Bob Herbert vs. Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen, last week:

For most Americans, race has become supremely irrelevant. Everyone knows this. Every poll shows this. Maybe the Supreme Court will recognize this.

I don't know if Bob Herbert's excellent column today was meant to be a response to Cohen. Indeed, I rather doubt it. But Cohen's remarkably optimistic assessment came to mind while reading Herbert:

[T]he press is still very color conscious in the way it goes about covering murder. Editors may not be asking, “What color is that victim?” But, on some level, they're still thinking it.

Which is why we've heard so little about an awful story out of Chicago. Some three dozen public school students have been murdered since the school year began, most of them shot to death. These children and teenagers have been killed in a wide variety of settings and situations — while riding a city bus, playing in parks, sitting in the back seats of cars, in gang disputes, in robberies, in the crossfire of sidewalk shootouts.

It's an immense and continuing tragedy. But these were nearly all African-American or Latino kids, so the coverage has been scant.

In contrast, the news media gave the public enormous amounts of information about the Wesleyan student, Johanna Justin-Jinich, and — in another big story — about Julissa Brisman, the masseuse who had advertised on Craigslist and was killed in a Boston hotel room last month.

It's a searing double-standard that tells us volumes about the ways in which we view one another, and whose lives are considered to have value in this society and whose are not. Another disturbing aspect of the coverage is the extreme prurient interest that drives it. The press goes wild over stories about murderous attacks on women who are young, attractive and white.

Read the rest.