The “conventional” racism of Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen is a long-time columnist for the Washington Post. He’s been catching nine different flavors of Hell — and deservedly so — for a column he wrote on Monday.

The column was mainly about the GOP’s Tea Party problem, and inability to avoid far-right extremist litmus tests for its candidates, but he also offered the following observational steaming-nugget of ‘folksy’ wisdom:

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. (Emphasis added.)

Richard Cohen, Washington Post columnist

Richard Cohen, Washington Post columnist

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: No Richard — you should not mention that Chirlane McCray ‘used to be a lesbian.’ What she is, is a woman who identified as lesbian, but is obviously bisexual. She wouldn’t be the first person to have experienced this kind of self-discovery. (I’m also going to fight mightily against my impulses to digress to rebuttals of Cohen’s misogynistic and homophobic essays over the last 20-30 years.)

On to the horns of the racism dilemma: Is Cohen so dense that he’s incapable of assessing a racist belief unless it’s wearing a Klan hood and sporting Nazi prison tattoos?

Or is he himself what I like to term “casual racist” — the sort of people who insist they’re not racist at all, except for when they let slip they actually are. Or is the truth of it even more dismaying?

How thick and denial-ridden can someone be to judge an impulse to vomit upon seeing an interracial couple and their kids as a merely “conventional,” but not quite racist, attitude? The only correct way to have written that sentence would have been to say, “People with racist views must suppress a gag reflex…

Cohen defended himself yesterday to the Huffington Post, telling the publication’s Ryan Grim and Katherine Fung that: “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.”

Well, I disagree.

This isn’t Cohen’s first brush with accusations of racism, and he’s been around a long time. In 1986, he defended store owners banning African American boys — for fear of crime, y’see. More recently, Cohen said it was understandable that George Zimmerman should be suspicious of Trayvon Martin — for being black, young, and “wearing a uniform we all recognize.” He’s got problems with affirmative action, too.

Racism may be commonplace yet in America, but that doesn’t make it ‘conventional.’ Two generations ago, it was consider shocking enough that the very idea of an interracial couple and the social issues associated with such was the subject of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” — the 1967 classic Hepburn/Tracy movie, with Sidney Poitier.

Back then, an interracial marriage was decidedly ‘unconventional.’ Probably in large part because it was illegal in a number of states, and opposed by 70% of the population. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia — coincidentally decided that same year, 1967 — made it clear that all anti-miscegenation laws throughout the country were unconstitutional. Null and void.

Twenty years later, in the mid 80s, interracial marriages were still not very common — but that only made them ‘uncommon,’ not ‘unconventional.’

You see, the real problem I have with Cohen’s use of the word ‘conventional’ is that he lends legitimacy to blatantly racist beliefs. The unavoidable connotation of the word ‘conventional’ is that it’s normal, accepted, and preferred by most.

In fact, the counter can’t be avoided: Cohen believes that people who don’t have a problem with interracial couples, who don’t feel an urge to vomit upon seeing them, are ‘unconventional.’ Unusual. Out of the ordinary.

Apparently in Cohen’s America, people free of racist bigotry aren’t the norm. Racial acceptance and tolerance are newfangled cultural inventions, avante-garde notions yet to be mainstreamed. So by his standard, he actually believes large numbers of salt-of-the-earth, tradition-minded, good-hearted folks have the urge to blow chunks when seeing an interracial couple and their kids.

News flash, Richard: Those aren’t good-hearted ‘conventional’ people. They’re bigoted racists.

We’re coming up on half a century where it’s been illegal to ban people of different races from marrying — and  Cohen seems to think the very notion is weird and controversial.

And to my mind, he digs his own rhetorical grave even deeper as he tries to claim that today’s GOP isn’t racist.

Guess Who's Coming to DinnerI’m sorry, but that’s not how many of us out here — outside the Beltway Bubble — see it. From Lee Atwater’s “Southern Strategy” onward, it’s been one racist (and sexist, and homophobic, and anti-immigrant) policy, position, and party plank after another.

Reagan with his “Cadillac-driving welfare mothers” George W Bush with his Willie Horton ads. Gingrich and the GOP’s “T-bone steak-eating young bucks” as an excuse to dismantle welfare. The New Black Panthers (both of them) and ACORN.

And now we have the entire Republican party working obsessively to reinstate Jim Crow-era voting laws — voter suppression measures directed specifically at African Americans who, by stint of not being rich or white, tend to vote Democratic.

In closing, I’d like to pick apart that paragraph one more time — but with my commentary and rebuttals within.

“Today’s GOP is not racist–“ A political party, not being a person, can’t be racist, true. But they certainly do coddle racists, and have on more than one occasion adopted overtly racist policies. Let’s roll that tape of Mr. Horton again, shall we?

“as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party–“ Mr. Belafonte also made it clear he felt the Tea Party was merely an extension of the Republican party. By the way, it’s not just Harlem-born entertainers who allege this — lots of white folks think the Tea Party is infested with racists, too.

