On November 12, 2013, The Washington Post, one of the largest and most respected newspapers in America, published an opinion column suggesting that interracial marriage is outside of the cultural norm. Richard Cohen has been frequently criticized for trading in racist stereotypes in his columns for The Post, and he has responded to this criticism not by dialing down the racism, but by kicking it up a notch. "Today’s GOP is not racist," Cohen wrote today in a column that sought to evaluate the Republican id on the eve of the 2016 primary season, "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." So against the avant-garde, not racist. Got it. Can you be more specific about what's troubling these regular, normal people?
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.
To be fair, Cohen isn't explicitly endorsing a ban on miscegenation. And he isn't claiming that the sight of an interracial couple causes him to heave—just other people. Normal people. But his belief that an issue that was settled by Loving v. Virginia in 1967 is still avant-garde in 2013 shows just how far behind Cohen is. This kind of bigotry would be wrong if it was accepted by most people. But that's not the case. According to a Gallup poll released in July, 87 percent of Americans approve of marriage between black people and white people. Even in the South, 83 percent of Americans approve of interracial marriage.
Cohen has a long history of endorsing racist stereotypes about black people. Gawker's Hamilton Nolan has traced Cohen's unevolving views on race. (In 1986, for example, Cohen wrote that it was okay for jewelry store owners to refuse to let black men into their stores.) After the trial over the Trayvon Martin shooting, Cohen argued that George Zimmerman was right to assume Martin was a criminal, because he was a black male. Cohen said he was tired of political activists "who essentially suggest that, for recognizing the reality of urban crime in the United States, I am a racist." The shooting, while sad but understandable: "The result was a quintessentially American tragedy — the death of a young man understandably suspected because he was black and tragically dead for the same reason." So it's not surprising that Cohen would express the views he did on Tuesday. The world he lives in is painted by all sorts of racial stereotypes. What is surprising is that no one at The Washington Post saw this "gag reflex" paragraph and said, "Hey, there's gotta be a better way to say what you're trying to say."