This is the part of that “I’m not racist, I just don’t trust young black men because they’re young black men” column of Richard Cohen’s that made me drop the forkful of pancakes:

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.

Emphasis mine. The whole thing is a masterpiece of the “LOOK AT ME BEING BRAVE ENOUGH TO SAY BLACK PEOPLE HAVE PROBLEMS” genre, as if there are no black writers writing about problems within African-American populations nor any intelligent white writers either. As if Cohen deserves some kind of cookie for saying what every third comfortable middle-class asshole says over every third dinner. As if “a lot of black people suck” is some kind of pioneering moral stand.

Plenty of people have had at this thing for its conflation of “I saw a black dude on the news” with “all black people,” for its lack of understanding of basic crime statistics and for its staggeringly bad fashion advice. But the part I bolded is, to me, the absolute worst.

Understandably. Trayvon Martin was UNDERSTANDABLY suspected. Understandably.

The dismissiveness of it is breathtaking.

Understandably to whom? Somebody white? Somebody who’s never met a young black man? Somebody who cannot picture a son or a daughter or a friend or a neighbor in Trayvon Martin’s place? Somebody who lives isolated from anybody who’s different? Somebody who’s never experienced prejudice or unjust treatment or God forbid brutality? Exactly who will understand this? Exactly who feels this is perfectly okay?

Cohen, presumably, and he clearly thinks his experience is universal. Let us all, for the sake of our immortal souls, hope not.

I wish this was just about one old vaguely racist choad. But for this to have to get past editors and into the paper, many people had to conclude that the audience for such a sentiment is the audience for the paper, and you want to know why newspapers are dying? THIS. This bloodless, status-quo, don’t-move-stay-still horseshit masquerading as commentary. Addressing the white, the old, the scared as if they’re the norm, just like every other form of media that presumes stupidity in its audience and thus ensures that’s exactly what they’ll get.

Columns like this, from newsrooms’ leading lights, telling people to and be less and be smaller and to be proud of that, for fuck’s sake, to feel “politically incorrect” and thus daring in their regression, are a sin against the newsprint columnists are given. They’re a sin against the human commandment. Telling people to sit back and be scared and not challenge themselves or think, for God’s sake, about anything other than what they already know, should be punishable in one of Dante’s circles: Here dwell the chroniclers who in moments of truth shut their eyes.

Understandably suspected. I could have stood it, I said on Facebook when Simels pointed this atrocity out, if Cohen had said “unjustly but all too commonly suspected” and had gone on to excoriate the moral cowards who think their deepest fears and racial paranoia JUSTIFY A HOMICIDE, that would have been one thing. Instead he’s saying they should glory in those fears, and feel that they should feel good about them. Understandably.


6 thoughts on “Understandably

  1. Cohen is proof positive that some people become progressively bigger assholes as they get older.

  2. Cut him some slack, he wouldn’t understand because it’s not like anyone with the name COHEN has ever been unjustly mistreated because of their ethnic background.

  3. A, I hate to say it but, ” Addressing the white, the old, the scared as if they’re the norm,”, are the norm for that particular group of people.
    They are scared of everything that isn’t painted red, (mostly) white and blue.
    So yeah, he had it right. Unfortunately.

  4. “Understandably suspected because he was black” is the very definition of prejudice and stereotyping. Put in any other race, ethnicity, or nationality and let’s see the reaction — my guess is at the least outrage, and that Cohen might well get the axe.

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