“but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government–“ Except when they’re in power, and they object not at all to the expansion of the military and national security state. In fact, their ‘deeply troubled’ is contrary to the fact the government has for the last half century always grown faster under Republican administrations than Democratic ones.

“about immigration, about secularism–“ They’re not troubled about these things at all. The GOP is against immigration, especially when we’re talking about brown people. Marco Rubio has learned that lesson already. And they are absolutely against the very notion of freedom FROM Christian fundamentalist religion.

“about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde.” Republicans still hate hippies. And snooty French art. Got it.

“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.” I am still fascinated how racism so virulent it brings on an urge to vomit is considered merely ‘conventional’ to Mr. Cohen. Normal. Common. Generally accepted. Mainstream.

“(Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?)” As before, no, you shouldn’t. Especially since you have no idea what the frig you’re talking about. You established decades ago you have no clue when it comes to sexual orientation and identity.

“This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America.” Sure, the non-‘Deliverance‘ parts. In most civilized locales, these families are… dare I say?… ‘conventional.’ Commonplace. Normal. Accepted.

“To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.” Only because they’re clinging to what they think their country should look like — white, Christian, heterosexual, sexist — and are stubbornly, vehemently, denying the reality of what OUR country actually does look like.

Let’s rewrite that last sentence, too, to what it should say: “To radical-conservative racist bigots, America doesn’t look like their idealized, racially-purified, Aryan fatherland at all.”

Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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111 Responses to “The “conventional” racism of Richard Cohen”

  1. lihartke says:

    “Left Wing media is tiny” LOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!!!! Tell me 20 interview questions of Obama that have been done in the last 5 years by ABC,CBS,NBC,CNN that are tough questions? YOU CAN’T! The President is a FRAUD and they COULD CARE LESS because it’s ‘their guy.” MEDIA IS EXACTLY THE TERM. PURE ENTERTAINMENT

  2. lihartke says:

    Judging every black person? Yes, they are all black aren’t they? That’s not a JUDGEMENT that’s a fact. LOLOL!! If I were black I would be absolutely embarrassed/mortified to have him as my “first black President.” Americas first black President is an ABSOLUTE DISGRACE to this nation. He is NOT QUALIFIED and is an ABSOLUTE FRAUD compared to what he ran on.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Judging all black people based on an individual? Yep, we’re the racists…not!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate your blubbering character attack in response to my valid point.

  5. Ante_Bergan says:

    I am impressed with your lack of reasoning. Is it typical for liberals in the USA?

  6. lihartke says:

    I am not sure I haven’t seen any. If I were going to compare the Obamas to anything or one it would be the “Sahily’s.” Because they are absolutely not QUALIFIED to be running this country. I am EMBARRASSED for every black person in this country. The “first black president” is a BUMBLING IDIOT.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York”
    I think your buddy Richard Cohen did that first.
    Aww, darn.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I guess all the pictures comparing the Obamas to monkeys come from Democrats? Keep dreaming. Your party is dead in the water.

  9. Ante_Bergan says:

    Oh, forgive me. I mistook you for giving a hand-job to your inner Übermensch. Of course, playing the role of the Untermensch in your mental play, I will easily let myself be shooed away from liberal sight.

  10. lihartke says:

    “TEA party racist” here- I’ll put my party up against your RACIST party anyday. Just because you get the majority of black voters does not mean they like you!LOLOL!!! Cut off their services and you will need to start running. Black people are in the Republican party because they are VALUED for themselves as INDIVIDUALS. They don’t need to be in the NAACP, or be in a labor union to get our attention. We love all black people regardless of their group affiliation. It was OUR PARTY that freed the slaves and your party that ENSLAVED THEM. It was your party that burned and lynched them and now your party that again ENSLAVES THEM. Black people if you want to be somebody someday to have dreams for yourself and your children to better your life and your child’s life to become who you would like to become then come on over to the Republican party where we believe that you are valuable just as you are and we will help you succeed. If not, stay in your cities where the Democrats decide just how much control you have over your own life but don’t foget to vote for them because if you don’t your pittance may not come.

  11. BeccaM says:

    Don’t make me laugh. It’s not bigotry to object to racism. Shoo, troll.

  12. Ante_Bergan says:

    Your description of the conservative opinion is as accurate as Joseph Goebbels description of jews. I`m sure is does help you uphold a typical liberal mind-set. Don`t stop producing these prejudices, you might have doubt about your world-view otherwise. In turn that doubt would give you a crisis of identity.

  13. Ante_Bergan says:

    Surely, you are doing exactly what you are accusing “they” for doing: prejuding an entire group based on their political orientation. Hence, you`re a bigot.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Classic case of projection – “I’m not a bigot, they are!” Of course, no bigot will actually come forward and admit they are one. Soon we will have NO bigots left, only people blaming the mythical bigots that never identify themselves.

