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Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen: Black People Are Scary

Commenting on Zimmerman case, admittedly racist columnist explains how hoodies are the "uniform" of criminals.

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It could be argued that politicians and public officials everywhere are addressing the fears of Richard Cohen, and they are doing so by locking a breathtaking number of young black men in prison, in addition to regularly stopping and harassing them on the streets of large American cities. But Cohen doesn’t concern himself with that. What he wants is for politicians — liberal politicians, preferably black ones — to tell him that it is OK to be scared of black people.

Here is Cohen in 2012,  sort of defending stop-and-frisk, and again invoking the story of Trayvon Martin as an opportunity to discus America’s single most pressing racial issue, people calling Richard Cohen racist:

As with the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, race is not only a complicating and highly emotional factor but one that does not always get discussed in an open manner. A suffocating silence blankets these incidents. Accusations of racism are hurled at those who so much as mention the abysmal homicide statistics — about half of all murders are committed by blacks, who represent just 12.6 percent of the population — and they come, more often than not, from liberals who advocate candor in (almost) all things. Others reply as if there are not basic questions of civil rights and civil liberties at stake.

It never occurs to Cohen that perhaps accusations of racism hurled at Richard Cohen constitute the “open discussion” he is so desperate for.

Cohen is not always such such a fan of “open” discussions, as we learned in 2006, when he built an entire column around the fact that he’d received a lot of emails criticizing and insulting him. In that column he described getting a lot of mean emails as  being the target of “a digital lynch mob,” so, yes, this is definitely the right guy for an informed and constructive conversation on race in America.

As a man who still somewhat incoherently clings to the label of “liberal,” Cohen does acknowledge, in what amounts to an aside in this week’s column, that there are some complicating factors in his diagnosis of Black Criminality:

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.

Whoops, we created a huge impoverished underclass. There is probably nothing we can do for them now, and they scare me, so they should work on fixing their “culture.”

The problem actually is cultural. It’s the culture that created and still coddles Richard Cohens.

Alex Pareene
Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene