Richard Cohen, the one-time liberal Washington Post columnist (who has skewed right with Israel), is weirdly and irascibly tough in this column welcoming the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida last year. I see the column is getting mocked widely, and many are describing Cohen’s argument as racist. Cohen moves on from statistics showing the high percentage of urban shootings alleged to be committed by young black men to angry, crude generalizations about Martin being justly “suspected because he was black,” and meditations about Barry Obama’s life “on the lip” of Harlem:
Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize [a hoodie]…
I’m tired of politicians and others who have donned hoodies in solidarity with Martin and who essentially suggest that, for recognizing the reality of urban crime in the United States, I am a racist…
The problems of the black underclass are hardly new. They are surely the product of slavery, the subsequent Jim Crow era and the tenacious persistence of racism. They will be solved someday, but not probably with any existing programs. For want of a better word, the problem is cultural, and it will be solved when the culture, somehow, is changed….
At one time, I thought Barack Obama would bring the problem into the open and remove the racist stigma. Instead, he perpetuated it. In his acclaimed Philadelphia speech on race, he cited his grandmother as “a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street.”
How about the former Barry Obama? When he was a Columbia University student living on the lip of then-dangerous Harlem, did he never have the same fear?
There’s no doubt in my mind that Zimmerman profiled Martin and, braced by a gun, set off in quest of heroism. The result was a quintessentially American tragedy — the death of a young man understandably suspected because he was black and tragically dead for the same reason.