  15. Anonymous says:

    The right-wing monologue always involves nationalism and scapegoating. Look at Russia today, and countless other countries that have suffered right-wing governments.

  16. Anonymous says:

    In short (just as in every other wingnut country), minorities shouldn’t get benefits because the majority hates playing fair; it’s too expensive. They also need someone to blame to avoid infighting. And you know if the majority weren’t white Catholics, they would still hate immigrants, gypsies, religious minorities or whatever other vagrants “ruin the country.” Whatever makes them feel better about starving children, workers, and massive war$ to bring democracy to countries sitting on money…

    Spoiler: the majority always wins; they know they’ll win as long as the minorities are under-represented. They just have to numb their consciences to feel okay with it. Case in point: “I’m not a racist…”

  17. BeccaM says:

    They don’t see themselves as being racist or bigoted because at their core, they think they’re right in prejudging entire groups of people based on race, background, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever.

    One reason I myself can’t let Richard Cohen off the hook comes from the many articles he’s written over the years, where he goes out of his way to excuse the racism of others — like in this last OpEd from him. And on more than a few occasions, has let slip his weird phobia about young black men.

  18. BillFromDover says:

    “People who have physical revulsion at interracial couples aren’t “cultural conservatives”; they’re racists”

    While one could argue that we can’t control how we feel about something, we sure as shit can control how we react to those feelings!

    After all, how many racists do you know that don’t express their feelings about it in word, action or print?

    Yeah, we all have our biases, but fortunately not a newspaper to tout them.

    Among other things, this guy is an ignorant creep!

  19. BillFromDover says:

    “It’s not who I am. It’s not who I ever was…”

    Do raciest and bigots not see themselves as such cuz they simply believe that we all think like they do, or is there a simpler explanation because this has always baffled the crap outta me?

  20. Bill_Perdue says:

    All of the right wing media either are liberals or conservatives. The left wing media is tiny and mostly limited to the internet, where it growing apace with the growth of left wing groups and the emergent labor left.

  21. Bill_Perdue says:

    Liberals and the liberal press are right wing. MSNBC is the mirror of Fox and the Democrats are mirrors of the Republicans. All are right wing, liberal or conservative, based on what their parties do, not what they say. Both bust unions, pander to the cults, service the rich and engage in endless, murderous wars of aggression.

  22. Bill_Perdue says:

    Liberals are right wingers. The Democrats the WP are both moving right.

  23. Clevelandchick says:

    It hasn’t been liberal in easily the last 20 years, taking down Nixon wasn’t about partisanship, it was about a major story that would bring them notoriety. If Nixon was a Democrat, they would have still run the story.

  24. Clevelandchick says:

    It’s not, but there are a lot of lazy people who like to believe all media is liberal.

  25. Clevelandchick says:

    Ezra Klein had a brilliant retort to Cohen’s archaic racist idiocy in WaPo, specifically taking apart the “conventional” idea Cohen was looking to promote. It doesn’t represent American values today, so while it was conventional in the 50’s, 60 plus years later, it’s actually fringe ideology.

  26. Anonymous says:

    “Used to be a lesbian” is also troubling in its ignorance.

  27. boyfromkillan says:

    So, being called ‘racist’ is hurtful. How about ‘woman hater’? Does that give Dickie Bird a twinge, too?

  28. lynchie says:

    Don’t forget Nixon tried to put through government health care. It was a national system which would be funded in part by the federal government.

    No question he was a twisted, paranoid freak but I guess there is some good in everyone. Except Ted Cruz and Sister Palin they are just plain evil

  29. karmanot says:

    Sounds like the GOP Platform.

  30. karmanot says:

    Dems in Congress are no longer Dems. They are bought and paid for Corporate operatives—-including Obozo.

  31. karmanot says:


  32. karmanot says:


  33. The_Fixer says:

    “- Jesus, son of a middle eastern Jewish mother, had pale white skin, blond hair and blue eyes”

    Of course he did! It was a Christmas Miracle that God made happen! Because God himself is male, caucasian, had blond hair and blue eyes! We all know that a supreme being’s genes overpower a lowly human female!

    ‘Cause that’s the way Si-ense works :)

  34. karmanot says:

    Excellent post!

  35. BeccaM says:

    Well, for a family that was mostly Polish, but also German, Ukranian, and Slav (and with a smidge of Romani that nobody but my grandmother revealed to me, as if sharing a terrible, shameful family secret) — and with the likelihood of some Irish/Scottish thrown in along the way — I got the impression that anything from “mostly Irish” on up was deemed ‘too much.’

    Heck, it even came as a surprise in my early childhood when sent to Catholic Sunday School and learned I wouldn’t receive the sacrament of Confirmation because, as insisted by my father’s family, I was baptized in the Eastern Orthodox Church — and they do Confirmation at the same time as the baptism.

    In later years, I was amused at how people who were themselves downtrodden by the empowered majorities almost always found some other minority group to hate instead.

