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Are hoodies thug gear? — Joe Gandelman

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He is Editor-in-Chief of “The Moderate Voice,” an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He can be reached at jgandelman@themoderatevoice.com. His column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He is Editor-in-Chief of “The Moderate Voice,” an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He can be reached at jgandelman@themoderatevoice.com. His column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

If someone shoots a person wearing a hoodie, could it be partially explained because it made the person look like a menacing gangster? Apparently that continues to be the view of Fox News’ fading, mustachioed news personality Geraldo Rivera, who is at it again. Rivera seems stuck in defending racial-profiling mode as he again calls hoodies provocative “thug gear.”

Rivera’s exercise in wardrobe defining is not as it seems at first glance, although if it was true, hoodie manufacturers could simplify things: why not just print logos of targets on hoodies’ backs?

Rivera first raised the hoodie-as-dangerous-clothing in battle cry in March, when he said on Fox News while talking about Florida Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman’s shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin: “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman.”

George Washington Law School Professor Jonathan Turley perfectly summarized the context on his blog: “While the parents of Trayvon Martin are saying that he is wearing a hoodie in Heaven, Geraldo Rivera went on the air to denounce hoodies as evil garments causing the death of teenagers across the country.”

Rivera’s comment sparked howls of protest, including from many fans. He tweeted that his own son wrote to him saying he was “ashamed” of his position, but Rivera insisted, “I still feel parents must do what they can to keep their kids safe.” After a virtual national furor, Rivera apologized to Martin’s parents directly on TV, expressing his “deepest apologies,” and saying he was only warning parents of minority children about certain clothing.

Fair enough. But he recently seemingly issued a big “Never mind!” on laying his crusade to rest, pointing to 7-Eleven footage of Martin the night he was killed showing the hoodie-wearing teen. Aha, Rivera said, it showed he was wearing “thug gear.”

It’s sad to have watched Rivera’s descent into racially divisive thinking. When I was a student at the Medill School of Journalism in 1972, Rivera was a Peabody Award winner, a young TV investigative journalist who professors and students considered a role model. He symbolized what many felt journalism should become.

Over the years he discarded serious journalistic branding and hosted the 11-year run of “Geraldo,” a syndicated TV talk show that lowered the bar for daytime talk and was labeled “trash TV” by Time. Then he joined Fox News as a sometime reporter and always news personality. His star declined greatly over the years and NOT due to his age, but due to his own CHOICES.

Actually, hoodies are to thug gear what Rivera is to serious journalism and thoughtful commentary.

Hoodies date back to Medieval Europe, starting as formal wear for monks and became popular in the U.S. in the 30s But, according to Rivera, they are “thug gear.”

I’ve been in schools all over the country where kids of all ages wear hoodies. So a first-grader is dressed like a thug? I’ve seen teachers in hoodies. At a rest stop near in Oregon several 30-ish white adults men and women wore them.

So if little Joe Gandelman, who lives in California and was bar mitzvahed in Connecticut, and whose teenage years are ancient history, is wearing a hoodie at night and is shot, it was because he was wearing thug gear?

Should we assume all these kids in schools and all these adults who wear hoodies are wearing “thug wear” because gang members wear them, too?

Should we assume anyone who has a moustache is silly and sensationalistic because Rivera wears one, too?

Rivera contends a black or Latino young person walking at night wearing “thug gear” is, in effect, asking for it, due to perceptions rooted in racism and media. So these now become a justification or mitigating factor to ending someone’s life? Or if that does occur is someone who physically acts due to perceptions committing a hate crime?

I have a wardrobe suggestion for Geraldo Rivera: a nice, big roll of duct tape that he should put over his racial-profiling-enabling mouth.

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at jgandelman@themoderatevoice.com and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.