Readers share complicated, conflicting views on race

Protesters at a rally honoring Trayvon Martin in Manhattan on July 14. (Mario Tama/Getty Images) People hold photos of Trayvon Martin at a rally honoring Martin at Union Square in Manhattan on July 14. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Richard Cohen’s column on the Florida jury’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin dominates our reader comment boards with more than 3,700 responses that summarize the complicated and conflicting views we hold about race and race relations.

Cohen writes, “I don’t know whether Zimmerman is a racist. But 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 hoodie blinds them as much as it did Zimmerman.”

And Cohen asks, “Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males?”

We’ll start with JudyJupiter, who wrote that “Trayvon had two parents. Trayvon had NO record. He was unarmed. He was going home to watch a game. Zimmerman had a record of violence, was armed, and was out looking for trouble.”

Patient Sailor said, “Amen. When society loses a 17yr old to a shooting it is a scar on our society. I felt his family distinguished themselves throughout the trial even though the pain of their loss had to be overwhelming.”

AnnsThought wrote, “To claim there isn’t a problem with racial bias flies in the face of reality. What hurts the population most? A few stolen TV’s, or the abundance of white collar crime such [as] antitrust violations, tax evasion, insider trading, bribery and public corruption, money laundering, embezzlement, economic espionage, trade secret theft, computer fraud, credit card fraud, telemarketing fraud, insurance fraud, health insurance claim fraud, etc. etc.”

scott3 asked, “Does ‘doing nothing wrong’ include pounding heads into pavement?”

rock_student opined, “Its a tragedy, no matter the legal verdict. I think that is the essence of why people protested. The protest doesn’t change the case, it is more about social change and paying attention.”

Nar18 wrote, “I love the ambiguity: ‘Zimmerman was out looking for trouble.’ Yes, he was out looking for whoever was responsible for the recent robberies.”

teejackson_93 said, “I am … appalled by this article. I consider myself to be an articulate human being, but I am almost speechless at Mr. Cohen’s opinions. So, the conclusion is that because a minority fragment of a minority group is reported to be involved in violent crime, then we’re all guilty because we COULD BE ‘suspicious’? What do I have to do to pass your test for normalcy? Do I have to attend a certain school? Live in a certain neighborhood? Drive a certain car? Know the ‘right’ people? Wear certain designers? Shop in certain stores? What is it?! Tell me. So I can explain it to my 8-year-old godson. So I can be approached with common decency and respect, just like I do with everyone else.”

Purpledrank wrote, “Cohen says no existing program will ‘fix’ racism. It’s a cultural thing, that culture must fix. The problem with that is, racism is still enshrined in law, as witnessed in disparities in sentencing and the application of the death penalty. So there are measures we can take within the legal system to address inequalities that perpetuate racial division. And pretending there aren’t such measurable phenomena, and that there are no legal solutions, makes the author a willing participant in our systemically racist justice system.”

jheath53 said, “…What Cohen doesn’t get is that the fear of black crime is a transitory experience, while the oppression of being a young black man is a daily occurence. If you’re a young black man, people follow you around stores waiting for you to steal something. If you’re a young black man, taxis pass you by as if you were not there. If you’re a young black man, people move away from you on public transportation. That’s a daily occurence. Cohen tries to imply that even President Obama shared the same fear that he has of young black men when living on the edge of Harlem while a student at Columbia. Trust me, Obama’s experience as a young black man was far harder than the occasional fear of being mugged… Cohen is allowing Zimmerman’s bigoted fear to rationalize his crime. That’s racism.”

We’ll close with jrmelchi, who wrote, “Cohen says that 78% of shooting suspects are black males. But what percentage of black males are criminals (a minority percentage I would guess)? Don’t a lot of people where hoodies; and baggy pants for that matter? I do. The point is, Zimmerman was not a police officer. He does not work in dealing with these complexities, and he displayed a gross neglect of judgment in handling of the situation. And that led to Trayvon’s death.”

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