form response where you, I assume, are going to explain what black and Latino teenagers should wear rather than what they shouldn’t.  Or where you’re going to insist you don’t blame the victim before and after directly blaming the victim.

Or, more likely, where you refuse to waver and wait out the outrage to pass.

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