Tag Archives: Washington Post

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.

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Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 26, Jose Antonio Vargas

26 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Jose Antonio Vargas.  A Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Vargas recently outed himself as an undocumented immigrant.  You probably recognize Vargas’ name; he was a former reporter for The Washington Post and shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings.

TSM has addressed the issues of inequities before in how we treat undocumented youth. Vargas came to the United States as a young boy from the Philippines.  At age 16, Vargas realized, quite by accident, that the documentation he had been given by his grandfather (green card) was fake.  Not wanting to hurt or betray his grandfather:

I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it…But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.

Vargas started working on what would be an amazing career at Mountain View High School, joining the choir and the speech and debate team while keeping the secret that his social security card was a fake and photocopied at the local Kinkos.  Being an undocumented immigrant was not the only secret Vargas was carrying:

Later that school year, my history class watched a documentary on Harvey Milk, the openly gay San Francisco city official who was assassinated. This was 1999, just six months after Matthew Shepard’s body was found tied to a fence in Wyoming. During the discussion, I raised my hand and said something like: “I’m sorry Harvey Milk got killed for being gay. . . . I’ve been meaning to say this. . . . I’m gay.”

Being openly gay just added to the enormity of being in the country without documentation.  He was unable to accept an internship with the Seattle Times and endured a struggle to work within the system and lawyers to make him a citizen all to find out, “My only solution, the lawyer said, was to go back to the Philippines and accept a 10-year ban before I could apply to return legally.”  Consequently, Vargas decided to keep under the radar and continue to pursue a career in journalism.

Finally, after acquiring the needed documentation, Vargas was able to secure a position with the Washington Post.  I celebrate Vargas today as a part of LGBTQ History month for his courage and perseverance.  He told NPR that refused to marry a woman so that he could stay in the country legally, “Living with one lie is enough.”  I will be eagerly awaiting to see what happens to Jose Antonio Vargas.  Click here to read the NYT Article.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: March 22

22 Mar

Honoring Katherine Graham

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Katherine Graham. Graham is best known as the publisher of the Washington Post. Graham guided the newspaper during Watergate, which eventually led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. After publishing over 200 muckraking articles regarding Nixon’s misconduct, the Post published what in 1974 was the biggest headline ever: Nixon Resigns. Yes, it was the Post’s reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that helped expose Nixon. Graham was publishing the Post when there still existed journalistic integrity — I’m afraid Charlie Sheen would have been a non-story in this point of history.

Although Graham led an exceedingly privileged life, she also became quite interested in labor issues at an early age. Shortly after graduating from college, she worked for a short period at a San Francisco newspaper where, among other things, she helped cover a major strike by wharf workers.  Not sure she and Scott Walker would have seen eye to eye. Graham won a Pulitzer Prize for her memoir, Personal History in 1998. In a strongly male dominated industry, Graham proved to be one of the most influential newspaper publishers in American History.

 

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