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 if Zimmerman is a racist. Yet I'm tired of politicians and others who have donned hoodies in solidarity with Martin and who essentially suggest that I am a racist for recognizing the reality of urban crime in America. 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, like her, 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 unaccountably 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 that young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. In New York City, blacks comprise 23.4 percent 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.
Those statistics represent the justification for New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk program, which amounts to racial profiling writ large. After all, if young black males are your shooters then it ought to be young black males that the cops stop and frisk. Still, common sense and common decency -- not to mention the law -- insist on other variables such as suspicious behavior, but race is a factor, without a doubt. It would be senseless for the cops to be stopping Danish tourists in Times Square just to make the statistics look good.