Richard Cohen Thinks Trayvon Martin Was ‘Understandably Suspected’ Because of Blackness, Hoodie

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Photo: Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan

Aging, white Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is just going to come right out and say it: Young black men are scary. Although he claims to "hate that Trayvon Martin is dead," he "also can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize." That is, dark skin and a hooded sweatshirt. To anyone who has donned a similar "uniform" in solidarity with the dead, unarmed 17-year-old, Cohen writes, "The hoodie blinds them as much as it did Zimmerman," which makes no sense. But onward with his dubious argument. 

Cohen continues to state his case — everyone is actually terrified of black men, and that's okay — by cherry-picking crime statistics from New York City, more than 1,000 miles north of where Martin was killed in a gated Florida subdivision. Never mind that crime rates are falling, and among African-Americans, too, but Cohen argues that "if young black males are your shooters, then it ought to be young black males whom the police stop and frisk."

George Zimmerman, of course, was not actually an agent of law enforcement, and Martin was not carrying a gun or committing a crime. But in Cohen's line of thinking, Martin looked like people who sometimes do: "There's no doubt in my mind that Zimmerman profiled Martin and, braced by a gun, set off in quest of heroism," he concludes. "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."

Hoodies, Cohen confirmed in an interview with Politico, are "worn by a whole lot of thugs. Look in the newspapers, online or on television: you see a lot of guys in the mugshots wearing hoodies." (Geraldo Rivera made the same argument last year but later apologized.) And Mark Zuckerberg's head-covering piece of fabric? "Right, so it's the uniform of billionaires and thugs," said Cohen "with a chuckle." It's all pretty amusing, you see, to take a shooting that occurred inarguably after an act of profiling only to assert that what we really need, as a society, is to be okay with more profiling.