A Letter to Geraldo Rivera from a Hoodie-Wearing Black Latina

(Originally posted on NewsTaco.com)

Dear Geraldo,

A three-piece suit and a tie would not have saved Trayvon Martin’s life.  Urging black and Latino parents to “not let their children go out wearing hoodies” and saying that the 17 year-old’s hoodie holds as much culpability as the murderer who snuffed out his life is a dangerous line of thought. Trayvon’s hoodie did not end his life — George Zimmerman did. Wearing a hoodie is not a crime, shooting an innocent person is.

Trayvon Martin is dead, George Zimmerman walks.

Refusing to call racism by its rightful name allows it to continue unchecked. Let’s call this what it is. Trayvon was killed because George Zimmerman thought his skin color made him “suspicious” — not his hoodie.  Saying that Trayvon was murdered because of his wardrobe choice is akin to saying that he is responsible for George Zimmerman’s decision to aim a gun at Trayvon’s chest and pull the trigger. Trayvon’s attire did not identify him as a threat, or a criminal.

Frankly, I’m not surprised at your comments. I’ve met your kind before.  Growing up, my parents taught me that being black meant it was not good enough to just be “good enough.” I had to be exceptional, overcompensate with intelligence, charm, and a pleasant appearance to combat society’s preconceived notions of people of color. I excelled academically, honed my interpersonal skills, and dressed professionally at every turn to defy the gross stereotypes that would prove to still cloud others’ view of me.  Despite all of this, to people who abide by the false constructs of racism and its byproducts, I was still unworthy of the values this country boasts, whether I wore a suit or sweats.

See, Geraldo, it’s not the clothes that matter; it’s the skin that lies underneath that has inherited hundreds of years of legalized discrimination that makes me an object of hate in this country.  It’s the same skin that allows you to excuse the murder of an innocent teenager because of he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. It’s the same skin that makes every person of color a possible threat to society. It’s the same skin that apparently makes some children’s lives worth less than others.

Signed,

Jackeline Stewart, A Hoodie-Wearing Black Latina

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