Photo: CARLO ALLEGRI/Corbis.
There's no doubt that we live in an age where having an unpopular opinion can actually make you quite popular — look no further than Rush Limbaugh or any ratings-grabbing talking head for proof. But, in the case of Washington Post editorial columnist Richard Cohen, his thinly-veiled opinions on interracial marriage aren't winning him any fans right now. In an editorial published on Monday, Cohen discusses New Jersey governor Chris Christie's re-election and weighs Christie's prospects as a potential GOP candidate in 2016. Then he dives into the present-day GOP problems — mainly, party members' worries "about expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde." And, that "avant-garde" remark is the fuse to the stick of the dynamite that follows.
Cohen continues with this statement: "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."
There's a lot more to Cohen's statement than the initial, offensive mental image of someone nearly vomiting over the concept of a white man marrying a black woman. His use of the term "cultural conservatives" as a euphemism for thinly veiled racism and homophobia is only the tip of the iceberg. The America that Cohen describes, the one that "cultural conservatives" are so sad to see disappear, apparently doesn't include the founding principles of our country: freedom, independence, the right to live (and love) how you want. We'd like to believe (and we're willing to bet) that there are plenty of people who identify as conservative who also consider wider acceptance of race and sexuality as progress, not a setback to "their country." Offering up de Blasio's family as fodder for hate-mongering is one step over the line for a writer whose previous opinions on rape and racial profiling have drawn criticism.
We reached out to the Post's Editorial Page editor, Fred Hiatt, for a comment on Cohen's recent article. “Anyone reading Richard’s entire column will see he is just saying that some Americans still have a hard time dealing with interracial marriage," Hiatt said in a statement to Refinery29. "I erred in not editing that one sentence more carefully to make sure it could not be misinterpreted.” We understand that unpopular opinions have their place in social discourse — and Cohen's has surely sparked conversation, since a petition calling for his resignation has some 50,000 signatures at this point. But, we're not sure any amount of editing would make his opinions more palatable.