  36. Bill_Perdue says:

    As the war between workers and the rich heats up social divisions generally I think we’ll see the internet become increasingly polarized.

  37. Bill_Perdue says:

    That sounds interesting. Do you know of any books that deal with it?

  38. Whitewitch says:

    I think Bill you have hit the nail on the head…in the end all media is brought and sold by the wealthy. Thankfully we still have some resources on the Internet…but I fear that is not long lived.

  39. Whitewitch says:

    Perhaps – although I must confess I have not translated any of Aristophanes play…

  40. lynchie says:

    The GOP are dinosaurs but while they struggle in the death throws of their party their are inflicting tremendous damage on this country.

  41. lynchie says:

    Dems are too lazy. they just want to get re-elected and collect their weekly bag of money from the lobbyists. You can throw shit balls at the GOP but i have to tell you they all get out and carry the talking points. There isn’t one who hasn’t memorized the party line. Dems don’t like getting their fingers dirty.

  42. BeccaM says:

    BTW, I think Josh Marshall’s analysis is brilliant.

    One paragraph out of a long must-read IMHO:

    The issue isn’t that Cohen is a racist. It’s that he holds his position of vast influence while living in some older white man’s cocoon, liberalish in a way but not much, in which he’s either indifferent or unconcerned with the actual America around him and routinely jumps at the chance to normalize and legitimize retrograde views about race. The problem with the article isn’t racism but inaccuracy, both descriptive and moral. And the complacent inaccuracy makes it worthy of criticism and contempt. People who have physical revulsion at interracial couples aren’t “cultural conservatives”; they’re racists. These attitudes about race are not conventional. Most people recognize them as racist
    and unacceptable in our society today.

  43. nicho says:

    You’re assuming that only liberals wanted to take Nixon down. There’s a lot of evidence that the impetus to get him came from the other side and they let everyone, including liberals, think that the liberals did it.

  44. Indigo says:

    I’ve occasionally been told I’m “too Irish” but I can claim to be a savage German and wild Indian as well so . . .

  45. Naja pallida says:

    How much Irish is too Irish? :)

  46. Bill_Perdue says:

    Some, like the NY Times are a mixed bag. They supported the major Vietnam War escalation after Democrat LBJ lied about the Gulf of Ton-kin incident and they supported Bushes invasion and occupation of Iraq. In both cases, years later, after the deaths of hundreds of thousands on both side. they did an about face.

    And NBC is also a mixed bag. They claim to be pro-LGBT gay and to support ENDA but then turn around and and support Putin’s vile attacks on our sisters and brothers in the RF.

    Sooner or later all the media, even the most liberal, owned by the rich will turn against working people.

  47. Monoceros Forth says:

    I have to admit it does make some sense here. The difficulty in criticizing writing like Cohen’s–indeed in criticizing a great deal of political rhetoric these days–is that you almost do have to deconstruct it word by word, phrase by phrase. Words and phrases don’t mean what they seem to mean on the surface.

    Maybe I’m coming at this the wrong way. Maybe writing a response to a piece like Cohen’s is like translating an Aristophanes play: almost every other word you have to stop, insert a footnote and explain just what the particular reference or joke was being made with this particular choice of words.

  48. Whitewitch says:

    Actually it seems many publications are moving Right…maybe it is a trend (hope not) or maybe it is like the democrats – who are also moving VERY right.

  49. Whitewitch says:

    That is the nice thing about this group….we can agree, politely, to disagree. I remember those days…and you are right – it is not always a pretty way to dissect a conversation – and believe me – I would hate for anyone it to one of my rambling posts…sometimes though – it just “works”.

  50. PeteWa says:

    unfortunately, your assessment is overly kind.

  51. Bill_Perdue says:

    It was liberal but now it endorses right winger like Obama and is moving right, just like Obama. ‘On March 26, 2007, Chris Matthews said on his television program, “Well, The Washington Post is not the liberal newspaper it was, Congressman, let me tell you. I have been reading it for years and it is a neocon newspaper.” wiki I agree with Mathews and not rightwingers who deny history and reality.

  52. Monoceros Forth says:

    The “Washington Post” used to be liberal because American right-wingers used to call it liberal! That ought to give you some notion of Bill’s intellectual honesty.

  53. Bill_Perdue says:

    Good idea, since I proved you wrong, as usual.

  54. PeteWa says:

    at least in this thread I’ve learned to no longer engage you.
    buh bye.

  55. Monoceros Forth says:

    Hi Becca – great story. I love how you broke down his article line by lying line.

    Well…I’d not wanted to say anything about this really because I respect Becca tremendously and I know that different writers have different rhetorical styles, but I truly dislike the “line by line” style. It’s been called “fisking” ( ) because it was a favorite technique of right-wing polemicists when they wanted to tear apart one of Robert Fisk’s pieces in the Independent, but I’ve seen the technique as far back as 1992 or 1993 when I was following Usenet groups.

  56. Bill_Perdue says:

    Maybe someday. If you try really, really hard.

