Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Richard Cohen and the Racist Butt

I'm just going to take a swing at what surprisingly dim Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen said in his latest to get people so riled, because it actually follows on to my last post in a way, and in a roundabout fashion, addresses something that has long bothered me about how we talk about conservatism. I think everyone pretty much agrees that he was making an inane point about how NJ Governor Chris Christie might not necessarily appeal to the heartland, and then KAPOW--the thing that is kind of offensive:
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.
It is by no means "conventional" to have to "repress a gag reflex" when thinking about a mixed race family. That would pretty much be viewed as racist, now. Also, just on the obvious--"used to be a lesbian"? He's using terms not exactly down with the idea of "born this way"  and tilting towards bi-erasure. Maybe he's trying to project these racist and homophobic viewpoints onto the cultural conservatives, assuming this discomfort is theirs, but he's describing it in a way that makes their discomfort normal.

What he's employing is what I think of as "the racist butt". I've remarked before that "I'm not a racist, but" is an obvious sign of what is coming, and also that it really doesn't excuse anything. Even if someone isn't a self-identified racist, willingness to employ racist tropes (or a person who is not avowedly homophobic who employs homophobic tropes) to appeal to haters, isn't really excused because they don't approve on general principals: they are still willing to be racist (or homophobic) in specific cases. Maybe that person is "mostly not a racist"--but their ass sure looks it.  Hence: the racist butt.

We just saw Sarah Palin express that she isn't a racist but, the national debt is just like slavery.  We know she is well aware of the issues because she was not long ago seen standing outside an African American family's residence with some yahoos waving a Confederate flag.  But not in a racist way, mind you. What Cohen's column has done in that paragraph is taken the "not racist, but" and applied it to the entire GOP.

I'm not sure one should be in a hurry to treat our national inequalities as "conventional" or even (maybe especially) as time-honored traditions. It can be argued that from the time conservatism embraced segregation and the GOP folded that mindset into the southern strategy, the Republican Party has come to be associated with racist views, and so long as they embrace religious right hate groups, they will be identified as a homophobic party as well. It doesn't benefit anyone to treat this as "conventional" though, as if we needed to be sympathetic to those poor old-fashioned fuddy-duddies who, you know, hate and fear people unlike themselves. Cohen's column isn't even fair to the many Republicans who wouldn't consider (a gag reflex!?) non-traditional families all that upsetting, either. There defnitely is an element (the Tea parties, particularly) who are concerned with "taking their country back", and I think we have few illusions about who they want to take it back from. To the extent that those groups have racist and homophobic associations, I think they deserve to be called out on them. It's not "conventional"--it's just ignorant. Cohen's description--more ignorance.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

This is nothing new for Richie. And Fred Hiatt is still his boss.

We're waiting, Jeff Bezos...

Vixen Strangely said...

Cohen is going to be kept on indefinitely as part of their column-troll click-baiting system: He outrages libs, we click, they win!