Was Zimmerman Right to Fear Trayvon Martin?

It wasn't racism that caused George Zimmerman to be suspicious of Trayvon Martin, says Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. It was statistics showing that young black males commit a disproportionate number of crimes.

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Demonstrations in New York City (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

It wasn't racism that caused George Zimmerman to be suspicious of Trayvon Martin, says Richard Cohen in the the Washington Post. It was statistics showing that young black males commit a disproportionate number of crimes.

I don't like what George Zimmerman did, and I hate that Trayvon Martin is dead. But I also can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize. 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.

One of those who quickly donned a hoodie was Christine Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council. Quinn was hardly a lonesome panderer. Lesser politicians joined her and, as she did, pronounced Zimmerman a criminal. "What George Zimmerman did was wrong, was a crime," Quinn said before knowing all of the facts and before the jury uncooperatively found otherwise. She was half-right. What Zimmerman did was wrong. It was not, by verdict of his peers, a crime.

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? This does not mean that raw racism has disappeared, and some judgments are not the product of invidious stereotyping. It does mean, though, that the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. In New York City, blacks make up a quarter of the population, yet they represent 78 percent of all shooting suspects -- almost all of them young men. We know them from the nightly news.

Read Richard Cohen's entire piece at the Washington Post.

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