  57. PeteWa says:

    gosh, I wish I knew history.
    gosh, I wish I understood what tenses were.

  58. Bill_Perdue says:

    Maybe if you knew even a little history. “In the mid-1970s, conservatives called the newspaper “Pravda on the Potomac” because of its perceived left-wing bias in both reporting and editorials.[38] Since then, the appellation has been used by both liberal and conservative critics of the newspaper.[39][40] In 1963, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover reportedly told President Lyndon B. Johnson, “I don’t have much influence with The Post because I frankly don’t read it. I view it like the Daily Worker.” wiki

  59. PeteWa says:

    no, you did not report the truth:
    “Cohen, of the liberal Washington Post”
    “The WP was liberal”

  60. Bill_Perdue says:

    I reported the truth. The WP was liberal and now is moving right, so far right that they endorsed Obama – twice. Too bad if Democrats don’t want to accept it.

  61. PeteWa says:

    you just handed me a plate of word salad.
    “yes and no”

  62. Bill_Perdue says:

    I just told you.

  63. PeteWa says:

    “It was very liberal”
    thirty years ago?

  64. Bill_Perdue says:

    Yes and no. It was very liberal but has been moving right. For instance they did a good job during Watergate but endorsed Obama in both 2008 and 2012. That’s quite a drift to the right.

  65. Naja pallida says:

    Well, if you still live in the 1970s, maybe…

  66. Ninong says:

    People who don’t live in such areas will never understand what it’s like. People who do live in such areas are shocked when they move to more enlightened areas. Even the Deep South is changing but it’s taking a lot longer and they have a long way to go to catch up.

    What’s surprising about Cohen’s writing is that he was born and raised in New York City, not the Segregated South. He’s defending the racist attitudes of others as understandable, even acceptable, based on his definition of current “conventional views.” Those were the conventional views of my grandparents and I’m a few years older than Richard Cohen. My grandparents were all born during Reconstruction in the Deep South and all were deceased by the end of the 1950’s. Even my parents changed their “conventional views” long before they passed away.

    Cohen’s comment was clearly an attack on Bill de Blasio and his “unconventional” family. If there was any doubt it was swept away when he wrote that Chirlane McCray used to be a lesbian. Cohen’s own attitude toward women is well documented in his workplace.

  67. PeteWa says:

    you think the Washington Post is liberal?

  68. Bill_Perdue says:

    Cohen, of the liberal Washington Post, is an example of the racism allowed to infect the life of both political parties and the journalism of much of the mainstream press, the media owned by the rich. (The Washington Post was recently purchased by Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon for $250,000,000.00 in cash.)

    The worse their racism is the more they continue to deny it. When Obama ran in 2008 his harshest attacks, in terms of racist remarks, came from other Democrats as well as Republicans. When the jury handed down the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case the press and politicians, including those who could have made things happen, wrung their hands and pretended there was nothing they could do.

    Racism against people of color, bigotry, misogyny and immigrant bashing are woven into the very fabric of American society and it’s political and ‘journalistic’ institutions and they won’t be ended until we win the fight for fundamental change.

  69. chris10858 says:

    On a serious note, I have to ask who the hell at the Washington Post reviewed his article and said, …”good job Richard.. great article! Let’s publish this in the paper.”

    I do have to also say that we progressives don’t really have much of a backbone though when it comes to fighting things such as this.

    Dems should be out there in the news media calling for his resignation. Dems should also be out there fighting like hell whenever the GOP tries to do things that suppress votes, go after unions, etc… But we don’t. We just expect Americans to see the lies by the GOP. (We give too much credit to many Americans for being able to discern the truth.)

    As another example, I can go to just about any news source and see Americans on claiming crazy shit about how ObamaCare is going to hurt them… even though when in reality, it is going to help them. Yet, where is Obama and others fighting back? I read that 50,000 people have signed up for ObamaCare so far. Why not get a few dozen of those folks to go around the country and share their stories?

  70. Monoceros Forth says:

    I also felt the concern trolling on the part of the GOP — on issues like gov’t expansion, immigration, and religion, all areas where their positions and hypocrisies are always quite clear — to have been icing on the cake.

    Cohen obviously wanted to soften the image of right-wing racism by paralleling and equating it with some marginally more respectable Republican obsessions, as though blind hatred of interracial relationships were somehow equivalent to policy concerns about government spending.

  71. chris10858 says:

    Most GOP members really believe these things:

    – Marriage is between one white Christian male and one white Christian female.
    – Welfare needs to be eliminated because only lazy black people receive it.
    – All latino people in US are Mexican and are probably here illegally.
    – Puerto Ricans aren’t “real” Americans and therefore shouldn’t have same rights as Americans.
    – Gays can’t reproduce and therefore want marriage so they can convert kids.
    – God believes like we do and therefore whatever we do is justified by God.
    – Jesus, son of a middle eastern Jewish mother, had pale white skin, blond hair and blue eyes

    – We don’t spend enough money on our military cause everyone is our enemy.

