In a career marked by slavishness, credulity, and wooden sentiment, Richard Cohen surpassed himself a couple days ago, with another stupid column, whose contents I can summarize thusly: “Black men, I’m sorry that I must consider you a threat, despite the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. I know. It’s hard. Tough shit.” Ta-Nehisi Coates shakes his head:
I think we would concede that it would be wrong of me to assume that every Jewish person I meet is good at chess, physics or medicine. This year I am working at MIT where a disproportionate number of the students are Asian-Americans. It would be no more wise for me to take from that experience that individual Asian-Americans are good at math, then it would be for anyone to look at the NBA and assume I am good at basketball. And we would agree with this because generally hold that people deserve to be seen as individuals. But by Cohen’s logic, the fact of being an African-American is an exception to this.
Perhaps the standards should be different when it comes to public safety and violence. But New York City’s murder rate is as low as it has been in 50 years. How long should a racist public-safety tax last? Until black people no longer constitute a disproportionate share of our violent criminals, one assumes. But black people do not constitute such a group — victims of hundreds of years of racist state policy constitute that group. “Black on Black” crime is the racecraft by which the fact of what was done to us disappears, and the fact of our DNA becomes criminalized.