WaPo Columnist Richard Cohen’s Racism Problem

shutterstock_113481784__1384365304_142.196.156.251Yesterday, The Washington Post published an op-ed column by Richard Cohen – that made a bleak attempt to try to explain how some Tea Party conservatives feel about certain aspects of American life – namely interracial relationships. Cohen understands why interracial relationships make some conservatives gag, and tries to break it down for the rest of us:

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled—about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts—but not all—of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

Oh – they’re not racist! They’re just deeply troubled. It’s deeply troubling for them to imagine blacks and whites falling in love and making families. Cohen is just trying to put that all into context for us. He’s not racist. He just totally understands why interracial relationships are troubling to some – especially when you throw a healthy dose of lesbianism in for good measure.

Well, understandably, the sane people of the Internet freaked after they read his comments. I happen to be one of those sane people. But Cohen is taking the whole, “I’m incredibly offended you all find my racist comments, racist” stance that we all could have predicted he would take. He told the Huffpost yesterday:

“The word racist is truly hurtful. It’s not who I am. It’s not who I ever was. It’s just not fair. It’s just not right.”

Mkay. But it is who you are. Does anyone remember his thoughts on the George Zimmerman trial?

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.

Making racist statements and then following those statements with, But I’m not racist! And I’m horribly offended that you think I am! is an interesting tactic. It’s also tired – as is Cohen’s op-ed recipe. He managed to blame the Steubenville rapes on Miley Cyrus‘ twerking – that was a piece of work. Should we give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming he is so out of touch that he doesn’t understand that occasionally what he spews is racist, misogynistic crap?

I don’t think so.

What’s the point of trying to establish “context” for the racist reactions of some Tea Party conservatives anyway? This just seems counterintuitive to growing as a humans. How long do we have to justify racism? Why should the rest of us who have fully evolved seek to understand the fear and ignorance of those who haven’t? If Cohen truly isn’t racist – I don’t think he should bother himself with performing this “public service” anymore.

(photo: happystock/ Shutterstock)

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    • http://anniedeezy.tumblr.com/ Annie

      “The word racist is truly hurtful. It’s not who I am. It’s not who I ever was. It’s just not fair. It’s just not right.”

      http://danilocampos.com/2013/11/hey-bro-youre-being-insensitive/

    • Mystik Spiral

      “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children.”

      What. The. Actual. Fuck.

      “To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.”

      Well, thank gods it’s NOT “their country”. You know what causes ME to repress a gag reflex, Dick? Racism and homophobia. And douchenozzles like you, in general.

      • Andrea

        Yeah last I checked, it was also THEIR country for people of color too!

    • Danielle

      It’s really sad that we live in a world where people believe that being called a racist is just as hurtful as actually being a racist. What the ever loving hell? Racism kills people. It oppresses huge swaths of the population and puts millions of people at a socio-economic disadvantage from the day that they are born. Being called a racist? It *should* result in re-examining your words/thoughts/actions but mostly it just hurts peoples’ feelings. Yeah, those things are totally equal (not). We do not live in a post-racial world. Race still has a huge impact on everything from hiring practices to the criminal justice system to politics. Anyone who believes otherwise needs a serious education, stat.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

        I know. That always boggles the mind.

    • alice

      This blew my mind when I read it. I had to email my (culturally conservative) parents yesterday to ask if they, or anyone they knew, found interracial marriage to be wrong. They both responded with a resounding NO. (phew)

      Cohen later explained that he was speculating about Tea Party radicals only, not all of them, and certainly not all of the GOP. But even so: why does he apologize for these radicals by clarifying for us that they aren’t racist…just “deeply troubled” ?

      What the fuck does that mean?

      Many states in our country have allowed interracial marriage since the 1800’s.

      In 1967, it was federally declared legal in all states. That’s almost 50 years ago.

      How long do we grant these few cultural conservatives their “deeply troubled” adjustment period before we can safely assume THEY ARE JUST FUCKING RACIST ?

      • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

        I think he was being sarcastic and with his remarks about De Blasio’s family actually calling the GOP (or at least the Tea Party) racist. Maybe I am giving him too much credit here, and I’m not a fan of his, but he did say some insulting shiz about both Cruz and Palin in the same post.

      • alice

        i tried rereading it as satire, but still don’t see it.

        compounded with his remarks about T.Martin, and the article he wrote last week reviewing “12 Years a Slave,” and he just comes off as a closet racist, patting himself on the back for not being as racist as *those guys over there

      • elle

        Yep that’s why I have a really hard time believing it is satire as well….between his fauxpology, that review and the Zimmerman comments I’m pretty skeptical of his allegations he isn’t racist.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

        You are giving him WAY too much credit.

      • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

        YEAH I did some Googling after I finished up some work this evening, I definitely was. He’s a grade A douchenozzel. I still think this particular post read a bit like satire, but I’m guessing it wasn’t his intention. I don’t think he’s much of a Palin fan still, but he’s definitely a racist assmunch.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Don’t get me wrong, I am NO fan of Cohen, I think he’s a party of the good ol’ boys club that is thankfully being phased out of America (I hope? fingers crossed?) but did anyone else read his WaPo piece as satirical?

      In the same piece he referred to Palin as illiterate and joked that he didn’t think it was possible for anyone to be as far right wing as Cruz. I also think he made a decent point about Tea Partiers cutting off their nose to spite their face by supporting Cruz over Christie, much like the Dixiecrats supported MEGA racist Strom Thurmond over Harry Truman.

      I read his post less as being from a serious conservative, and more as one from a moderate conservative mocking the far right wing. I mean, I am as liberal as they get, so it pains me to defend Cohen (especially considering his awful remarks on the Trayvon Martin case) but I think people might be misreading this particular piece.

      • Danielle

        If satire was Cohen’s intent, then that’s how he should have explained his remarks. It would have been very easy for him to say something to the effect of, “While I can see how my op-ed might be construed as racist, that was not my intention. The piece was meant to satirize how the extreme right wing still views race…” Instead we get the standard non-apology of, “I’m not racist and being called a racist hurts my feelings,” which, if he meant to be satirical, undermines his point.

        The whole piece just reeks of apologism. If it wasn’t meant to come across that way then his writing skills could use some polishing (and he should probably get someone to give his work a once over before submission).

      • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

        I will admit, I’m not a frequent Cohen reader (I try to stay as far away from WaPo as I can), and yeah, if it was satire is wasn’t good satire, for sure.

      • Elle

        I’ve read other people who also opine that it is satire. I definitely didn’t read it that way. If it is it is ridiculously terrible satire and if almost everyone is “misreading it” (I have seen a few few defenses of it) then that’s a problem that falls with Cohen not the reader.

      • Katia

        I read it as satire too. Its not the most fabulous, or well edited or thoughtful piece. But neither is this review of it ^^
        It would help if Cohen could clarify why he believes that anyone who gags at interracial marriages is not necessarily racist. If he has any logic there ? I don’t get it ?

    • brebay

      Well said! It’s the same old, tired, “You’re intolerant if you don’t tolerate my intolerance” line, and it’s no more logical now than it was when a country free of slavery didn’t “look like” our Founding Fathers’ nation anymore.

    • Annona

      Wow. You know when I find myself “deeply troubled” by the romantic relationships of other adults? When one of them is abusing the other. Otherwise…love is great, period. “Cultural conservatives” sounds more like “cultural busybodies” to me.

    • Justme

      Stephen Colbert went on an epic, satire-filled rant against Cohen the other night. If I had energy and wasn’t in terrible pain…I’d Google the video for you.