Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen weighed in today on racism in the Republican Party; he says the GOP is definitely not racist. Just “deeply troubled.” It’s perfectly natural in his view to need to “suppress a gag reflex” when one sees a biracial couple.
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.
If you feel the need to vomit when you see a white man married to a black woman… yes, that’s racist. In fact, that’s pretty much the archetypal example of racism, and why the hell are we even debating it? It’s difficult not to suspect that Cohen is projecting his own feelings onto “people with conventional views.”
And we should note that Cohen sounds amazingly like far right racist blogger Robert Stacy McCain, who infamously wrote:
The media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sister-in-law, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us.
Now we’ve done it. Richard Cohen’s feelings are hurt.
“I didn’t write one line, I wrote a column,” he told the Huffington Post in an interview. ”The column is about Tea Party extremism and I was not expressing my views, I was expressing the views of what I think some people in the Tea Party held.”
“The word racist is truly hurtful,” he added. “It’s not who I am. It’s not who I ever was. It’s just not fair. It’s just not right.”
Cohen explained that he didn’t think the entire Tea Party held such views.
“I don’t think everybody in the Tea Party is like that, because I know there are blacks in the Tea Party,” he said. “So they’re not all racist, unless I’m going to start doing mind reading about why those black people are there.”
Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post editorial page editor, also defended the column Tuesday, but said that he could have edited it “more carefully.”