Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen Gets Called A Racist

The first thing you need to know is I’m not defending anything Richard Cohen has previously written, I’m only talking about one particular column. And yes, I’m sorry my liberal friends, but I will stop and think and consider my response to a column before shooting my mouth off. Unfortunately I believe many liberals have done just that in response to Richard Cohen’s recent Washington Post article (“Christie’s tea-party problem“). Many are calling Cohen a racist, and this is the specific paragraph many liberals have focused on:

Richard Cohen: Christie’s tea party problem – The Washington Post — 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.

Okay, out of context that doesn’t look good, and it’s true that Cohen has written some questionable and/or offensive pieces in the past, but if you read this entire article, it’s clear he is talking about the way many Tea Party members think, not the way he thinks. — But does he actually think this way? I don’t know. I guess he’s given us plenty of reasons in previous columns to think so. Combine that with these two errors in his piece, and it serves to fuel the left-wing anger.

1. I don’t know why he starts the paragraph by saying, “Today’s GOP is not racist,” when clearly it is. That doesn’t mean every Republican is a racist, but if you are racist, you likely vote Republican. But believing the GOP is not racist does not automatically make someone a racist. Maybe they are simply overcompensating in a bipartisan effort to unite the country, or maybe they are simply mistaken. But you are going to need more evidence than this to call someone a racist.

2. The use of the word “conventional” to describe the views of people who have a “gag reflex” when considering “a white man married to a black woman” is to say the least, a poor choice of adjectives, but we know what he means. Or at least we know what he means if not jumping to conclusions in knee-jerk fashion.

Even if Cohen thinks the GOP is not racist, and even if he chose a poor word to describe racists, that does not make him a racist. Have we actually reached a level of political correctness that warrants a label of racist for someone who describes racist-think? Maybe I’m missing something here, and maybe fellow liberals can point out where I’m wrong, but I see nothing in this piece that warrants a charge of racism. And in fact, Cohen is pretty spot on in his analysis outside of these two errors.

I’m not defending anything he has written in the past, but Cohen does not deserve to be called a racist on the merits of this piece. His previous work is where this reaction stems from, and maybe it’s justified. I mean, I know Cohen has written some incredibly inflammatory articles in the past. Like saying, “The first thing you should know about the so-called Steubenville Rape is that this was not a rape involving intercourse. ” Like that should matter? Or when he said, “Especially in cities like Washington and New York, the menace comes from young black males. Both blacks and whites believe those young black males are the ones most likely to bop them over the head.” Yeah, neither of those quotes are going to win you an empathy award. But maybe we should save charges of racism for pieces that reflect a clear and present bigotry that can be directly attributed to the author.

But what do you think? Is this an unworthy defense?

Richard cohen


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