OUR VIEW: Hoodies, prejudice and death

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 12:05 PM

Editorial Board

Remarking on the shooting death of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, and the resulting protests of the racially charged incident, TV newsman Geraldo Rivera blamed the teen's death on his wearing a hoodie on a dark night. Rivera has come under criticism for this statement, particularly: "I am urging the parents of black and latino youngsters particularly not to let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was."

We can understand why Rivera's comments were criticized. Attire should not matter in a person's death. Would Rivera accuse a woman wearing a short skirt of getting raped because of her sexy appearance? If George Zimmerman felt threatened by the hoodie Martin was wearing, that's a reflection of his own bigotry. However, we'll give Rivera credit enough to understand that he was talking as a parent of teen boys, one who understands that what occurred to Trayvon Martin is frankly, a danger that is more exclusive to Hispanic or black teen males.

Trayvon Martin's death should be investigated thoroughly. We will not -- at this time -- echo calls that the shooter, George Zimmerman, should be arrested and jailed. We simply don't know enough yet about what happened. If the case ends up with no witnesses, there may never be criminal charges filed that directly address Martin's death. Civil charges, or criminal charges regarding Zimmerman's behavior -- he failed to obey a 911 law enforcement operator's request that he not pursue Martin -- may be another matter.

Here are two sensible steps that should be taken following the Martin case. One, neighborhoods and municipalities need to be very careful about allowing volunteers to be armed for so-called neighborhood watch patrols. Perhaps psychological evaluations should be required. At the least, wanna-be cops, such as Zimmerman, should not be armed when patrolling in an quasi-"law enforcement" capacity. If Zimmerman had not been armed, Martin would be alive.

Also, more must understand that what a person wears, or puts on their body, should not induce bigotry. Hoodies are not crime signals.

A generation or two ago, tattoos may have caused someone to lose out on a job. We've gotten over that discrimination. We need to get past the bigotry over attire as well.

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