New York City has elected its first Democratic mayor in almost two decades, and that, according to many political pundits, was pretty big news. Washington Post’s liberal columnist Richard Cohen, however, thinks there was something else pretty big that happened in that election — the unveiling of the mayor-elect’s biracial family. According to Cohen, that family may make some conservatives “gag.”
“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,” writes Cohen in an opinion piece about the Republican party. “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.”
What Cohen appears to feel is somehow unusual and potentially “gag” worthy to some is in reality a major part of the American landscape, regardless of Cohen’s beliefs otherwise. It’s also not relegated to specific “parts” of the country. According to a 2012 Pew Research study, one in 12 marriages were interracial. Add in unmarried interracial couples, and that number rises to almost 15 million. Nearly 90 percent of Americans say they approve of interracial relationships, an 80 point change since the 50′s.
That Cohen would dismiss so many relationships as “avant garde” could have more to do with his own personal issues than those that he seems eager to paint the Republican party with. Cohen had a bizarre “doesn’t’ everyone sort of fear a young black man in a hoodie“ column this summer during the Trayvon Martin trial, and had to watch “12 Years a Slave” in order to realize slavery may have been pretty awful.
What Cohen writes in itself is an enormous issue. An even larger issue is the fact that by printing it, the Washington Post has in essence provided its approval of his views. After all, aren’t editors there to tell someone when their columns simply aren’t worthy of publication, as this one was? At some point, the publication has a responsibility to their own audience and their own integrity to simply scrap a piece. To publish it anyway either implies agreement, or even worse disagreement that is set aside due to a desperate desire to ensure that they get traffic to their website and continued media buzz.
And buzz they are receiving, mostly by people calling for Cohen’s firing. “For the love of God, do what the Graham family should have done long ago and fire this man, Jeff Bezos,” demands UpRoxx, a national culture blog. “Richard Cohen is begging, perhaps subconsciously, to be bought out and allowed to retire,” writes Salon’s Alex Pareene. ”Today it’s obvious that whoever edits him has the same desire.” #firerichardcohen is even going strong on twitter, where tweeters are lining up to demand Cohen’s resignation.
The Washington Post has yet to respond, which is why we’ve launched a petition demanding an apology. If you believe that interracial marriages are not anti-American, we urge you to sign, too.
Hopefully, the Washington Post will respond and they are not just waiting for the fervor to die down again until Cohen can write his next bad column. That would be the real “gag” worthy offense.
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