  72. BeccaM says:

    You’re right, of course.

  73. Monoceros Forth says:

    I daresay the point sailed way over your head, friend.

  74. Monoceros Forth says:

    “To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.” Only because they’re clinging to what they think their country should look like — white, Christian, heterosexual, sexist — and are stubbornly, vehemently, denying the reality of what OUR country actually does look like.

    Really that’s what it comes down to. All the talk of “convention” and the “mainstream” versus the “avant-garde”–as though one’s race or sexuality were just a modish and trendy thing like a taste for prog rock or French New Wave films–is mere euphemism for this plain truth: “Cultural conservatives” don’t recognize anyone who isn’t a white Christian bigot as truly American.

    What I find particularly ironic is that such Bible-thumping right-wingers claimed to be inspired, as no other people on Earth have ever been inspired, by universal truths that should transcend all the boundaries that we draw to separate humans into categories. Surely the news (the “good news, if I may make so bold) that we are all brothers and sisters, fellow children of the same God, should tell us how silly it is to make a big deal out of relatively trivial and accidental differences in skin color or language or sexual identity? Surely the fuss over such differences should seem a petty, mortal concern in the face of the great message of divine unity?

    Of course that’s not how it really works. Those who thump their Bibles loudest also wear on their sleeves most proudly their obsession with such trivial matters–not just about whether your skin’s the correct color or whether you’re sexually attracted to the correct people or whether you speak the correct language, but whether you like the correct music or read the correct books or enjoy the correct sporting events. Seriously, is there any significant culture or community in the United States more narrow-minded, fanatical about imposing a particular notion of social decorum in all areas of life, than the right-wing Christians?

    I don’t care about their “conventions”. They’re stupid and straitjacketed and arbitrary and the sooner their “conventions” are thrown into the rubbish-tip of history the happier I’ll be. Insofar as the abstract concept that we call America has any meaning left at all it’s got nothing to do with their “conventions”.

  75. Whitewitch says:

    I totally agree – I think I hear more hateful and racially charges words now than I ever heard in the 56/60….of course my Mother would have washed my mouth (or anyone’s mouth out that said racially charged words) out with soap at the mere mention of any such words.

  76. Ninong says:


    You need to add an ‘H’ to make that George H. W. Bush and his Willie Horton ads.

  77. PeteWa says:

    always happy to see Cohen called out on his racism.

  78. BeccaM says:

    Thanks. (And thanks everyone in the previous comments — I’m grateful for the positive feedback.)

    I’ve been thinking hard about why Cohen’s op-ed struck me as it did, and have concluded it has to do with his assumptions about people’s presumed reactions to seeing an interracial couple.

    Don’t get me wrong: There’s still plenty of racism and a plague of racists in America. In some parts, you wouldn’t have to look very hard at all to find those who object (possibly vehemently) to the idea of interracial marriage. (Or same sex marriage for that matter… or any quality other than what is deemed traditional and ‘normal’.)

    Yet as you say, the young folks are changing quite rapidly with their attitudes towards acceptance and inclusion. I mean, there’s a difference between seeing something you’ve never experienced before and experiencing “fear and loathing” (as their parents and grandparents might) versus “wonder and fascination” (as these more open-minded youngsters seem increasingly inclined to do).

    But that term Cohen used — “conventional views” — just leaped out and grabbed me by the throat. In a mere two words (coupled with “suppress a gag reflex”) he took virulent racism and (to my mind) quite literally made it the accepted, preferred norm. And if there was any doubt, he kept hammering that home by referring to racial tolerance and acceptance as unconventional, ‘avant-garde,’ and connotatively abnormal.

    I also felt the concern trolling on the part of the GOP — on issues like gov’t expansion, immigration, and religion, all areas where their positions and hypocrisies are always quite clear — to have been icing on the cake.

  79. The_Fixer says:

    In terms of population, they really have an outsized influence. Largely rural states still have two Senators per state, just like the more populous states. Gerrymandering in the House has skewed the way that the rest of the country is represented (or misrepresented).

    If it weren’t for the Koch money and money from like-minded people, we wouldn’t have the problem of so many organizations exerting their influence, presenting an outsize influence on the political process.

    They know this. It’s also why the Citizen’s United decision needs to be overturned and public campaign finance has to be instituted.

    That’s my wish list. I call it a wish list because big-money already has a significant foothold and it is going to take a miracle to break that.

  80. The_Fixer says:

    Becca, thanks for scooping the thoughts out of my brain and putting them into rational order :)

    I only have one more thing to add: People like Richard Cohen are dinosaurs, and like the dinosaurs, they will be extinct at some point in the future. Younger people don’t think the way this fool does. Their idea of normal is mostly exactly the opposite of his.

    As far as the gag reflex goes, younger people and those who share an enlightened opinion of humanity have to suppress theirs when Richard Cohen puts pen to paper.

