You had to figure The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates would have the final righteous word on the furor over Richard Cohen’s column yesterday, particularly now that the WaPo management and Cohen himself are getting all defensive about it:
Richard Cohen’s unfortunate career is the proper context to understand his column today and the wide outrage that’s greeted it. We are being told that Cohen finds it “hurtful” to be called racist. I am sorry that people on the Internet have hurt Richard Cohen’s feelings. I find it “hurtful” that Cohen endorses the police profiling my son. I find it eternally “hurtful” that the police, following that same logic, killed one of my friends. I find it hurtful to tell my students that, even in this modern age, vending horse-sh** is still an esteemed and lucrative profession.
This last point is the one that best explains why Cohen’s being so heavily pilloried. Sure, there are plenty of people, some calling themselves “liberals,” who harbor casually racist attitudes, or casual characterizations of racists as “conventional.” But they haven’t been occupying—or in my opinion, wasting—one of the most visible and valuable pieces of journalistic real estate in the whole world for more than three decades. Perhaps I erred yesterday in focusing more on the overall laziness and near-idiocy of Cohen’s column instead of his confused but typical excuses for racism. But it is Cohen’s extraordinarily unearned prominence as a writer that makes his chronic lapses into Archie Bunkerism so maddening.
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