Tag Archives: slavery

Bigot of the Week Award, November 15: Richard Cohen

15 Nov
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

This story weighed heavy on my heart, for it is a very painful reminder of just how racism lives and breathes in the 21st Century. Richard Cohen has a problem with words. That’s more than a little ironic, given that he’s been a reporter and columnist at the Washington Post for 45 years and had his column nationally syndicated for over 30. In his latest effort, however, he conjures up an aggressively racist image (and tosses in a bit of homophobia) and labels it “conventional.” The column is an analysis of how the Tea Party drives the GOP featuring a comparison of Chris Christie and Ted Cruz. After some reasonable dissection of why moderates are at risk in the modern Republican party, he takes a sharp turn away from reality and presents his readers with this paragraph:

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?)

Wow. Where do I even begin to address the great trespasses committed here? Arguing that racism is absent from the GOP is not only categorically false, but shows just how much of the Kool Aid (Tea) Cohen has consumed. Sadly he gets even more offensive. Let’s set aside “mainstreaming…avant-garde” for a moment (presumably a reference to treating the LGBT community like people) and focus on one stunning phrase.

People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex…

So the idea of a mixed race family is so horrific that a normal person will be brought to the edge of vomiting just by seeing a picture? How did this column get past Cohen’s editors? Of course Cohen — faced with justifiable anger over his horrific image — offered a nonpology.

The word racist is truly hurtful. It’s not who I am. It’s not who I ever was. It’s just not fair. It’s just not right … The column is about Tea Party extremism and I was not expressing my views, I was expressing the views of what I think some people in the Tea Party held.

Again, wow. Let’s ignore the de Blasio / McCray family’s feelings because calling racist writing “racist” is hurtful to poor Mr. Cohen. Then let’s have fun with the “out of context” excuse. Really?! Sorry, Richard, but you didn’t say “extremist;” you said “conventional.” Whether this is YOUR view or not, you made it clear that you believe that choking on one’s own bile is a reasonable response to seeing a loving multi-racial family. That’s racism.

As a bonus non-sequitur, he also defended himself by noting “you’re talking to somebody who has written, I don’t know, 100 columns in favor of homosexual rights.” Sorry, Richard, but that has NOTHING to do with the racism in your column. Oh, and by the way, “used to be a lesbian” rather erases your claim of support for “homosexual rights.”

Of course, Mr. Cohen has a checkered past around race anyway. Just one week earlier he wrote about the movie 12 Years A Slave, noting his ignorance of how bad slavery was.

I learned that slavery was wrong, yes, that it was evil, no doubt, but really, that many blacks were sort of content. Slave owners were mostly nice people…

In addition to proudly trumpeting his ignorance of basic history and humanity, he supports racial profiling. He defended the Zimmerman verdict describing Trayvon Martin’s clothes as “a uniform we all recognize” and defended THAT gem by saying “I don’t think it’s racism to say, ‘this person looks like a menace’.” Clearly, he doesn’t have a clue what racism means.

Sadly, he has an international forum for presenting his twisted, oppressive words. I am truly nonplussed as to how he still has a job.


Black History Month 2012: Thomas L. Jennings

16 Feb

Today we honor and celebrate a sadly little-known figure in American history, inventor and abolitionist Thomas L. Jennings. Born a free black in New York City in 1791, he began his career as a tailor. After a few years, he began work as a cleaner. He created a process which he called dry-scouring, a precursor to modern dry cleaning.

Jennings applied for and was granted a patent for his work in 1821, becoming the first African-American to be awarded a U.S. Patent. This move caused considerable controversy, as the patent laws clearly included a color bias. Because the language specifcially excluded slaves from holding patents, however, Jennings’ status as a free man provided a legal loophole and the award held.

He used the proceeds from his invention and business to buy the freedom of many of his family members. He also contributed time and money to other abolitionsist causes. In 1831, he served as assistant secretary of the First Annual Convention of the People of Color in Philadelphia. Little else is known about this pioneer. He died in New York in 1856.

Celebrating Black History Month: February 10

10 Feb

American Hero, Abolitionist, and Suffragist

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Frederick Douglass. After escaping slavery, Douglass became one of the best known abolitionist voices in America. He was 20 years old when he was finally able to escape being a slave. In addition to being known for his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, he was also known for his tireless efforts in the Suffragist Movement.  This is one of my favorite quotes from Douglass: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” What many people may not know about Douglass is that he was the first African-American to run for Vice-President of the United States in 1872.  He and Victoria Woodhull were on the Equal Rights Party ticket against Ulysses S. Grant–oh, had they only won that election. For more information on Frederick Douglass, click here.

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