  81. BeccaM says:

    Believe it or not, that was not at all an uncommon reaction even as recently as the 1950s in some parts of the country.

    My father’s parents originally objected to his marriage to my mother because her family was, in their words, “too Irish.”

  82. judybrowni says:

    I must repress a gag reflex whenever considering Richard Cohen.

  83. Whitewitch says:

    I don’t think that is what Fletcher was saying…I think he/she meant that he can’t understand why people who hold the beliefs such as the woman in the restaurant cares who sleeps with who, who eats at a table near her. I think he was speaking to how ingrained the hate is that they just can’t resist voicing their vile opinion.

  84. Whitewitch says:

    No he would still have to barf a little in his mouth, because they let the other “unconventional” people work in the same room…hey I bet they ever touch each other accidentally once in a while and you know that stuff rubs off on other people right?

  85. Whitewitch says:

    Hi Becca – great story. I love how you broke down his article line by lying line.

    One thing that really upsets me is when they say doesn’t look anything “like their country”. It is NOT their country – it is OUR country…all of ours, the men, women, asian, black, muslin, jewish, gay, straight, transgendered, just plain confused I have no idea what I think or believe, republican, democrat, socialist, communist and even anarchist.

    I am so tired of being called names by the other side, being accused of not be a patriot because I don’t agree with THEM, or go to THEIR church, or sleep with the GENDER they decide is right for me.

    I want them all to get over their ugly little selves, move into the 21st century – kiss their moms and thank them for loving them even though they are hateful little pricks…and be nice. Is that asking too much?

  86. tecolata says:

    In my department at work, there are four heterosexually married people. And all four are one half of an interracial marriage. There are also one single traight male, one single straight female and one lesbian. So I guess we would really make Cohen puke (except maybe the two straight folks).

  87. Indigo says:

    I’ll see your ethnic mix with an Irish-Amerindian (Catholic) father and a Pennsylvania Dutch-Amerindian (Mennonite) mother. Predictably, I’m an openly gay practicing Zen Buddhist. How could it be otherwise? :-)

  88. Quilla says:

    Thank you, Becca, for putting into good strong words what I could only express with a string of curses and a paper slam that did nothing but surprise the cat.

  89. cloudedimage says:

    The rewrite of the ” last sentence”, is Truth, in a nutshell. Who does Cohen think he is, anyway? He’s a puffed up, clueless fool. Stop living in the past, Dimbo.

  90. gratuitous says:

    And I’ll say, with some confidence and a lot of personal experience, that fewer people in rural America think this way than even a mere five years ago.

    Anyway, for me the takeaway is that for someone who’s supposed to be a professional writer, Richard Cohen sure cranked out a lousy column. I’ve seen all kinds of analysis around the internets in the last day or so, and some of the defenses of Cohen have been near-heroic in their verbal and intellectual gymnastics. But isn’t it really up to the writer – particularly one as well-compensated as Cohen – to write with a certain clarity?

    I see Cohen’s all offended that people think he’s a bigot. There is, however, nobody other than himself to blame that people have drawn that conclusion.

  91. SFExPat says:

    Great, your nerves can be at rest while those of us on the receiving end of this bullcrap get no defense and solidarity from you who just can’t be bothered to give a rat’s butttt.
    No thanks. I prefer my direct and overt enemies to “friends” like your ilk.

  92. emjayay says:

    Real Americans, that’s who. With flags and Christmas trees, invented to honor the Baby Jesus on the day of His birth.

  93. mpeasee says:

    …well Cohen will not be the last to suffer from cognitive dissonance. Gawd…his flesh looks so irradiated looking like he’s been in a cave since birth…gross!

  94. mpeasee says:

    Awesome analysis! Thanks

  95. mpeasee says:

    …I don’t know about that? ….there is tons of Koch money keep the sheep well tended. Have you seen all the mega churches in mid-America?

  96. fletcher says:

    Maybe they could make a movie about people who suffer a “gag reflex” to interracial marriages. They could call it “Guess Who’s Throwing Up Dinner.”

  97. fletcher says:

    I find it liberating and easier on the nerves not to get worked up about things that don’t matter to me and aren’t any of my business, such as who marries who or whom you run into while shopping. Working one’s self into a lather about these things as they detract from living a happy life and getting ahead at work. Yet some have their prejudices so ingrained they have a hard time containing them. I remember years ago reading about an incident at the Blue Angel Restaurant on Chicago’s far northwest side. Then-Mayor Harold Washington, following giving a speech at some civic group, stopped for lunch with three aides. Some old lady called over the owner and demanded that he throw out Washington and his aides, saying she would never eat in a restaurant that allowed (N-word). The owner explained that he was honored to have the mayor dine at his place. So the old lady vocally left the restaurant (and refused to pay her check) saying she would never eat there again. My response then was who did the lady think she was? But then, who do the people Cohen described think they are to tell other people how to live their lives based on their archaic beliefs?

