When something horrible happens, we often have a natural impulse to find an explanation for the event.
For the most part, we want to assure ourselves that nothing like that could ever happen to us.
So when we hear that someone was shot or killed, we often think, “Well, if that person hadn’t been doing this or that, then he or she wouldn’t have been in that situation.”
But our instinctive drive for self-assurance often leads us to form simplistic explanations for more complicated situations.
On Friday’s episode of “Fox & Friends,” a morning news show on Fox News, “Geraldo At Large” host Geraldo Rivera fell victim to this urge to simplistically rationalize horrible events when he was discussing the Trayvon Martin shooting.
So that his statements are not taken out of context, it is important to look at the entire quote.
Rivera said the following:
“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.”
He went on to argue that hoodies carry with them an instant association of criminal activity, saying that some people who see you wearing a hoodie “are going to perceive you as a menace.”
First of all, this assumption that a hoodie caused the altercation between Zimmerman and Martin and the subsequent shooting of Martin is irresponsible, considering we have nothing but eyewitness accounts of the event.
Second, to say that the victim was responsible for his own death due to the fact that he was wearing a hoodie creates an unnecessary stigma on a piece of clothing based on little to no evidence.
Third, it is insulting to minorities to say they cannot wear certain articles of clothing without appearing to be criminals.
And finally, this blame-the-victim mentality can have serious consequences on public opinion.
This is equivalent to blaming women who wear short skirts for being raped. It might be easy to think, “She would not have been raped if she weren’t dressed like that,” but it would be irresponsible.
Rapists do not discriminate based on clothing, and they do not randomly get the idea to rape someone based on a short skirt or a revealing outfit.
Rivera likely jumped to such nonsensical conclusions to ease his fears that something like this could happen to someone close to him.
But he should realize that there was likely more to the story of what happened that unfortunate evening, and he should not be trying to comfort his irrational fears on national television.