Yesterday, I had a little fun with Richard Cohen’s reference to the offensive Merle Haggard song “Are the Good Times Really Over (I Wish a Buck Was Still Silver).” It was part of Cohen’s own offensive column, Chris Christie’s Tea Party Problem. The thing about the column is that it is effectively an apologia of the most vile of modern racist thought.
Cohen first claims, “Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party…” But then he goes on to say, “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.” That is a jaw dropping statement. In other words: gagging at the thought of interracial marriage is not racist. Ta-Nehisi Coates lays it out exactly right:
This made me think of the murder of Willie Edwards, who I discussed this morning (he would be 81 today). He was killed in 1957 in Alabama because some white bigots thought he was having an affair with a white woman. There has never been a greater emotional resonance for white racists than the idea that blacks (and other minorities, most notably Chinese) would have their way with “our white women.” Look at the film Stagecoach where the southern gentleman Hatfield almost kills Mrs Mallory rather than allow her to live as an Indian bride. This is powerful stuff.
What is deeply concerning is that Cohen and his many apologists don’t recognize this. It’s a bizarre world we live in where using racial epithets (rightly) makes one a racist, but breaking out in a panicked sweat over the idea of whites and blacks marrying is not. Richard Cohen needs to take a serious look at his thinking about race in America. But then, we all do.
H/T: Ed Kilgore