  98. nicho says:

    Good post, Becca. I can’t believe scumbags like Cohen are allowed to spew their thinly veiled — or not so thinly veiled — racism.

    Here’s another great dissection of Cohen’s column.

  99. emjayay says:

    Hey watch it those are my parents you are talking about. Of course, both Catholics. That’s how people met back then. Lots of Irish/German marriages. Southern German of course.

  100. emjayay says:

    You forgot Newt Gingrich’s “food stamp president” which didn’t raise an eyebrow in the Republican event where he said it. And of course half the comments on any news site that attracts right wingers. (“Obammy” etc.). And also of course those tasteful signs at teabagger rallyes with Obama with a bone in his nose or whatever. Actually the whole right wing unprecedented public disrespect for Obama from “You lie!” on down. Or Romney campaign commercials showing a bunch of all white hard working Americans. I don’t remember the whole thing, just that it as all racist.

    Those were just a few off the top of my head in about a minute. I’m sure everyone here has thought of many more instances of current Republican racism.

  101. lantoniou says:

    FABULOUS. Well said, well said. And your final line seals the deal.

  102. caphillprof says:

    But rural America is increasingly irrelevant–self made irrelevant.

  103. FLL says:

    I have never believed people who claim an “ick” factor when discussing either same-sex couples or interracial couples. You may call me cynical, but I think such people are misrepresenting themselves. I don’t think they regard same-sex or interracial couples as gross or unattractive; I think that bigots resent them. That’s right. I don’t think bigots are expressing disgust on aesthetic grounds; I think they’re expressing resentment. As proof, look at the studies showing that self-identified homophobes are most often aroused by same-sex pornography. I know that people have gotten very huffy in the past when I state that someone is misrepresenting themselves and disguising their true opinions, but I’m going to stand my ground. In the case of Richard Cohen and his “gag reflex” concerning interracial couples, I think he resents the passing of racial barriers in American society. Would Richard Cohen gag if he were watching hetero pornography involving people of different races? I really don’t think so, hence my claim that he’s misrepresenting himself and disguising his genuine motives. People sometimes react to my attitude with outrage, but I think you know me well enough by now to know that I find such outrage more entertaining than anything else. Huffy responses are always welcome. LOL.

  104. caphillprof says:

    This from the so-called “liberal” Washington Post.

  105. Houndentenor says:

    This is a recent trend. I grew up in East Texas. I heard things like this all my life, but never from elected officials who were too smart to say these things out loud. Perhaps they didn’t say them because they didn’t think that way. But if they did they knew better than to say it in front of a microphone. I also think we lived in a simpler media environment in my childhood. Yes, churches were often segregated (not just by race but by ideology) but the popular culture was much more broad than it is today. We only had 3 tv stations (unless you count pbs which not everyone had back then…I was in middle school before we got cable and got the Dallas pbs channel). People got a wider variety of viewpoints in their television viewing and news. It was very hard to self-select only opinions you would agree with. Even within the political parties there were conservative Democrats in the south and liberal Republicans in the northeast and tons of moderates in both parties.

    And then the marketing people took over our media and politics. The segmented us into smaller and smaller demographic groups. It must make them a lot of money, otherwise they wouldn’t do it, but it’s destroying our country in the process. I have relatives who never talk to any Democrat other than me. (And I avoid talking to them as much as possible.) And these new media outlets, internet and radio mostly but also cable television, have emboldened fringe elements, mostly on the right. People are happy to pander to them. Last year I made the mistake of hitting the AM button on my car radio and heard a “comedy” bit on Rush Limbaugh’s show that sounded like a minstrel show. (I have actually heard cylinders of original minstrel show routines, so I actually know what I’m talking about here.) I was shocked. No one even seemed to pick up on this in the mainstream media, perhaps because it’s so commonplace now that it’s not noteworthy? I hear more racist comments now than at any time since I was a child in the 70s. They are offensive for obvious reasons, but perplexing because it doesn’t seem to occur to the person saying them that anyone will object to what they just said, and no one does. Perhaps like me they just didn’t see the point of arguing with an idiot, but the frequency of these incidents whenever I leave my college town bubble makes me think that this must be happening in other places, not just here. This video is further proof. it’s none of my business if he doesn’t like interracial couples, but that the thought that he could say this in public and not offend millions of Americans is baffling but typical.

  106. caphillprof says:

    Great, great finish: “To radical-conservative racist bigots, America doesn’t look like their idealized, racially-purified, Aryan fatherland at all.”

  107. mirror says:

    VERY well said. Hope it gets a lot of reads.

  108. A_nonymoose says:

    These are the people who fancy themselves the cognescenti of America, folks. This is their world, and we only live in it.

  109. Indigo says:

    A “gag-relex” to an ethnically mixed marriage? Like Irish marrying Germans or some such? Good grief!

  110. NCMan says:

    For him to equate “conventional” views with “conservative” views is complete bullshit.

  111. More people in rural Merica hold these beliefs than you would like to think.

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